There was an easy, reverential air in the Corner Theatre on Sunday evening where a packed audience gathered to hear from Jim Haynes. It seems to sit easy enough on Haynes’s shoulders that his various Edinburgh endeavours of the 1950s and 1960s were partly responsible for us all being together on this still, summer’s eve. That there should be more to Edinburgh’s festival season than the International, that literature and theatre demand forums in which they might be enjoyed and discussed, and that the very act of making something happen is reason enough to do it in the first place.
Haynes has a book to promote, and every member of the audience was presented with a copy. Many thanks go to Edinburgh Napier University for making this possible. Obvious disclosure here: this is an Edinburgh Napier blog. The book is a memoir, a reflection on times past, characters and collaborators.
The broader context is the arrival in Edinburgh of the Haynes archive: 230 boxes recently brought to Scotland from his home in Paris. Edinburgh Napier is again of vital importance here, for the archive has found its way to the University, and plans are afoot to develop it as a resource. Alongside further archives in the National Library of Scotland, the University of Glasgow and other public institutions there is an ever-growing base for historical festival research.
But, back to the event itself. Elements of the history of Edinburgh’s festivals have been crystallised into a series of set pieces. From the establishment of the Edinburgh International Festival and its first season in 1947, to the roll call of now-famous faces to have graced the stage of a Fringe venue. Haynes is integral to this history, and thus it was exciting and refreshing that he shared new insights into well kent tales: the founding of the Traverse Theatre as a symbol of love; the quick thinking call to a photographer that propelled the burning of a book (Lady Chatterley’s Lover) into the spotlight of global cultural discourse; and the vitality and energy that surged through the Traverse as it took hold and provided a spark to catalyse Edinburgh’s cultural engagement with the world.
Haynes doesn’t shirk his responsibilities as an Edinburgh festival elder statesman. Nor does he deny anyone their right to bend the festival to their will, to have their say, to keep the city urgent and necessary. We owe Jim Haynes a debt and must celebrate his drive and his foresight, but let’s not dally too long over it while there are shows to see and happenings to wrestle with.
— Ed Napier Event Mgmt (@napierevents) August 22, 2016