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Edinburgh International Festival Director Fergus Linehan to receive the 2021 Edinburgh Award


Edinburgh International Festival Director Fergus Linehan has been chosen to receive the prestigious Edinburgh Award this year.

In recognition of his innovative contribution to the arts and Edinburgh’s cultural heritage, Linehan will be presented with an engraved Loving Cup from the Lord Provost and have his handprints set in stone at the City Chambers later this year.

Linehan was appointed Festival Director of Edinburgh International Festival in 2014 and staged his first programme in August 2015, which he kicked off with Harmonium, a major free, outdoor sound and vision spectacle at the Usher Hall. The 2022 International Festival will be his last following an eight-year tenure.

Edinburgh International Festival Director Fergus Linehan to receive the 2021 Edinburgh Award
Fergus Linehan

Since taking on the role he has presented work by some of the world’s leading theatre, orchestra and dance companies while expanding the festival’s reach and bringing forward performances from artists and countries not previously represented at Edinburgh’s festivals. In 2019 a programme featuring the likes of Kate Tempest, Jarvis Cocker and Neneh Cherry attracted more than 13,500 gig-goers to the Leith Theatre alone.

Linehan is also is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and co-chair of IMPACT Scotland, which is responsible for building Edinburgh’s new concert hall. In 2020 he received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from Queen Margaret University.

He will become the 15th person to receive the award, following in the footsteps of last year’s recipient Alexander McCall Smith (2020) as well as fellow festivals champions Richard Demarco (2013) and former Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Board Chair, Timothy O’Shea (2017), along with renowned artist, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder (2012).

Lord Provost Frank Ross said:

“I’m delighted to announce Fergus Linehan as the recipient of the 2021 Edinburgh Award. His innovative and ambitious approach has brought the Edinburgh International Festival to a whole new audience, welcoming a new and exciting range of performers to our vibrant city. He has also weathered an extremely challenging period for the arts industry, staging an ambitious programme this year, despite restrictions. I look forward to the festival returning, hopefully, on a larger scale next year as Mr Linehan makes his final contribution.

“The Edinburgh Award lets the people who live here recognise those who have had a real impact on the city. Mr Linehan has worked tirelessly over the last seven years to stage a programme of festival events in all corners of the Capital, both engaging with the local community and reaching out to international partners to deliver a truly multi-cultural, successful event. He will be missed in the role, though I’m confident his legacy will live on, both through the festival and in receiving this highly deserved, prestigious award.”

Fergus Linehan, Festival Director, Edinburgh International Festival said:

“I am deeply honoured to receive this award. Working for the Edinburgh International Festival has been the highlight of my professional life but even more important has been the opportunity it has given me and my family to live in this wonderful city.  Edinburgh lives according to Patrick Geddes’ mantra to ‘think locally, act globally’, it is a place that encourages you to be citizen of your city and a city of your world. I hope that the Festival has tried to mirror this.

“This award is, of course, an acknowledgement of all those who make the Festival what it is. On behalf of myself and the whole festival family, thank you.”

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