While combining pleasure and work surveying cultural tourism in Europe a few months ago, I could not help but wonder if there also were some lessons for my Malibu.
And indeed there was one in particular, a diverting arts and entertainment experience in Edinburgh that for years has been hyped by au courant friends and family.
The Scottish city, of course, is on a completely different scale, if not planet than Malibu, with a very successful history as arguably the world’s leading festival city.
Its International Festival was launched in the wake of World War Two, as a much needed celebration of the creative human spirit. It then flowered into a host of cultural happenings: music, dance, film, art, books, drama, you name it.
Most interesting for me, and harboring some ideas for Malibu, is Edinburgh’s aptly named Fringe Festival. Whatever engages and entertains, be it single performers or ensembles, is material for the decidedly democratic festival.
This year’s was a grand affair, hosting an amazing 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues across Edinburgh, in school halls, university auditoriums, a few aged theaters, churches, under tents, in public parks, private gardens, living rooms and on closed streets and dedicated sidewalks.
Everywhere you wandered in the ancient city there was a peek at a production. Nearly 2.3 million tickets were issued, at modest prices, half price near curtain time, and many free.
The challenge was what to see: an acclaimed company performing an act from a London bound play, a comedy team from Germany doing mime, a Korean dance troup, juggling ballet dancers, acrobatic office workers, standup comics, stand down story tellers,, and buskers everywhere, behind every bench and bush, and on sidewalks and streets, to be sure each spot dedicated and subject to scheduling
It was all doable, because performances were limited to an hour or so, and if you were alert to the buzz, you might score the best of the fest.
The result were wild and wonderful, in part made so because the festival amazingly is open all; absolutely anyone so inspired can stage a show or event, though helping would be having a producer and securing a venue and a time slot. There are no auditions, no second guessing by bureaucrats or politicians. It’s about having the hubris and hustling.
Can something like the fringe on a thumbnail scale work in Malibu?
There are certainly scattered spaces and places that can be transformed temporarily into performance sites, schools, churches, city hall, shopping plazas, parking lots, indeed Legacy, Bluff and Trancas parks. For sure not in the crowded summer, but anytime else, thanks to our weather.
Malibu already has the cache. All it needs is the creativity and flexibility.
If the Cultural Arts Commission can ease its bonds with the city’s innately conservative council and faint hearted city government, and tap its laudable commitment, become transparent, and inspire the city’s many talented incipient residents, it can happen.
Speaking as a former if briefly Disney Imagineer, needed is imagination. It is also what the ever candid Scots in Edinburgh would say.