Former Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins has been appointed as the new Chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society board of directors.
He takes up his role with immediate effect, succeeding Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, who served two full terms as Chair.
An experienced banker, Higgins was strategic advisor to the First Minister on the development of the Scottish National Investment Bank.
He has also worked as chief executive of retail banking at RBS, and retail chief executive at HBOS.
His current non-executive portfolio includes him being Chairman of the National Galleries of Scotland, a Trustee for the Edinburgh International Culture Summit, Chairman of The Fine Art Society (London and Edinburgh), Chairman of Sistema Scotland and Trustee of Burrell Renaissance.
O’Shea’s tenure was recently extended to March 2021, due to exceptional circumstances brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
Higgins said: “The Edinburgh Fringe is an essential component of Scotland’s cultural heritage, and now more than ever, we need to celebrate and invest in this vibrant, inclusive and accessible festival.
“As we rebuild our future together after this extraordinarily difficult time, I know that the Fringe will have an essential role to play in the country’s economic, social and cultural recovery.
“I look forward to working with Shona McCarthy and her team to help the Fringe re-emerge as the best version of itself, and to help ensure that the festival and the Fringe Society is robust, resilient and ready for new challenges and opportunities in the future.”
Fiona Davis, Vice Chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society board, added: “We are living in extraordinary times, and undeniably, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the Fringe Society, the Fringe and the wider arts sector.
“As we move forward, the Fringe Society’s priority will be supporting those that make the greatest arts festival in the world happen every year, so that the Fringe and its many brilliant creatives can flourish once again.
“I am delighted to announce Benny’s appointment and am looking forward to seeing what the future holds under his leadership – I’m confident that his depth of experience in both the commercial and not-for-profit sectors, combined with his brilliant strategic vision, will help lead the Fringe Society going forward.”
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society is the charity that underpins the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe.
It was established in 1958 by a group of artists to act as the custodian of Fringe values and as “an agent for the festival’s continual flexibility and reinvention”.
Earlier this week, the society warned ministers that it needs a major public funding injection, as it has had to cut its staff by a third.
In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee, the festival stated that its “world-leading status” was under threat due to the pandemic and it could take at least three years to recover without the additional funding.
Yesterday, the UK Government pledged £1m to fund two new projects to expand the digital potential of the Edinburgh Festivals.
The biggest combined festivals in the UK attract audiences of nearly five million every year, generating £313m for Scotland’s economy alone.
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