THE director of the Edinburgh International Festival has urged its audience to jump out of its comfort zone - and into the Fringe.
• Sir Jonathan Mills urges EIF audiences to sample the Fringe and get into the true spirit of the Festival
• EIF director says there is nothing wrong with enjoying “high opera and stand-up comedy”
Sir Jonathan Mills, who is standing down from the post next year, said there was nothing wrong about enjoying “high opera and stand-up comedy”.
And he said festival-goers should not feel “disloyal” about going to shows at different events than they would normally spend their money on.
Ahead of his penultimate festival, he revealed he would be preparing for the opening gala tomorrow by attending shows at the Famous Spiegeltent on George Street and Valvona and Crolla on Elm Row.
His comments are a far cry from the days when the EIF and the Fringe were at loggerheads over the latter’s decision to shift its dates and the huge disparity in public funding between the two events.
Sir Jonathan said he was also against any more festivals moving out of August, insisting there was more of a festival spirit in the city when “you can’t move for people and events and excitement and energy.”
He said the best way to experience Edinburgh and enter into the “true spirit” of the world’s biggest arts extravaganza was to choose unlikely events from the other events on in the city this month.
This year’s EIF is heading for one of the most successful during Sir Jonathan’s tenure,
Among a string of shows to completely sell out are theatre productions like Hamlet, by The Wooster Group, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Leaving Planet Earth, which Grid Iron is staging at the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre at Ratho and space-age opera Fidelio, at the Festival Theatre.
He admitted that a number of flagship shows still had tickets on sale - including Michael Gambon in the Beckett play Eh Joe and Patti Smith and Philip Glass playing tribute to Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg.
But Sir Jonathan urged his audience to sample the full “smorgasbord” of events on offer in the city this month.
He told The Scotsman: “The best way to approach the offers of Edinburgh, without question, is to choose something from each festival outwith your comfort zone and jump into it, because if you do that you are absolutely entering into the true spirit of the festival.
“I’d say that equally to our patrons, as to the Fringe audience, as to the book festival patrons, and the same with the Tattoo.
“We are doing as much as we can to reach out to all of these festivals.
“There is a real rapport that we have with the Fringe. Relations are great at the moment. We are friends.
“What I think we can say collectively that we can’t say individually is that there is this giant smorgasbord on offer in Edinburgh.
“We all love what each other does. You don’t have to feel sort of threatened by one that you are going to another or disloyal to one because you’re going to another.
“It is actually about offering the public a great diversity. What’s wrong with loving high opera and stand-up comedy? The same person can do both and love both. I do.”
Both the film and jazz festivals have moved out of their traditional August slots in recent years, with the cost of accommodation and availability of venues cited as key factors.
The new Edinburgh International Fashion Festival, which was launched during last year’s Fringe, also decided to move to late July to avoid a clash with the main festivals.
But Sir Jonathan said: “I don’t advocate it. I think there is an incredible sense of entering into a spirit of festivity that occurs when all these things are happening together and you can’t move for people and events and excitement and energy.
“We do have, of course, in the last week of the festival a terrific programme that we always continue. That’s very popular with a lot of our patrons who like the Fringe and want to spend more time with us in the last week.
“In the first year I was here in 2006, I noticed that that activity did tend to stop on the Sunday, but it now bleeds into the Tuesday and Wednesday. There’s still quite a crowd around. It doesn’t die away as much as it did.
“I think people hear other festivals and ourselves speaking so lovingly about each other and know this festival is for them.”
The Edinburgh International Festival opens tomorrow with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s performance at the Usher Hall.
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