Jim Haynes

Jan 7 2021 | By More

Traverse co-founder dies in Paris

Jim Haynes, who co-founded the Traverse Theatre in 1963, has died in hospital in Paris. He was 87.

Haynes was born in Louisiana on November 10 1933 and arrived in Scotland while enlisted in the US Air Force. He decided to stay and study in Edinburgh where he started the Paperback Bookshop off George Square.

Jim Haynes. Image: Facebook.

After successful performance in the bookshop at the Fringes of the early 1960s, Haynes, together with Richard Demarco, John Calder and John Malcolm, decided to try to keep the Fringe’s adventurous spirit alive year-round, by setting up the Traverse theatre.

In 1962 Haynes and John Calder set up the contentious Writers Conference as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Their follow-up Drama Conference in 1963 made headlines when, during a discussion exploring the theatre of the future, a ‘happening was staged, which included a naked model being wheeled out across a balcony.

The first Traverse was set up as a theatre club in a building in James Court, off the Lawnmarket, where Malcolm had his flat in the winter of 1962, opening its doors on January 2, 1963.

Haynes was not actually in Edinburgh during the Traverse’s birth, but he took over as its artistic director in January 1964, establishing its continuing policy that it would be a theatre for new writing. This included British premieres of existing work.

Under his direction, the theatre began to expand its activities, opening an art gallery there and organising a series of “talk-ins”.

Importantly for the Edinburgh Fringe, the Traverse Theatre Club brought exciting and radical new works from across the world to Edinburgh in August.

Happy End

In 1964, this included the hugely successful British premiere of Brecht and Weill’s Happy End at Pollock Hall. At it’s Lawnmarket base, according to the Sunday Times, “theatre, poetry readings and folk song in the small hours, supplement no fewer than four British premieres, including works by Ghelderode, Frisch and Mrozek.”

Haynes left the Traverse in 1966. After an argument with the management committee over his right to appoint full-time staff he tendered his resignation which, to his horror, was accepted. He moved to London where he co-founded the International Times with Barry Miles and John Hopkins.

In 1967 he set up the Drury Lane Arts Lab, which hosted familiar faces such as David Bowie, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and spawned a new generation of artists, filmmakers, writers and directors.

In 1969 Haynes moved to Paris where he taught media studies and sexual politics at the University of Paris for 30 years. He also started his legendary open-house Sunday dinners.

According to Jim Hayens’s son Jesper, writing on Facebook, he died peacefully in his sleep in Paris on the evening of December 6, 2021.


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