Page last updated at 21:04 GMT, Thursday, 7 August 2008 22:04 UK

'Exciting and challenging' journey

Jonathan Mills
Director, Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills
Jonathan Mills said the theme of the festival was "Artists Without Borders"

The Edinburgh International Festival was founded in 1947 in the aftermath of a devastating war, as an optimistic expression of what Europe could be, aiming to restore hope to shattered lives through music, opera, drama, and dance.

Europe today is a very different place.

Borders have been redrawn in every direction and these borders are not just political, or geographic, but also cultural, social and even religious.

The artistes of this year's festival - from Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bosnia and Georgia to Lebanon, Turkey, Palestine, Israel and Iran - are all making very tangible and relevant contributions to European culture.

They are all from areas with particular challenges on their own borders, and I am inspired by their very personal circumstances, the private challenges which have motivated these remarkable individuals and their ideas.

Vibrant theatre

For example, rising out of the turmoil and tragedy of the war in Bosnia, the East West Theatre Centre in Sarajevo insists on the power of theatre as an emblem for cultural collaboration between feuding sections of the various ethnic communities in the former Yugoslavia.

Pasovic's production of Nigel Williams' Class Enemy is a tour de force.

TR Warszawa is an old variety theatre in Warsaw which flourished before the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Shut down by the SS, it remained closed during the communist period, only to re-open after the Solidarity-led liberalisation in the early 1990s.

It is now the most vibrant theatre in Warsaw and one of the most exciting companies in Europe.

They present The Dybbuk and 4.48 Psychosis at Festival 08.

The cast and crew of the Palestinian National Theatre live between worlds in a constant state of turmoil.

Putting together the programme, I was drawn to performers whose work demonstrates a commitment to the communities in which they work and live
Many of the performers live in Tel Aviv.

Simply going back and forth to rehearsals in Ramallah they must present themselves at various check points along the border between Israel and the Palestinian Territory.

When I first became aware of this company, I imagined that their work would be full of anger, hostility and resentment.

I am humbled and greatly inspired by the lyricism and humanity of their production Jidariyya.

The theme of Festival 08 is "Artists Without Borders".

Putting together the programme, I was drawn to performers whose work demonstrates a commitment to the communities in which they work and live.

In doing so, I hope the festival itself contributes to the broader debate about the circumstances which confront us as Europeans.

I invite you to embark upon this exciting and sometimes challenging journey with us - and make the most of your festival.

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