Spirit of ’47 – A poem by Christine De Luca


A poem to celebrate 70 years
of the Edinburgh International Festival. “Spirit of ’47” They were visionaries in ’47, special people with dreams
of dry bones dancing out of desolation, of creativity revivified. Europe was in lament;
so many lives lost. And its art stolen, its orchestras fragmented. Austerity was utility homes,
rationed food, little fuel. It was survival that mattered. These seers knew that politics can fail but stories connect, that the spirit needs elixirs – music art, and dance; surprise part of the enchantment; that we should expect to be
shocked as well as thrilled. Some would tut-tut, but yes Edinburgh would take the risk. Sir Thomas Beecham wouldn’t come, but the Queen graced the Royal Box
and Kathleen Ferrier sang Mahler. Each obstacle was resolved: water and alcohol and short supply – afternoon tea, darling? Ring the Fire Brigade!
Pull a few strings – whiskey galore! The sun shone, audiences filled theatres cafés buzzed, the critics were ecstatic. Bruno Walter conducted his Viennese Orchestra: Haydn, Schubert, Mozart,
a waltz by Strauss. It’s the full spectrum of cultures now: from classical to contemporary to avant garde; and all the various fringes, spin-offs – they still bring the best from every
corner of the world, from continents in flux, people on the move joining forces with us to make
a new songbook, a new identity. Refugees, migrants narrate
experience in their own voice; soldiers – former adversaries –
peel layers off with honesty, stripped down to the minefield of memory. Through them we empathise,
feel spirits rise again. We relearn the power of words, of naming:
Malvinas, Argentina. Whose story is it?
Whose culture, class or creed? Whose song? Art is still the impartial witness, bridge builder, connecting spark… …Too soon we’re disbanding,
glad to go out with a bang: rockets shimmer like grand chandeliers mirrored in the Assembly Rooms. So much has changed in 70 years,
yet much remains the same. In days like these it seems
we still need cultural exchange, still long for transformation; still crave a space and time
for celebration.

1 thought on “Spirit of ’47 – A poem by Christine De Luca

  1. Watch more highlights from Spirit of '47 online: http://www.britishcouncil.org/arts/spirit-of-47

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