Edinburgh International Festival director Fergus Linehan to be honoured by city as he bows out

The director of the Edinburgh International Festival is to receive one of the city’s highest honours as he bows out from the job.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 9:49 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 4:11 pm

Fergus Linehan has been named the next recipient of the prestigious Edinburgh Award ahead of his farewell season in August, which will coincide with the event’s 75th anniversary.

He will follow in the footsteps of authors JK Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin, artist Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, as well as sporting heroes Doddie Weir, Ken Buchanan and Sir Chris Hoy.

The honour has been announced months after it was confirmed Mr Linehan, who was appointed in 2013, would be leaving at the end of his current contract.

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Fergus Linehan will bow out as director of the Edinburgh International Festival in August.

A worldwide recruitment process for his replacement is ongoing.

The Edinburgh Award was instigated in 2007 to recognise an “outstanding individual” who has made a positive impact on the city and gained national and international recognition for the city.

Born in Dublin, Mr Linehan made his name as director of the city’s theatre festival.

He later relocated to Australia, becoming chief executive and artistic director of the Sydney Festival and then head of music at Sydney Opera House.

Mr Linehan, who programmed his first Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) in 2015, has overseen the expansion of the event to embrace rock, pop, electronica, indie and folk music, programmed shows at Leith Theatre for the first time in decades, and instigated large-scale free outdoor opening events.

The EIF returned from a Covid-enforced hiatus this summer with a programme of shows largely staged in pop-up outdoor venues.

Mr Linehan is also co-chair of Impact Scotland, the charitable trust spearheading plans to create the first purpose-built new concert hall in Edinburgh for more than a century.

Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, said: “Fergus Linehan’s innovative and ambitious approach has brought the Edinburgh International Festival to a whole new audience, welcoming a new and exciting range of performers to our vibrant city.

"He has also weathered an extremely challenging period for the arts industry, staging an ambitious programme this year, despite restrictions.

“The Edinburgh Award lets the people who live here recognise those who have had a real impact on the city.

"Mr Linehan has worked tirelessly to stage a programme of festival events in all corners of the city, both engaging with the local community and reaching out to international partners to deliver a truly multicultural, successful event.

"He will be missed in the role, though I’m confident his legacy will live on, both through the festival and in receiving this highly deserved, prestigious award.”

Mr Linehan said: “I’m deeply honoured to receive this award.

"Working for the Edinburgh International Festival has been the highlight of my professional life, but even more important has been the opportunity it has given me and my family to live in this wonderful city.

"Edinburgh lives according to Patrick Geddes' mantra to 'think locally, act globally.’ It is a place that encourages you to be a citizen of your city and a city of your world. I hope that the festival has tried to mirror this.

"This award is, of course, an acknowledgement of all those who make the festival what it is. On behalf of myself and the whole festival family, thank you.”