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Contesting the Spirit of Unity

Whose Festival? Whose Culture?
Wednesday 16 August 2017
The Studio

Conductor Bruno Walter said that the first Edinburgh International Festival was a ‘magnificent’ experience, which ‘renewed human relations’ after the war. But not everyone felt included. For some years Glasgow Unity Theatre – led by a former factory shop steward – had been discovering working-class talent and presenting popular, professional theatre. But International Festival director Rudolf Bing thought Scottish work unlikely to meet his standards; and making the International Festival accessible to a wide social range of ‘local visitors’ was not a consideration. Glasgow Unity came anyway but had to perform, self-funded, on what later became ‘the Fringe’.

This event – in the form of readings and a panel discussion – shows how the Edinburgh International Festival was at the centre of a post-World-War-II debate about culture that still arouses passions today.

The panel, chaired by Fergus Linehan, Director of the Edinburgh International Festival, will include Larry Flanagan, General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland and theatre critic, Joyce McMillan (National Union of Journalists). The readings will be performed by Helen Mackay and Kevin Lennon. Creative Associate on this event is Ben Harrison.

Supported by Edinburgh Trades Union Council and Scottish Trade Unions

Part of the International Festival and British Council season Spirit of '47

We are delighted that BBC Arts Digital will be collaborating with us, making many of the events from Spirit of ’47 available live and on demand to a global audience online. Visit BBC Arts Digital for more information.

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  • Running time: 
    1hr 15mins approx


The Studio

22 Potterrow



This event was part of a previous International Festival and is therefore unavailable to book.

The 2018 International Festival will be available to browse online in the spring.


All tickets: £6

Current discounts

Students: 30% OFF
Senior citizens: 30% OFF
Unemployed: 30% OFF
BECTU, Equity, MU: 30% OFF
Under 18s: 50% OFF
Young Scot cardholders: 50% OFF