Andrew Eaton-Lewis: Antony Hegarty wants to change the world, and it’s life-affirming to see
HERE’S a challenge. Whatever kinds of cultural events you enjoy going to – comedy shows, concerts, exhibitions, plays, films etc – try, between now and August, only to go to ones that are not part of a festival.
This will be difficult, unless you spend your entire summer at a multiplex cinema. Scottish culture seems to have been swallowed whole by festivals, particularly between June and August. Increasingly they are swallowing each other – Glasgow’s West End Festival has several smaller festivals within it, including the Glasgow Mela and the Hidden Lane Festival.
Is this a complaint? Yes and no. There are many obviously good things about festivals. The West End Festival, and Edinburgh’s Leith Festival, create a sense of community spirit, promote events which would be less visible on their own, and make money for local businesses. Our various music festivals offer weekends away from the daily grind and cater to every taste, just about. Their sheer number is surely good for tourism.
None of this, though, seems to have much to do with art. Perhaps my job has simply made me jaded, but despite the hundreds of festivals Scotland has to offer this year, the only one I’m properly excited about is 1. not in Scotland and 2. one I can’t go to because it clashes with the Fringe.
Antony Hegarty is curating Meltdown in August, and he’s got Liz Fraser, Diamanda Galas and Laurie Anderson. My excitement is not just about the idea of seeing these people individually, though, it’s about the fact that, collectively, the programme amounts to a manifesto by a unique artist. Hegarty genuinely wants to change the world, and it’s life-affirming to see this kind of idealism in action.
Scotland, as far as I can see, offers nothing quite like it. Yes, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is a forum for serious, important debate. And the Fence Collective’s boutique festivals offer something close to the Meltdown experience, in that they unapologetically reflect the specific musical taste of the label that runs them, rather than trying to offer a “something for everyone” compromise.
For the most part, though, festivals are so ubiquitous, so absorbed into a shiny, tourist-friendly version of Scotland – the one relentlessly pushed by Creative Scotland, an organisation that often seems more interested in PR than actually supporting artists properly - that there is nothing subversive about them. If you want to challenge the status quo, to do something genuinely radical, find another platform. «
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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