Cultural tourist

May 19, 2006
Festival director sets no tongues wagging

The appointment of Jonathan Mills—a little-known 42-year-old Australian composer and former director of the Melbourne festival—as director of the Edinburgh international festival has sent shock waves of indifference through the arts world. Not just "who?" but also "why?" and "what's going on?" are the questions on hardly anyone's lips. The retiring director, Brian McMaster, was at the helm for 15 consistently challenging years, and goes out on a high. His programme this year brings back the German director Peter Stein to direct Troilus and Cressida, as well as Catalan "bad boy" director Calixto Bieito with a stage adaptation of Michel Houellebecq's sex-saturated novel Platform. What will Mills bring to the world's biggest arts festival? His background includes a lot of committee accreditation; a composition of his won the Prix Italia last year. How did such an unknown get chosen? The answer seems to be that others who were approached (Pierre Audi, founder of the Almeida Theatre; Graham Sheffield, director of the Barbican Centre) turned the job down when they looked at the festival's £1m deficit. The festival council had left it too late for anyone of stature to be appointed and to compile a programme for 2007.

The Ryanair of the book trade

Bookworms will recall that last year the publisher Macmillan announced a new writing scheme for undiscovered literary talent. "There are literally tens of thousands of writers out there," it said, "and we have a responsibility to help them." And so they offered a "streamlined, cost-effective" deal: no advance, basic copy-editing, 20 per cent royalties, and Macmillan to retain all rights.
The response from other publishers, literary agents and not-so-new authors was derisive. Hari Kunzru called it "the Ryanair of publishing"; Giles Foden said Macmillan was "preying on the unwary." The unwary, however, ran to Macmillan, brandishing manuscripts in their thousands.

Macmillan has a strong tradition of making money out of wannabe writers, since it publishes the annual Writers' Handbook and other useful tomes for scribes. But now the first six novels have appeared—narrowly missing April Fools' day—to no attention, reviews or bookshop space. And still the authors seem pleased. If you actually wish to read Brian Martin's North, Cate Sweeney's Selfish Jean, or any of the other four, go to the Macmillan New Writing website (separate from the main one), where you can order all six books at half price. They will be followed by many more over the coming months.

Back on the main Pan Macmillan site we find the results of the Richard and Judy "How to get published" competition. The advance promised to the winner: £50,000.

Cameron Mackintosh's Highland musical

The Highlands and Inverness did not succeed in their bid to be the European Capital of Culture 2008—presumably because the Highlands are not a city and Inverness would not have won on its own—but, undeterred, they are having a year of culture anyway, and having it in 2007, pipping Liverpool to the post by a whole 12 months. Over £13m has been raised for "Highland 2007." Events confirmed so far include a competition, supported by Cameron Mackintosh, to find a new Highlands and Islands-themed musical to be performed in Inverness.