Higgins for EdFringe chair

Mar 26 2021 | By More

Govt advisor and ex-banker succeeds O’Shea

Benny Higgins, a former banker and strategic advisor to Nicola Sturgeon, has been named as the new chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society board of directors.

He was the founding CEO of Tesco Bank from 2008 to 2018 and is a former head of retail banking at HBOS. As lockdown first hit in April 2020 he was appointed by the First Minister to chair the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery.

Benny Higgins has been appointed EdFringe chair.

Higgins has a strong history of working with arts organisations, including as chair of the National Galleries of Scotland, a trustee for the Edinburgh International Culture Summit, chair of The Fine Art Society (London and Edinburgh), chair of Sistema Scotland and a trustee of Burrell Renaissance.

Higgins takes up his position at the Fringe Society with immediate effect. He succeeds Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, who built up the Society’s relationship with Edinburgh University of which he was Principal and Vice Chancellor.

O’Shea served two full terms as chair with his tenure being extended from August 2020 due to exceptional circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

Glasgow-born Higgins was brought up in Prospecthill and went to the local Holyrood school, later graduating with a First in Mathematics from Glasgow University.

He has extensive experience in the financial sector, working as a banker from 1983. In 2017 he was made strategic adviser to the First Minister on the building of the Scottish National Investment Bank. He has also worked as Chief Executive of Retail Banking at RBS, and Chief Executive of Retail at HBOS.

robust, resilient and ready for new challenges

Higgins expressed his delight at his appointment, saying: “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.

depth of experience

“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.”

Davis added: “As we look to the future, I’d also like to thank Tim O’Shea for his years of dedication, expertise and experience. His vision and leadership have ensured that we are ready to enter this new chapter on solid ground, and for that, we are ever indebted to him.”

The role of chair is not remunerated, although expenses are covered. The board meets five times a year in Edinburgh.


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