Baroness Elizabeth Smith has stepped down as chair of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society after 17 years, saying: ‘It is time for some fresh thinking.’
The 72-year-old Labour peer – widow of former party leader John Smith – announced her decision at the annual general meeting of the Fringe’s organising body today.
Her tenure has seen and exponential growth of the event, but also controversies including the 2008 box office debacle and a subsequent reorganisation following complaints that the needs of performers were being sidelined.
Fringe chief executive Kath M Mainland said: ‘During her time as Chair, the Fringe has cemented its position as the most successful arts event of its kind in the world. She has helped to ensure that the Fringe has grown without ever losing its vitality and bite. Elizabeth is a sane, shrewd and influential voice in politics, arts and public life in general.’
Baroness Smith added: ‘I have decided that it is time for some fresh thinking and for someone new to lead the board into the future.
‘For me, serving the Fringe Society has been more fascinating and enthralling than I ever could have imagined when I joined the board. If I have learned anything over that time it is that the enduring strength of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is in people coming together and collaborating to create something truly unique and far, far greater than the sum of its parts.’
The new chair will be announced in October.