_ last act
Contrary to earlier reports. Mayfest director Robert Robson is sticking around in Glasgow until several months after this, his final festival, is over. He has delayed his departure to His Majesty‘s Theatre, Aberdeen, until September and has been persuaded to stay on to see what he describes as ‘an outstanding programme with a real sense of freshness and discovery’ to the end.
This will be the twelfth Mayfest. Robson’s fourth and arguably the one that bears his stamp most clearly. He took over at a difficult time. In 1990 he could not possibly have competed with the high-profile, high-cost jamboree of the Year ofCulture and it was perhaps inevitable that his first event would look like a pale imitation of the Mayfest built up by Bill Burdet-Coutts. There had been a tendency, however, for Mayfest to look like Burdet- Coutts’s other venture, the Assembly Rooms, simply transferred to the west, and by selective programming and careful commissioning, Robson has moved a long way towards giving Mayfest a character of its own. ‘The programme this year is still wide- ranging, but actually hangs together much better,‘ he says, ‘so it‘s not just a jumbled collection ofall the possible events, it has a shape.‘
Robson has put most of this year‘s commissioning money into the community programme, while the
Robert Robson focus of his intemational season is on work neither designed for nor yet seen on the traditional festival circuit. Thus. theatre from South Africa, Cuba and
1 Ivory Coast will sit alongside seasons
of world music and US country music. while indigenous companies will be interpreting everything from Mike Oldﬁeld‘s Tubular Bells to lrvine Welsh's Trainspotting.
Robson believes that whether he had stayed or not, it would have been time for Mayfest to take stock, though he emphasises that diversity is one of its key strengths. ‘The future should be
he suggests, ‘and creating really special projects that wouldn‘t otherwise happen, so that Mayfest can make a major contribution to the development of Scottish culture.‘ (Mark Fisher)
E Mayfest, 29 Apr—21 May, details 04/
| 552 8000.
focused on quality rather than quantity,‘
Meet Hilary Strong, the newly- appointed director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. She‘s been a dresser. an actress, a stage manager and a theatre director. She spent three years working in business public relations in London before heading west in 1986 to run the Merlin Theatre in Frome. Somerset. And for the last live years. she’s been administrator of the Bath- based Natural Theatre Company.
You could call Strong the respectable face of arts adrninstration. She doesn‘t look out of place among the suits in company boardrooms. and feels equally at ease around camera-clutching Coneheads from Outer Space, the perennially popular street theatre characters that Natural is best known for. So while the company has toured the world being professionally silly, Strong has been managing the office, booking tours and negotiating contracts for up to 40 performers doing 800 shows a year.
Strong is also renowned in South West England as a networker and arts lobbyist — she‘s an active member of the National Campaign for the Arts. So when she takes over from Mhairi Mackenzie-Robinson in May, Strong will bring very diverse experiences of fringe theatre. Change is almost inevitable after Strong has reviewed the way the Edinburgh event is structured,
As the revolving door of Scottish arts administration spins, we talk to the outgoing Mayfest director and the newly-appointed Fringe boss. . W .
Hilary Strong but she‘s already got one or two ideas: ‘Clearer maps so you can find places!‘ she suggests.
The Fringe Society has made it clear that it expects the three-week event to continue to be open to all performers; it's not about to become a programmed festival. But Strong believes there are indirect ways of improving the overall quality. ‘lf we could improve transport for companies, access to venues, and storage for sets, we might avoid the risk of lowering production values with the classic Edinburgh show — no sets, no props,‘ she says.
‘The cost of accommodation is the biggest worry for performers,‘ she continues. ‘l’erhaps we can set up some kind of consortium. using larger premises so individuals pay less.’
The wheels are already turning for this year's Fringe, so Strong will be working largely within the existing system. Watch out for changes in 1995, however. (Shirley Brown)
_ Objection sustained
‘flumanity has the ability to make development sustainable - development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
That is the widely accepted definition of sustainability, the concept which underpins every green campaign. It is a definition that the Government accepted when it published ‘Sustalnable Development - The UK Strategy’ earlier this year, a the first step towards complying with international agreements signed at the 1992 Earth Summit.
The report was met with disappointment among environmental groups who had hoped the Government would set actual targets, but there is a recognition that ‘measuring’ sustainability does pose problems. A major international conference will be held in Edinburgh during the Science Festival to consider the progress that has been made on producing environmental ‘lndlcators’ - basically green yardsticks for measuring the sustainability of different types of development.
Scottish environmental researchers are particularly anxious that targets
are set in Scotland as quickly as possible. ‘Vle have always argued that Scotland has tremendous potential as a test case for sustainability,’ says WWF Scotland policy officer Elizabeth leighton. ‘So much activity in Scotland is resource-based, such as oil, fishing and even tourism, that we need to sustain those resources to sustain our way of life.’
After the Government published its report, the Scottish Office announced that it was setting up an advisory group to look at Scotland’s particular needs for a national, as opposed to lift-wide, sustainability policy. That was January and there is still no sign of this group though the Scottish Office says it will happen.
Friends of the Earth Scotland regards the controversial superquarrles as a classic example of a sustainability issue with a specifically Scottish dimension. The pressure to create superquarrles, the first of which is proposed on Harris, is not due to local
s; the proposed loca of the first superquarry
need for the rock but a massive road- buildlng programme in southern England. ‘If the quarries go ahead, valuable Scottish hard rock will neither be left in the ground for future generations nor used to meet local need; it will be “exported” to build yet more roads,’ says an FoE briefing document.
Using the Govemment’s accepted definition, superquarries are not sustainable, according to Fe! Scotland director Kevin Bunion. ‘The Government seems to take the view that sustainability is desirable but we must have economic growth to pay for it,’ he adds. ‘But you can’t pollute rivers to produce money to clean them up - that’s a crazy way of going about it.’ (Eddie Gibb)
Reporting on Sustainability is from Thurs 6- Fri 7 April. A public debate on the issue is on Wed 6 April at 7.30pm in Old College, Edinburyt. Details on 041 227 4479.
_ Write stuff
Angst-ridden teenager Adrian Mole was one of the thousands of hopefuls who send radio scripts to the BBC’s literary unit each year. Mole’s, like most unsolicited scripts, were sent back as unsuitable. but always with an encouraging note suggesting ways the writing could be improved. So the closure ofthis very BBC-like institution marks the end of an era.
in its place will be a team of drama development researchers who will take a more ‘proactive' approach to the search for scripts. Caroline Raphael. the new head of radio drama, has tried to reassure writers that unsolicited scripts will continue to be read but points out that of the thousands received last year, only seven made it onto the airwaves. The BBC admits, however, that the new department will devote less time to giving advice to writers whose scripts don't make the grade.
‘We‘re very opposed to the closure,‘ says Joe Dunlop, chairman ofthe Radio Writers Guild.
Radio writers will get a chance to quiz senior BBC executives, including Radio 4 plays editor Marilyn lmrie, about the changes at a writers conference in Edinburgh.
The Scottish Radio Writers Day is at the Nether/20w. [Edinburgh . Details on 03 I 556 95 79.
4 The List 25 March—7 April 1994