Edinburgh International Festival director designate Fergus Linehan has questioned why the event has failed to feature most leading British theatre directors in recent years, adding that there will in the future be opportunities to “revolutionise” the festival’s theatre and dance offering.
Speaking at the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Independent Theatre Council party during the fringe, he also questioned why the international festival has had difficulty in being a platform for Scottish theatre.
Linehan said he had not yet made decisions about the future of the EIF under his tenure - which will begin with the 2015 festival – but said he had been “wrestling” with some questions around dance and, in particular, theatre.
He said: “Why, and I think the James Plays are an exception to this, have we had real difficulty becoming a powerful and far-reaching platform for Scottish theatre? That one is not just an Edinburgh issue, it is an issue for festivals all over the world and their indigenous art makers.”
The director pointed out that the EIF has the biggest theatre audience in the world on its doorstep, but struggles to exploit it.
He then questioned the makeup of that audience: “Why do we struggle to deliver an audience that looks like even a cross section of the people in this room, or even more, a cross section of people walking down the street?”
Linehan also asked why “many of our [EIF] venues remain resolutely private” during August, while “almost every other venue in this city becomes a public space”.
He added: “The truth is that there are answers, and good answers, to these questions: it is not straightforward. The EIF is part of an ecosystem of festivals, which is new to me. We do not occupy the entire space and it doesn’t need to start doubling up on what other festivals do.”
“Those are some of the questions and as I say they don’t come with easy answers, but they are questions which I think can be wrestled to the ground and I think that within the areas of theatre and dance there are possibilities to actually revolutionise this festival – without as I say, infringing on what else is going on,” said Linehan.