Fergus Linehan new artistic director of EIF

Apr 23 2013 | By More

Ex-director of Sydney Festival to succeed Mills at EIF helm

Fergus Linehan who is to take over as director of the EIF from 2014, with his first festival in 2015.

Fergus Linehan who is to take over as director of the EIF from 2014. Photo © EIF

By Thom Dibdin

Fergus Linehan, currently director of Sydney’s Vivid LIVE, is to take over as director of the Edinburgh International Festival from Autumn 2014 when Jonathan Mills leaves the post.

Linehan’s first festival will be 2015 and he will take up the post on a part time basis from this May in order to start preparations.

Linehan has a strong track record as a festival director. He ran the Sydney Festival from 2004 to 2009, moving there from the Dublin Theatre Festival where he took over the helm in 1999, aged 29, after five years as deputy director.

In a statement announcing his appointment to the EIF, Linehan said: “I look forward to safeguarding the founding principles of the festival in ways which are engaging and relevant to all.

“In particular I look forward to moving to Edinburgh to serve the devoted festival-goers and artists from Scotland and around the world, who have grown to love this wonderful institution over the past seven decades.”

Linehan has lived in Edinburgh before, after leaving the Sydney Festival. He was an artistic associate at the EIF, advising Mills on the theatre and dance elements of his programming. He was involved with the 2009 residency of Dublin’s Gate Theatre at the EIF, and has said that he has only missed one August in Edinburgh since 1998.

While director of the Sydney festival, Linehan achieved considerable recognition as an astute programmer, bringing in productions from across the art forms and growing the festival organically, rather than forcing it into his own vision. As a consequence he oversaw large increases in audiences and budgets.

He was appointed head of contemporary music at Sydney Opera House in 2010, where he is festival director of Vivid LIVE, an annual event which celebrates ambition and innovation in popular music and digital art.

Speaking of his plans for Edinburgh, Linehan said: “Successful festivals respond to both place and provenance to create a unique identity and this is particularly true of Edinburgh, the pre-eminent Festival city. It is with this in mind that I will begin the exciting work of developing my plans and ideas for the 2015 and future Festivals.”

Good news for theatre fans

Linehan’s appointment has been roundly welcomed. Theatre critic Joyce McMillan described him as: “that rarest of things in the world of top-level arts programming, a man with few enemies, and almost no serious critics”. Pointing to his background at the Dublin international theatre festival  she added: “his Edinburgh appointment is certainly good news for theatre fans, given his network of connections and knowledge in that art form.”

While at Dublin he commissioned work by artists including Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel and Roddy Doyle as well as a new generation of Irish writers and choreographers. He was a co-founder and director of Dublin’s Pigsback Theatre Company in 1989 and manage the city’s Tivoli Theatre for three years.

Donald Wilson, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost and Chair of the Edinburgh International Festival Society said, ‘Fergus brings new skills, intellectual rigour and a highly successful track record to the festival and the city.

“Having previously lived in Edinburgh and worked with companies visiting the city he is familiar with what the city can offer its residents as well as visitors and artists from around the world. I look forward to welcoming him back to Edinburgh and Scotland’s creative and vibrant cultural life.”

Linehan is currently in Australia with his partner Sophie, who is due to give birth to their first child in May. They expect to move to Edinburgh next year. Linehan has initially signed on to direct five Edinburgh International Festivals, from 2015 to 2019.



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