Banking heavyweight becomes new figurehead of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

One of Scotland’s best-known bankers is to become a new figurehead of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Former Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins, who has been a strategic advisor to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in recent years, has been tasked with spearheading the revival of the world’s biggest arts festival.

He has been appointed chair of the Fringe Society, the charity which oversees the running of the festival in the run-up to its 75th anniversary next year.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mr Higgins, who has previously held senior roles with Standard Life, HBOS and RBS, is currently executive chairman of Buccleuch, one of Scotland’s biggest landowners.

He is already chair of the National Galleries of Scotland and Sistema Scotland, the music education charity.

Mr Higgins was appointed a strategic adviser to the First Minister in 2018 and led an economic recovery taskforce for the Scottish Government last year.

Mr Higgins has been appointed chair of the Fringe Society against a backdrop of uncertainty over what form the festival will take this summer.

The Scottish Government has yet to set out guidelines for the return of festivals in Scotland, other than to set an indicative date of 17 May for small-scale events.

Benny Higgins has been appointed chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society

It emerged last week that the Fringe Society had been forced to lay off a third of its workforce amid mounting concerns over its “precarious financial situation and future.”

Higgins, who will lead the Fringe’s recovery efforts with chief executive Shona McCarthy, has been appointed chair weeks after Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge was appointed its first honorary president.

Mr Higgins said: “The 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 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 Fringe Society, said: ““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.

“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.

“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.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.