Shona McCarthy for EdFringe

Jan 12 2016 | By More

Northern Irish culture leader takes over as Fringe CEO

Shona McCarthy, who headed the company responsible for leading Derry-Londonderry’s year as UK City of Culture, has been appointed Chief Executive of the Fringe.

She will take up the post in March 2016, replacing Kath Mainland who was appointed chief executive of the Melbourne Festival last November.

Shona McCarthy has been appointed Chief Executive of the Fringe

Shona McCarthy has been appointed Chief Executive of the Fringe. Photo: Kelvin Boyes

Currently based in Northern Ireland, McCarthy was Chief Executive of the Culture Company from 2011-14. It was responsible for creating and delivering a citywide cultural programme for the inaugural UK City of Culture in 2013 – raising and managing a budget in excess of £20 million.

McCarthy has 25 years experience in the culture sector. She was director of the British Council Northern Ireland, director of her own company, specialising in cultural collaborations and Chief Executive of Imagine Belfast – leading on a cultural strategy for the city and producing the Belfast bid to be European Capital of Culture 2008.

Announcing the appointment, Chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, Timothy O’Shea, said he is “delighted” that McCarthy will be taking over as Chief Executive.

70th anniversary year

He said: “She brings with her an exceptional resume of experience in the cultural sector and is an experienced and successful chief executive.

“As the Fringe approaches its 70th anniversary year, I have no doubt Shona will provide the vision and leadership to continue and further develop the work the Society does, supporting the Fringe’s reputation as a world leading arts festival.”

Shona McCarthy said of her appointment: “I have visited Edinburgh and the Fringe on many occasions and there is no better outlet for creative expression than the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the greatest open access arts festival in the world, and I can’t wait to work with and support all those who make up such a wonderful festival.

“Kath Mainland has done a terrific job and there is a brilliant team already in place, I look forward to joining them.”

international in outlook.

McCarthy was not available for personal interviews as the announcement was made. However, her LinkedIn page gives a bit of insight to her attitude to running a cultural organisation.

In it, she says: “My thinking and practice has always been international in outlook. My vocation has been to lead and develop projects that develop Northern Ireland through internationally engaged cultural practice.

“In my early career this included Cinemagic the International film festival for Young People and the Foyle Film Festival. I led Belfast’s bid to be European Capital of Culture and even though we didn’t win, it created a road map for the city’s cultural infrastructure that has since been delivered.

“As Director of British Council Northern Ireland it was great to get to know that global organisation and to travel from India, to Oman, Sri Lanka and Europe and the US. In 2007 I was awarded a Nesta fellowship for Cultural Leadership that took me on an incredible living and working experience in Calcutta, India.

“I grew up in Ballycran, near Portaferry in Co. Down with 4 brothers and 3 sisters. I am an alumni of the University of Ulster. I have two musical teenage daughters and live in beautiful Ballycastle on the Antrim coast.”


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