Mia Spiro is Senior Lecturer in Modern Jewish Culture and Holocaust Studies in Theology and Religious Studies at the School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow. She is the author of Anti-Nazi Modernism: The Challenges of Resistance in 1930s Fiction (Northwestern UP, 2013) and has published numerous articles on Jewish representation in literature and film in the period leading up to WWII and on the impact of the Holocaust on post-war Jewish culture. From 2014-2019, Dr. Spiro was co-investigator on the AHRC project, Jewish Lives/Scottish Spaces, which examined Jewish migration to Scotland from 1880-1950. She is currently working on a book, entitled ‘Monsters and Jewish Migration: Golems, Vampires, and the Ghosts of War.’
In the Shadow of the Holocaust: Glasgow’s 1951 Festival of Jewish Arts and the Regeneration of Jewish Culture
The Festival of Jewish Arts in Glasgow was the first and largest Jewish festival in Britain, conceived as a response to, and timed to coincide with, the Festival of Britain in 1951. Held at Glasgow’s McLellan Galleries on Sauchiehall Street from February 4–25, 1951, the event showcased works from over fifty internationally renowned Jewish artists, antiquities dating back from the thirteenth century, musical performances, films, lectures, a book display, and a run of sell-out performances of S. An-sky’s The Dybbuk. In this talk, Mia Spiro will give an account of the festival by bringing together documentation and perspectives on ‘regenerating’ Jewish culture the festival offered. When looking at the material and tangible elements of the festival alongside the social and cultural ideals of its organizers, one can discern a complex negotiation between the historical place and space of the festival, the concerns of the community, and the tensions between minority and mainstream Scottish and British culture. The Festival of Jewish Arts, as this talk will show, provides a rare window through which to view a Jewish community grappling with issues of loss and reconstructing identity in the aftermath of Nazi atrocities, while at the same time trying to transcend the perception of their Otherness and respond to British anxieties about Jewish refugees and the founding of the State of Israel.