Festival wins backing of Australian millionaire
The Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills has enlisted one of Australia's biggest backers of the arts, multi-millionaire marketing and media boss Harold Mitchell, as a first-time supporter of his festival this summer.
The son of a saw mill worker, Mr Mitchell founded Australia's largest media communications and marketing company, but this year became a major shareholder in the UK's Aegis Media.
As an 18-year-old penniless office boy Mr Mitchell put half a week's pay to buy a back-row seat to the opera in Melbourne, a production of The Merry Widow. "I came from a little country town in Australia, and I thought this was magic. The arts is everything," he said.
He became chairman of the National Gallery of Australia, spent 12 years on the board of Opera Australia, and was Mr Mills' chairman at the Melbourne Festival. He started his own charitable foundation in 2000 with a A$10 million fund to back both arts and health projects.
Mr Mitchell is listed as one of the Festival's three "principal supporters" this year.
His involvement is seen as a major coup. Neither the Festival nor Mr Mitchell would reveal the size of his donation, although he added: "It is considerable. I think we're OK for it."
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