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The Edinburgh FestivalsCulture and Society in Post-war Britain$
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Angela Bartie

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748670307

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748670307.001.0001

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Cultural Challenge: The Creation of a ‘Fringe’ 1947–1955

Cultural Challenge: The Creation of a ‘Fringe’ 1947–1955

(p.42) 3 Cultural Challenge: The Creation of a ‘Fringe’ 1947–1955
The Edinburgh Festivals

Angela Bartie

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explores the growing tensions over ‘culture’ in post-war Britain, as played out in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Festival Society articulated a carefully constructed conception of culture, one in which the influences of Matthew Arnold and TS Eliot could clearly be seen. Here, culture was seen as a means of restoring ‘civilised values’ and healing the wounds of war. But this conception was challenged from the outset. This chapter outlines the culture wars that arose, beginning with the Fringe (which began as ‘additional entertainments’ outside the official Festival programme in 1947), and from 1951 to 1954, from left-wing and cultural groups who founded an alternative event, the Edinburgh People’s Festival. With figures like Hamish Henderson, Alan Lomax and Ewan MacColl all involved, the People’s Festival ceilidhs have since been identified as the starting point for the folk song revival in Britain. A space for cultural challenge was created in these early years of the Festivals and exploring this highlights some of the tensions that were evident in the arts in 1950s Britain.

Keywords:   culture, post-war Britain, Edinburgh Festival, Fringe, Peoples Festival, folk song, 1950s, arts

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