kitsch for tourists. If the Incas do it, then at least they have the excuse of nothing to chew but cocoa leaves. Why the Scots do it is quite beyond me.’ Sandy Ross, another new appointment, has been told to ‘look for some magic ingredient’. ‘We’ve t got to decide’ says Macdonald, ‘what programmes we want to make and then hope that the system can accommodate it.’ With the new autumn programming, Macdonald talks of creating a new pantheon of heroes for Scotland — even if only to give people something to demolish. ‘Scotland has a strong sense of national identity but very little on which to focus it - it is not the Church of Scotland any longer, its not the STUC. There is a myth of English regionalism but here there is a lot you can do with the sense of nationalism and that sense of a lost centre. If we can recreate the sense of community and of culture . . . . ’
The major initiatives may not come directly out of programming, however. When the current IBA franchises come up for re-negotiation in 1990, Macdonald will be fighting for a fairer share of the Network. ‘lt’s not actually that small a company‘ he points out with a network share of the British audience not far behind the supposed big ‘ﬁve’: Thames, London Weekend, Granada, Anglia and Yorkshire. ‘There are about ﬁve million people in Yorkshire and ﬁve million in Scotland. Edinburgh and
Glasgow are both far superior to Leeds, so why, because of some arbitary nature of transmission patterns or perhaps economic success in the fifties, should the same apply now.’
It is not a sense of injured nationalism that makes Macdonald wish to see the system change. At the moment he ﬁnds himself having to pay for the 44 hours of programming the Big Five schedule for the network, even if he doesn’t take it. When a company like Scottish makes a documentary they have no certainty the network will take it, and without the network revenue of programme sales, programme making becomes a remarkably speculative business. But Macdonald insists that he will ‘spend as much on a programme seen by only three million Scots as he will on a Network show’. He rejects the notion of putting aside money for expensive co-productions at the expense of his responsibilities to Scotland which with an obligation to produce most of the religous education programmes and most of the football for two leagues (as opposed to the 12 companies in England covering 4 leagues) are greater than mere responsibility to a region.
‘I need all the resources I can get to give Scotland the kind of service it deserves, but I’m not going to chase Channel 4 to make something I don’t want for the sake of money. And with ITV I’m not going to be told by some Thames Valley provincial that I should go and specialise in religion
or chemistry or something. Fine if it is on our terms but we won’t be sent to dig some patch of ground while they spin around the planet’.
One doesn’t imagine Macdonald is going to remain earth-bound; his plans for Scottish Television seem at times no less than plans for Scotland and he doesn’t seem to intend to make his vision a parochial one either.
Macdonald isn’t going to be overawed by the metropolis of London not least because ‘at Granada we had an inbuilt sense of superiority over the London companies,’ says Macdonald who ‘was never absorbed in to the North London Dinner Party Set.’ ‘At Manchester we showed we could do remarkable things from an unpromising base.’ But what makes him such a significant choice is what makes him want to carry on doing Right of Reply even when he insists he won’t be a ‘player manager’ at Scottish Television. Running through our entire conversation was the need to bring the people into the business of television, giving them as they have with Right of Reply a voice
with equal weight, equal authority. ‘If you start treating the people not as punters but as citizens you’ll be surprised about just how passionate the debates on things like Trident will be — as long as the people have been as well informed as the journalists and the politicians. There is nothing worse in television than to have the public patronised usually by producers who call them ‘punters’ — it offers a kind of world view that there are us intelligent middle-class folk who work in television and all those folk jigging about in the high rise tenements.
‘You have got to be viewer-friendly in the way you bring them in,’ says Macdonald whose political questions programme is a tangible example of how viewers are to become involved. ‘You have to spend the money making sure these citizens are properly served with information, looked after and not simply used as cattle shifted about to laugh and roar in the right place.’
Scottish Television is being reshaped by a man with strong ideas about what he wants and who he wants, although he does admit to making one mistake. ‘I found to my horror after I had recruited David Scott that his favourite singer was Shirley Bassey — when it was too late to do anything about it. His second favourite singer was Frank Sinatra. That’s the point where I walked out.‘
Whether what Macdonald wants is what the citizens want or not, time will tell. But maybe most important of all, he is a man who has a passion for listening to his public. Television as we know it has, Macdonald thinks, only to the end of the century before there are major changes, but these could be heady times; ‘When you have the sense of national momentum we’ve got here, if we are able to punch our weight, then we should be able to make quite a big dent in the national scene.’
EARLY MUSIC FESTIVAUOPERA RESTOR’D
Life is never simple in Edinburgh at this time of year with ‘the’ Festival, the Fringe , a Jazz Festival, the Tattoo, the Film Festival, a Youth Orchestra Festival, the Television
Festival and now, for the second year :
running, an Early Music Festival. During the first two weeks of the festival period a new, young professional company, Opera
Restor’d, give lively performances of |
Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (in its original 1689 Chelsea version) and the comedy Pyramus and Thlsbe by J .F. Lampe, a Shakespeare derived satire on Italian opera. Incredibly enough, with so much going on in Edinburgh, The Early Music Festival found a perfect home in the Parish Church of St Andrew and St George in George Street. Artistic Director, Jack Edwards and Musical Director, Peter Holman just ‘fell in love with it and decided to put on not only opera, but use it as a base
for concerts and recitals of early music too. The acoustic is fantastic and performing here is almost better than performing in London.‘ A series of baroque arches and columns punctuated by statues provides the setting for both operas and the period effect is enhanced by the company’s dedication to authenticity and attention to detail, a combination rapidly becoming its hallmark.
Not only does the orchestra (the Parley of Instruments) perform on instruments ofthe period. but in costume and generally ‘it’s very much in the style of the court of William and Mary. We‘ve even restored all the dances, which is very rarely done.’ (Carol Main)
Full details ofthe St Andrew and St George Early Music Festival (11—23 Aug) are in the Fringe Programme. Performances are at various times of the day and apart from the two operas there are recitals with a variety of early instruments and voices. Particular highlight should be Vivaldi ’s Lute and Mandolin Concertos played by the American virtuoso Paul 0 ’Dette accompanied
by the Parley of Instruments (18—23 Aug, 1pm). [F]
The List 8 - 21 August 31