Edinburgh’s Fringe has lost its bite, claims leading venue owner
THE Fringe has long been the home of the avant garde, the cutting edge and the shocking.
But Scotland’s annual festival of the arts has lost its bite, a leading venue owner has declared, lamenting that artists are not arrested any more.
Robert Mcdowell, the owner of the successful Summerhall venue – a key venue of the Fringe – has expressed surprise and regret that artists do not merit the attention of religious figures or the scrutiny of the police any more.
He made the remarks launching this summer’s programme for the venue, which features a “raw and passionate” 10-night appearance by Pussy Riot.
The Russian feminist punk rock group was imprisoned in Russia after performing inside a cathedral as a protest against the church’s support for Vladimir Putin, the Russian President.
Mr Mcdowell said he hoped the Summerhall programme would push back against what he said was a safe consensus at the festival.
In Pussy Riot: Riot Days, one of the founder of the group, Maria Alyokhina, will present a memoir of her arrest, trial and imprisonment.
Mr Mcdowell said: “It is interesting this year because we have managed to stage an attack on Putin, through Pussy Riot.
“I don’t think Pussy Riot have ever played 10 times in a row, anywhere in the world.
“The one thing I regret about Edinburgh is that the police won’t arrest them.”
He said the no Fringe performer had attracted the attentions of the police since the later-1970s.
The arrest of an artist in a nude suit in 1979 on the High Street had been a notable moment in the festival’s history, he said, but not one often repeated.
Mr Mcdowell added: “There are [shows] we have done which, looked at superficially, broke laws. But I am actually worried that art centres, the art world, or even the Edinburgh festivals have become a kind of a ghetto, which means as long as you do it within the confines of the ghetto then nobody is going to have an issue with that – it’s just the ‘arty farty’ doing their stuff.
“We want to be more relevant than that. We want to have something to say.”