Richard Demarco presents the Culture Zone
The art curator and Edinburgh Festival stalwart Richard Demarco presents this week's special edition of the Culture Zone dedicated to the Capital's cultural heritage. Featuring archive programmes on famous sons and daughters of Edinburgh such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Muriel Spark and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as well as modern masters like Irvine Welsh and Ian Rankin, the Zone was recorded on location at Demarco's offices in Craigcrook Castle. Producer Bobby Seiler describes a memorable afternoon in the presence of a Festival legend.
Meeting Richard Demarco is like meeting the spirit of the Edinburgh Festival itself. His offices are jammed full of posters, photographs and artwork from every festival since it began in 1947 and he must be the only man alive who can claim to have been involved in every edition of the biggest Arts Festival in the world. Now at the age of 80 he shows no sign of stopping and on my arrival, after supping a cup of coffee with Richard and his latest protégé - a young opera singer from San Francisco called Leslie Goldman - he was soon off and running leading me by the hand through the grounds of the historic Craigcrook.
With the enthusiasm of a man a quarter of his age, he skipped through the trees dramatically evoking the spirits of the great artists who had been invited to Craigcrook on artistic retreats by Lord Francis Jeffrey in the 19th century. Everyone from Charles Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen, George Eliot and Lord Tennyson visited the historic Castle and Richard entertained me with stories of how Lord Jeffrey would intersperse his artistic gatherings with bouts of leapfrog with the literary giants. Just as I tried to imagine the writer of Bleak House frolicking on the beautiful lawns, Richard was off again scurrying under great sequoia trees and rhododendron bushes explaining how his contribution to this year's festival was a dramatic staging of the musical Camelot in the grounds of the castle. When I finally managed to coax him away from the gardens and back to his office, he regaled me with stories of staging his Macbeth on the historic Inchcolm island and how he had to cobble together a new cast in 12 days after his Italian company cancelled. He explained the thrill of bringing Richard Burton and Clare Bloom to Edinburgh for a production of Hamlet in the 1950s and having to explain to the star that his bathroom was at the other end of the corridor in the Caledonian Hotel.
The whole afternoon was an truly unforgettable experience and it reminded me how much Edinburgh owes Demarco for his unrelenting passion and devotion to arts in the city and I think this is reflected in the Culture Zone that he was kind enough to present!