Ruth McGowan, Artistic Director & CEO of Dublin Fringe to step down in 2023 to take up new role

13 December 2022

Dublin Fringe are delighted and saddened to announce that after five years at the helm, Ruth McGowan will step down from her current position as Artistic Director & CEO of Dublin Fringe Festival in spring 2023 to take up the new role of Literary and New Work Director at the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre.

Ruth started at Dublin Fringe in 2015 as Programme Manager and has built a strong, energetic and emboldened community of artists, makers and risk takers ever since. She has worked on eight successful editions of the festival, supporting over 4000 artists to realise 520+ premieres across artforms. Leading the Dublin Fringe team, she created a framework for artistic risk, offering opportunities for artists to challenge and invigorate their practice, and extend the possibilities of what art can be.

Since her appointment as Artistic Director & CEO in 2018, Dublin Fringe Festival has expanded its reach, scope and reputation at home and on the international stage by forging new strategic, creative and funding partnerships, commissioning bold new works from Irish based artists, presenting horizon-expanding international work, and strengthening the year-round programme of artistic development at FRINGE LAB to support 5000 artists each year.

Some highlights of which we are particularly proud of Ruth for pioneering are:

  • Establishing Weft, a landmark 18-month talent development and network building project for emerging and early career Black artists and artists of colour in Ireland. Supported by the Arts Council Open Call Award 2020, Weft engaged 90 artists and saw the creation of four exciting new interdisciplinary productions made by participating artists in their own words, on their own terms at our 2022 festival.
  • Introducing two new Associate Artist positions to the organisations year-round team, creating an opportunity for the perspective of artists to inform all aspects of our work and supporting sustainable careers for artists in the city.
  • Welcoming new audiences to the festival with an expanded programme of outdoor and interactive public art including Question Project by Mil M2 (Chile), You Are Magic by Alicia Eggert (USA) and Remnant Ecologies by Jony Easterby (Wales).
  • Championing the art made after dark by placing club culture, alternative comedy and cabaret at the heart of the programme including Peaches Christ Superstar, Black Jam, Glitterhole and Club Comfort.
  • Introducing Irish audiences to cutting edge new performance from South Korea, Belgium and Finland, and seeding major collaborations between Irish and international artists including We Are Lightning by Joseph O’Farrell (JOF) and Sam Halmarack, Things We’ve Always Wanted To Tell You by Scottee and Hive City Legacy: Dublin Chapter by Hot Brown Honey.
  • Deepening Dublin Fringe Festival’s commitment to talent development and artform development by commissioning 30 contemporary performance works from pioneering Irish artists.
  • Instigating valuable mentorship initiatives for early career artists like Pan Pan Platform and devising vital targeted support schemes to remove barriers to access for artists and ideas that defy the mainstream including the Make Space for Art fund.

The 2022 festival was our best and brightest festival yet with  567 performances made by 503 artists and arts workers, in 32 venues, featuring 54 world premieres and welcoming 32,000+ audience members. Under Ruth’s ambitious and bold leadership, Dublin Fringe has celebrated artists, used the city as it’s canvas and  gone from strength to strength. From guiding the community through a global pandemic with the innovative Dublin Fringe Festival: Pilot Light Edition in 2020 to nurturing and creating a space for 152 new companies  to make their Dublin Fringe Festival debut over the last five years, and finally by spearheading a visionary 2022 – 2026 strategy, Dublin Fringe is stronger than ever and ready for a new chapter.   

Commenting on the new appointment, Ruth McGowan said:

“It’s a privilege to love where you work, and I really love Dublin Fringe Festival. It’s a vital, transformational organisation, powered by a brilliant team and board. Since 2015, it has been a place of artistic freedom, learning and laughter for me. The opportunity to collaborate with an extraordinary community of artists to push, to play and to make change has been profoundly rewarding. Dublin Fringe thrives on the new. I look forward to seeing what new leadership will bring to the festival in Spring 2023 and beyond. I will continue to advocate for big ideas, new perspectives, joy and disruption in my next role as Literary and New Work Director at the Abbey Theatre.”

Niamh O’Donnell, Chair of Dublin Fringe Festival Board of Directors said:

“While it is with regret we bid farewell to Ruth, we are also thrilled to see her take up such an exciting and pivotal new role at the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre. Ruth has been an exceptional director of Dublin Fringe Festival. Not only has she led Dublin Fringe through the most difficult of years, she has simultaneously increased commissioning, expanded and diversified roles for artists within Dublin Fringe Festival itself as well as growing loyal audiences for their work. Ruth programmes, works and collaborates with an unstoppable enthusiasm and momentum and her compassion, depth of commitment and flair for risk-taking means she has led with true vision and clarity. We as a Board and the wider Dublin Fringe Festival team, artists and volunteers will miss her, but we also know her passion and energy will live on at Dublin Fringe and hugely benefit the Abbey and all arts, theatre and performance in Ireland”

Recruitment for the new Festival Director of Dublin Fringe Festival will begin immediately. As the home to bold ideas, brave performing arts and adventurous audiences, the door is open for daring, determined and passionate individuals to lead Ireland’s largest multi-disciplinary arts festival into 2023 and beyond.