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The woman who'll sell Edinburgh to world

THE head of marketing at one of England's main cultural venues has landed a £100,000 job to sell Edinburgh to the world.

Lucy Bird, responsible for promoting the 70 million Sage Gateshead centre, has been tasked with leading the capital's first independent tourism agency, Marketing Edinburgh.

A former TV producer, corporate entertainment organiser and theatre administrator, Ms Bird will take over the fledging company, which will have a budget of around 3m, in June.

The new body will lead efforts to attract major conferences, promote Edinburgh as a film location, try to lure overseas students to the city and attract inward investment.

Although it will be largely funded by the city council initially, Ms Bird, 52, will be charged with persuading the private sector to plough money into Marketing Edinburgh, which will have its own offices in the New Town and boast about 20 staff.

However, she immediately signalled her opposition to the introduction of any kind of "bed tax" or levy being imposed on tourism businesses, despite such ideas being promoted by the city council for several years.

She said Edinburgh needed to promote itself "more cohesively" due to growing competition from rival cities across the UK, and admitted a key challenge would be to persuade the industry to pull in one direction.

Marketing Edinburgh's board of directors has been at pains to insist it will be a separate entity to the local authority, which pulled the plug on funding VisitScotland two years ago.

Although Ms Bird has never worked in Edinburgh, she has been a regular visitor and owns a flat in the New Town, which was bought for her two sons when they were studying in the city.

Ms Bird was appointed as director of marketing and development at the Sage Centre in 2000 and oversaw the publicity campaign for its opening four years later. She has had responsibility for media relations, ticketing, catering and the customer experience.

The complex has played host to the likes of James Brown, Robert Plant and Grace Jones and been credited with spearheading the regeneration of the Gateshead Quays area, which is also home to the Baltic Centre and the Millennium Bridge.

Ms Bird said she was attracted to the job, which headhunters were called in to fill, as it was a new role in a new company which would allow her to bring a "fresh external perspective" to efforts to promote the city.

"I'm very familiar with the city as I've been a frequent visitor.Both our sons enjoyed and benefited enormously from their time at Edinburgh University.

"I've been a pretty typical visitor, doing lots of eating out, walking up the likes of Arthur's Seat, and obviously taking in a lot of culture, particularly at the Fringe and Book Festival.

"Leading a new business always brings challenges and opportunities but I know we are starting from a great base with a strong board, great commitment from our staff and a fantastic product. We've a clear mission and opportunity to market Edinburgh to the world."

Ms Bird admitted a key challenge would be raising money for the new company from private firms and organisations.

But she added: "I believe I've built really strong relationships with both public and private sector colleagues in the North East and I aim to do so in Edinburgh too.

"I was responsible for an endowment fund campaign at the Sage which raised 14m, so I have a track record in raising money from the private sector, which will be a very important element of this job."

Alan Johnston, chairman of Marketing Edinburgh, said: "We needed someone extraordinary for this role - someone with vision, tenacity, commercial understanding and natural leadership skills. We've found all that and more in Lucy."CV

Name: Lucy Bird

Age: 52

Born: East Anglia

Started her working life in the north-east of England on independent television current affairs news and documentaries for five years.

After having two sons, she set up her own corporate entertainment business, specialising in organising conferences and other events in stately homes not normally open to the public.

After selling the company, she returned to TV to produce programmes, videos and adverts for a newly created independent TV company. She later worked as administrative director with the Northumberland Theatre Company, as manager of north of England for Arts and Business, and acting chief executive of the Northern Sinfonia.

 
 
 

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