Arts my refuge from the Troubles, says new Edinburgh Fringe boss
The new boss of one of the biggest arts events in the world has revealed how cultural pursuits became her escape during the Troubles.
As the new chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Co Antrim woman Shona McCarthy has one of the most prestigious jobs in the arts.
The former boss of Londonderry's UK City of Culture year took up her new post in March and is currently preparing for the launch of the Fringe's 2016 programme next month.
Ms McCarthy said that growing up in Ballycastle she saw the arts as a way to escape the parochialism of Northern Ireland in the Troubles. "You were boxed in to your sectarian identity. It was Seamus Heaney who talked about the fifth province, space for the imagination," said the mother of two teenage girls.
Ms McCarthy led Belfast's bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2000. "It was only two years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, so it was kind of bonkers to think we could win - and we didn't. But it started a conversation about the importance of culture in breaking down division," she said.
Prior to Edinburgh, her biggest challenge was organising the first year of the UK City of Culture in Derry in 2013.
In the 2016 Fringe programme is a new play by Kat Woods called Mule, inspired by the story of the 'Peru Two' - Co Tyrone woman Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid from Glasgow.
Ms McCarthy is currently director of Shona McCarthy Consulting, founding director of Culture Trust, chairperson of the Oh Yeah music centre in Belfast and Walk the Plank in Manchester. She received an Eisenhower Fellowship for Innovation in 2014.