Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

‘I’ve had huge shoes to fill’- Meet Helen MacKinnon, the new face of Perth Festival of the Arts

Helen MacKinnon, the new administrator for Perth Festival of the Arts.
Helen MacKinnon, the new administrator for Perth Festival of the Arts.

Ahead of Perth Festival of the Arts 2019, Gayle Ritchie meets Helen MacKinnon, the event’s new administrator…

As the new administrator of Perth Festival of the Arts, Helen MacKinnon has very big shoes to fill.

She’s taken on the coveted role following the retirement of stalwart Sandra Ralston after 21 years.

The 10-day festival is a major event in Scotland’s arts calendar and has welcomed musical giants such as Nigel Kennedy, Jools Holland and Sir James Galway over the years.

Helen’s new posting comes after 12 years working at Perth and Kinross Association of Voluntary Service, latterly as chief executive.

The 39-year-old lives in Perth and hails from an arts background, with singing, playing violin and composing music among her talents.

“I’ve had huge shoes to fill following Sandra,” says Helen.

“She had been the very well-known face of the festival for over 20 years.

“I’m sure I’ll be referred to as the ‘new Sandra’ for a while to come.”

Helen worked with Sandra while she was involved with the festival committee in previous years and deems it a privilege to continue her legacy.

“It’s a fast-paced, energetic environment, which I tend to thrive in,” she says.

“It’s a diverse role – from writing funding applications, to reviewing and booking artists and writing press releases.”

Lewis Capaldi is playing Perth Festival of the Arts.

Graduating from Glasgow University in 2002 with a degree in music, Helen spent a decade working in the charity sector while arranging and writing music on the side.

In her spare time, she performed in local operatic societies and the Perth Symphony Orchestra.

“Things changed unexpectedly in 2015 when I was awarded for my choral music by film composer Ennio Morricone as part of a competition in Italy,” she says.

“It was a catalyst for larger commissions and to take a leap of faith and start working professionally as a composer. It’s been an incredible journey that’s seen choirs perform my work in Asia, Europe and across the UK.”

Perth Festival of the Arts commissioned her to write a choral piece in 2016, which was the beginning of Helen’s connections with the festival.

“There have been moments over the past few months when I’ve had a wonderful feeling of – ‘this really is the perfect role for me,’” she reflects.

“I come from a diverse professional background that includes the arts, charity sector, funding, marketing, business development and managing people, projects and budgets.
“This role brings a lot of that experience together in a single post.”

Growing up in Perth and Kinross, Helen has fond childhood memories of the festival.

“When I was in primary school, I played with Bournemouth Sinfonietta at a festival children’s concert in the City Hall.

“And of course, there are many memories of playing in St John’s Kirk during my own Perth Youth Orchestra days. The festival’s long-standing local roots make it very special.”

Be Charlotte is playing at the festival.
The Sixteen.

So what can folk expect at this year’s event? The packed programme is truly diverse, with performers including Jools Holland, Be Charlotte, Fairport Convention, Hue and Cry, Perth Youth Orchestra, and of course, headliner Lewis Capaldi.

There are various family events, plus there’s a literature focus with journalist John Simpson and illustrator Jill Calder. There will be several small theatre productions, too.

“Over recent years, the festival has been on a journey to diversify its offering to reach audiences of all ages and with different tastes in music and other art forms,” says Helen.

“We have a strong and very well established classical music and opera core which continues to develop each year to attract soloists and orchestras.

“Around this core, we’re continuing to diversify our arts offering.

“We have a four-concert line-up this year which showcases the ‘next generation’ of the best of Scottish musicians including Be Charlotte, Vistas and singer-songwriter Callum Beattie.

“Through this, we’re also attracting a new and younger audience to festival events.
“We hope everyone will find something that sparks their interest.”

Perth Youth Orchestra.
Andrew McTaggart in A Little Bit of HMS Pinafore. Scottish Opera 2018.

On a personal level, Helen is particularly looking forward to English Touring Opera’s Macbeth by Verdi.

“It’s the only Scottish performance in their spring tour and will be an exciting and intense production,” she says.

“We also have a gem of a concert in the Cross Trust Young Musicians. It will feature classical pianist Anna Michel, saxophonist Murphy Robertson, jazz vocalist Luca Manning and folk singer and winner of Scots Singer of the Year at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2018 Iona Fyfe.”

Perth Festival of the Arts runs from May 16 to 25. For more information, see


Already a subscriber? Sign in