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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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Culture and (Im)morality: The Year of the Happening, 1963

Culture and (Im)morality: The Year of the Happening, 1963

(p.116) 5 Culture and (Im)morality: The Year of the Happening, 1963
The Edinburgh Festivals

Angela Bartie

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter acts as a dramatic focal point for the book, outlining the growing challenges to morality and to traditional conventions in the arts, especially theatre. New ideas about the nature of art, spaces for its performance and exhibition, and the relationship between different art forms, as well as between artist and audience, are explored alongside the creation of the Traverse Theatre Club. The focal point for this chapter is the controversy over a theatrical ‘happening’ performed on the last day of the International Drama Conference. This event, organized by significant figures in the international avant-garde, resulted in scandal – due to the brief appearance of a nude artist’s model on a BBC lighting trolley – and a well-publicised trial. It reveals the ways in which changes in discourses concerning morality and the arts converged spectacularly in Edinburgh, when the Festival found itself a stage for the most significant challenge to its conception of culture yet, one that undermined its pronouncements about art being spiritual, a reaffirmation of order, and a reflection of what was ‘best’ in the world. This chapter shows how culture became a significant space for challenging convention as well as a focus for those reacting against such challenges in 1960s Britain.

Keywords:   happenings, Traverse theatre, immorality, avant-garde, theatre, artist, controversy, culture, 1960s

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