Culture

Robert Kemp on the Edinburgh Festival

Twice before in my life I have seen Europe go dark and watched the doves of peace having their necks wrung. …”

Robert Kemp on the 21st Edinburgh Festival, from the Scottish Field 1967

Festivals are not like people. They never “grow up”. So perhaps it would be a mistake to make too much of the 21st Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama (to bestow upon it the full title which leaves out a lot of what happens), except that to say that its continuance for all of those years proves that the original idea was a durable one.

All those years…I , who happen to have seen something of them all, find it difficult to believe that among this years’ audience there will be those who were not born when the early Festivals took place. For them it may seem a venerable institution this Edinburgh Festival Society which some at first predicted would not last for more than a few years.


Read more: Robert Kemp on the Edinburgh Festival

Robert Kemp on the Edinburgh Festival

“Twice before in my life I have seen Europe go dark and watched the doves of peace having their necks wrung. …”

Robert Kemp on the 21st Edinburgh Festival, from the Scottish Field 1967

Festivals are not like people. They never “grow up”. So perhaps it would be a mistake to make too much of the 21st Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama (to bestow upon it the full title which leaves out a lot of what happens), except that to say that its continuance for all of those years proves that the original idea was a durable one.

All those years…I , who happen to have seen something of them all, find it difficult to believe that among this years’ audience there will be those who were not born when the early Festivals took place. For them it may seem a venerable institution this Edinburgh Festival Society which some at first predicted would not last for more than a few years.


Read more: Robert Kemp on the Edinburgh Festival

Attacks on asylum seekers in Glasgow

    • From the Observer Sunday 27 May 2001 
    • A general practitioner who has patients in one of the tougher housing schemes in the west of Scotland told me the other day that he uses an old banger to do his rounds. This is a strategem to protect his car, and himself, from theft, attack or worse.

      That there are places in urban Scotland to which most of us would not willingly go during the day and certainly never visit at night is a fact which as a society and a political culture we have chosen not to confront. It is regrettable, we seem to feel, but it is part of our lives. We prefer not to cast too much light on the dark world of the 'schemies'.

Architecture in Scotland

From the Observer 7 October 2001

THE FAILURE of high-rise architecture in Scotland’s cities is so universally acknowledged that it is often assumed that tower blocks are inherently incapable of supporting civilised life.  The Wee Malkies, the urchins of Stephen Mulrine’s poem, will come as surely as rats to a cargo ship.  They will put out the stair-head lights, sabotage the lifts and make the journey from entrance to flat more hazardous than any midnight walk along the meanest city streets.

Not just in Glasgow or Edinburgh, but in London and Paris, too, towers have become symbols of alienation, poverty and despair, the very evils they were designed to overcome.  Yet this form of urban architecture can succeed.  For the rich, the high tower can be a secure fortress, guarded by concierges where residents pay their dues and repairs are carried out without delay.

Read more: Architecture in Scotland

The prohibition of drugs


From the Observer, Nov 25, 2001


Since the days of Adam and Eve, forbidden fruit has lost little of its power to tempt. There is a great deal of historical evidence to suggest that prohibition is counterproductive and may actually stimulate the consumption of the banned goods. In 1675, Charles II forbade by proclamation the sale of tea, coffee, chocolate and sherbet from private houses. His aim was to discourage sedition. In Scotland, the pulpit denounced tea-drinking as frivolous and ungodly. A consequence of such fiats was that tea became the national drink.