Interview: Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills on the 2014 programme
- David Kettle
- 18 March 2014
The outgoing EIF director reveals what inspired his final festival programme
What are this year’s EIF themes?
It’s put together partly to coincide with the Commonwealth Games, and partly to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. But there is a much broader dimension: the way in which artists have allowed us to transcend, to even be optimistic at the darkest moments in human history, so that out of the mud and the horror, there are ways in which poetry and music, dance and theatre can allow the spirit to shine and soar.
What are your particular highlights?
In terms of theatre, two pieces that beautifully match each other are The War and All Quiet on the Western Front. The first anticipates war, with a group of students spending Christmas together in Paris just before the outbreak of the First World War, and imagining what their lives will be like in five or ten years. Then there’s the horrible aftermath of the war in those very poignant books written from the trenches, particularly All Quiet on the Western Front, which is performed in English, Flemish, French and German.
How are your addressing the independence referendum in the Festival?
In terms of the discussions happening in Scotland at the moment, I think The James Plays are very relevant, because they give us a sense of history and of thematic recurrence.
How are your marking your final year as director in the Festival programme?
I’m marking it in one way only – by including a piece of my own. I was asked on a lot of occasions when I was going to programme something I’d written. I said okay, on my last festival we’ll think about it. The last Usher Hall includes my piece Sandakan Threnody, which is themed around the death marches in northern Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau in 1945, and the personal connections that my father had to that.
What advice do you have for your successor, Fergus Linehan?
Be yourself, and enjoy it. It’s a festival – be as exuberant and as authentic as you need to be.
Edinburgh International Festival, Fri 8–Sun 31 Aug, eif.co.uk