Stage Door | Michael Shmith interviews Leo Schofield

In the early 1990s, after Leo Schofield was – not without controversy – appointed the artistic director of the Melbourne Festival, Clive James referred to our own emerging cultural tsar as 'Australia's Diaghilev'. Which, I guess, retrospectively makes Sergei Pavlovich Russia's Schofield.

There is an element of truth in James's witticism, especially these days when one considers the artistic and geographical diversity of Leo Schofield's festive reign. Although Diaghilev didn't live beyond fifty-seven, Schofield is still going strong at eighty, his stamina and quicksilver mind unimpeded by age. Another Jamesian tribute, from his 2002 poem, 'Slalu': 'Leo Schofield whose power of rapid response / Out-hitches even Hitchens.'

Schofield's only concession to octogenarian status is a more or less celebratory snow-white beard. Indeed, for many festival-goers, it seems as if Schofield has been an active part of Australian arts administration since the Sydney Opera House was a tram shed and the Victorian Arts Centre a place for a circus.

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Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. He is currently writing the history of Cranlana, the Toorak home bought by Sidney and Merlyn Myer in 1920.

Published in April 2016, no. 380