‘New Labour is a genuinely pthUne
Jonathan Mills, the new Director of the Edinburgh International Festival, talks to fellow Australian Steve Cramer.
suppose what people expect from
Atistralians abroad is so flatly contradicted
by .lonathan Hills. the new Director of the Iidinburgh International I‘estival. that many would refuse to believe his origins. The Sydney boy is so urbane and articulate. with a slightly academic manner of speaking which speaks of a long association with university research. that he‘s likely to have to deal with little of the backslapping ‘g'day mates‘ that the rest of Us expatriates lace on a daily basis. You’re actually from profoundly Anglo Australian stock aren’t you? I lived in the [K as a child. in London. and my grandfather was from (ilasgow. Though I never knew him. I think there‘s that link. You learn from parents who learn from grandparents. How does arts funding in Australia compare with Britain? Is the atmosphere here any better for creative people? Things there aren’t as had as they‘re made out to he. They're more conservative. and they‘re not that great. but they're better than things are here in sortie ways. This is a genuinely philistine govermnent. I suspect. I don't mean the Scottish Iixecutive. I mean aspects of New labour you missed the really exciting years in Australia under I’aul Keating.‘
24 THE LIST "’
I sense that, if not exactly a truculent character, you won’t shy away from a fight if cornered. So what do the funders need to do?
The politicians need to see that there‘s a lot at
stake. and that there‘s a fundamental investment involved in the festival. not just a grant. It hasn't been a problem in Scotland but I think it‘s about to be. We have to be competitive in terms of being an attractive destination for audiences. We need to have budgets for genuine international marketing. The Iidinhurgh Iiestival is one of the two or three great things that Scotland has going for it. along with things like golf in St Andrews and Whisky. Anything that gets people here to Scotland is a great thing. and Iidinburgh needs to he the gateway to that.
The number of arts festivals in the
‘POLITICIANS NEED TO SEE THAT THERE'S A FUNDAMENTAL INVESTMENT IN
NOT JUST A GRANT'
Jonathan Mills (above left) must sustain a top class Festival in the face of increasing competition. Among the success stories of 2006 were (top to bottom) conductor Simon Rattle; Brecht & Weil’s Seven Deadly Sins; and Nederlands Dans Theater
UK has been rising in recent years. Do you believe the Manchester Festival will become a threat?
I hope Manchester does take off. I think the more people who get into the festival there. the more will get into festivals in general. It's like that cappuccino shop thing — one cappuccino shop does alright. then six do much better. I don‘t feel faxed or in competition or under threat at all. We don't have to change the Iidinburgh experience in relation to Manchester. Iidinhurgh is the Iidinhurgh experience. I want to evolve what that is. but I don‘t want to revolutionise it.
What are your ideas for expanding the Festival’s market? Do you believe all the Edinburgh festivals could combine to promote the city collectively?
We need to define discuss. argue about and declare our relationships in terms of programming and so forth. The broad thing is that we live in an era where individuals make as much difference as corporations financially. The countries that court pt’np/t’ have great cultural cities r~ look at Bilbao ten years ago. it was a dump. We require more than just shows — there has to be a particular genius of place that revolves around a festival. and Iidinburgh has it. Iiverything's in walking distance. just for a start. Places like Avignon. Sal/burg and Adelaide have it. It needs an intellectual life that‘s serious. but not so serious that nothing else that interesting happens. because it excludes outside inlluences.‘