MAGNUS Linklater, the former chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, was today appointed chairman of the board of the troubled Horsecross Arts organisation in Perth.
The appointment of Mr Linklater, who is also a former editor of The Scotsman, follows the resignation of Iain Halliday,the previous chair of the arts organisation, and five board members and the surprise departure last month of Jacqueline McKay who quit her post as chief executive after just over a year in the job.
Ms McKay cited “personal reasons” for leaving the organisation which operates Perth Theatre and Perth Concert Hall. She left a week after artistic director Rachel O’Riordan announced she would be stepping down to take on a new post in Wales.
Colin McMahon, a former senior official at Angus Council, was appointed interim chief executive of Horsecross in late October.
Mr Linklater’s appointment was announced today in a statement from Perth and Kinross Council.
A spokesman for the local authority said: “ Magnus Linklater CBE, former Chairman of the Scottish Arts Council, was today appointed Chairman of the Board of Horsecross Arts to steer the next stage of the organisation’s development.
“His appointment follows that of interim Chief Executive, Colin McMahon, who joined Horsecross in late October and is leading the development of final plans for the 2014/15 cultural programme in advance of the Perth Theatre redevelopment project getting underway.”
He added: “Magnus Linklater has been a major presence in Scottish cultural life for many years. In addition to his journalism and writing career, during which he edited The Scotsman and the Scottish edition of The Times, he chaired the Scottish Arts Council from 1996-2001. He is currently Chairman of the Little Sparta Trust, and President of the Saltire Society. He was awarded a CBE for services to the arts in the 2013 New Year Honours.”
Councillor Ian Miller, the leader of the council, said: “As the major funder of Horsecross Arts and owner of Perth Theatre, the council is delighted that Magnus has come on board. His considerable experience in the arts and cultural arena will be a huge asset as we work in partnership with Horsecross, and our co-funders The Gannochy Trust and Creative Scotland, to deliver on the exciting plans for Perth Theatre.”
Councillor Miller added: “The council would like to thank the previous board members for their service to the arts in Perth and Kinross over the years.” He said the process of appointing other new board members was already underway.
Mr Linklater said: “Horsecross Arts and the Perth and Kinross area as a whole have a superb reputation for inspirational theatre and music. With the prospect of a renewed and revitalised Perth Theatre ahead of us alongside the tremendous venue that is Perth Concert Hall, I am looking forward to working with the Horsecross team.”
Ms McKay, who left the Byre shortly before it was expected to become part of a new cultural trust in Fife, had been expected to oversee plans for a multi-million pound overhaul of Perth’s historic theatre.
Councillors approved final plans last month which will see the building close in January to make way for the £14.5 million project.
Pete Wishart, the MP for Perth and North Perthshire,welcomed Mr Linklater’s appointment. He said: “Horsecross has experienced some well-publicised difficulties recently but it has a massive role to play in the cultural and economic landscape of Perthshire and this appointment is a real statement of intent on the part of the Council.
“Magnus Linklater is an extremely significant figure on the Scottish arts scene and I am confident that under his stewardship this award-winning cultural hub will be back on the right track very quickly indeed.”