Formation, Mission and Organization
The idea for organizing an international festival designed to “expand the arts, pay tribute to the nation’s traditional arts and raise cultural standards in Iran” and to furthermore “ensure wider appreciation of the work of Iranian artists, introduce foreign artists to Iran, and acquaint the Iranian public with the latest creative developments of other countries”7 originated in 1966 with Empress Farah Pahlavi, Shahbanou Farah in Persian. The responsibility for shaping and executing the concept was delegated to Reza Ghotbi, then Director General of the recently formed NITV.
An advisory board was formed that charted the festival’s scope and principal goals. “In the context of an encounter between East and West,” the festival would present all the arts, focused on “the best traditional arts of the East, the finest classical traditions of the West, and the avant-garde apropos its place in the world.” The festival would also undertake research and pursue activities in the creative domain.”8
Most cultural activity being centered in Tehran, the group decided to host the festival away from the capital thinking that the effort to make the trip and the concentration of artists and festival-goers in one location would enrich the experience, “like an artistic pilgrimage.” After considering Kashan and Isfahan, their choice fell on Shiraz. The city offered a variety of venues such as Hafezieh, Delgosha Garden, Saray-e Moshir, Narenjestan, the Jahan-Nama Garden . . . and not far off, the magnificent ruins of Persepolis. The Mehmansara provided hotel accommodation—not luxurious, but adequate and in line with the festival’s identity—as did the newly built Pahlavi University student dormitories.
To govern the festival, a 31-member board of trustees was formed under the patronage of Empress Farah comprised of cabinet members, university chancellors, provincial authorities and other officials, and individual scholars, cultural figures, and custodians of properties earmarked as performance venues. The trustees, who served for two-year terms and changed over timewere responsible for approving the budget and the bylaws, nominating the board of directors, and appointing an inspector for financial oversight.
A five-member board of directors was then appointed: Dr. Mehdi Boushehri served as President with other board members, Reza Ghotbi, (NITV Director General), and Farrokh Gaffary (NITV Deputy Director General), Dr. Qassem Reza’i, director of the Tourism Organization, and Dr. Zaven Hakopian, Director General, Ministry of Culture and Arts.
The Shiraz-Persepolis Festival of Arts officially opened on 11 September 1967 (20 Shahrivar 1346), less than a year after NITV televised its first program.
Programs: Selection and Planning Process
Planning and decision making was a collaborative team effort involving Ghotbi; Gaffary, the director of the festival who was in charge of the planning process and the festival’s de facto artistic director; Sheherazade Afshar (music and dance); Khojasteh Kia [until 1971] and Bijan Saffari (theatre); Gaffary himself was in charge of film, and later also of theatre.
Other key members of the team were Parvin Qoraishi (executive secretary), Faramarz Shahbakhti (administrator), Mohammad Shafa’i (construction workshop), Vardkes Esra’ili (technical), Farideh Gohari and Fereshteh Shafa’i (set design), Keyvan Khosravani (lighting design, inaugural year only),9 Manouchehr Shamsa’i (lighting), Yousef Shahab (sound), and Qobad Shiva (graphics). Publications, media and public relations posts were held by Iraj Gorgin and later, Karim Emami.
Over the years, the festival benefitted from the advice and expertise of a large number of individuals including Dr. Dariush Safvat, Dr. Hormoz Farhat, Fowzieh Majd, and Houshang Ebtehaj (music), and Arby Ovanessian, Davoud Rashidi, Mohammad-Baqer Ghaffari and Parviz Sayyad (theatre).
A complete audio archive of the seminars and the performing arts programs, as well as magnetic tapes of all programs that could be videotaped, plus a series of interviews with the artists on 16mm film were housed at NIRT. Festival catalogues, bulletins and educational publications were housed at the festival offices in Bagh-e Ferdows. Collectively, this archive is a time capsule of substantial historical and cultural value, both in terms of Iran and internationally, covering the period 1967-1977.