Catherine was director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, now the world’s largest public celebration of the written word, from 2000 to 2009. As artistic director and chief executive, she was responsible for a period of profound and positive change, overseeing a huge expansion of the festival’s programme, audience, international reach, reputation and national impact. With over 50 nations represented and over 700 programmed events attracting audiences of over 200,000, the festival became a leading international model during her directorship. Turnover, staff and audiences all grew rapidly, ground-breaking initiatives were introduced and an extraordinary efflorescence of book festivals throughout the UK was attributed to this success.
Catherine has worked equally in the fields of live literature, festivals and events and has been a key player in a number of important new strategic and collaborative initiatives. She was one of the creators and founders of the designation of UNESCO City of Literature – a permanent and inclusive title, granted to Edinburgh as a world first in 2004 and now developing into a worldwide network. She was one of the core team which created Festivals Edinburgh, the association of the directors of all of Edinburgh’s major festivals, and was instrumental in commissioning the Thundering Hooves report which helped to bring this world-leading festivals forum into being.
She has also been a founder and continuing active member of a number of vital cultural initiatives, including the creation of the Literature Forum for Scotland, the official advisory body for literature strategy.
She has worked extensively internationally, presenting events and seminars in many different nations. She has been a judge of major literary awards, including the Whitbread Award and the Orange Prize. She has advised and been a member of numerous committees and consultancy groups looking at strategic improvements to cultural provision.
Prior to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Catherine was Literary Editor of The Scotsman and held other senior journalistic posts, including Arts Editor and Chief Leader Writer. She has written extensively as critic and commentator, in the UK as well as for leading journals in Canada and the USA, including the New York Times, as well as being a frequent broadcaster.
Catherine has three decades of experience in the cultural and literary sectors as programmer, producer, director, editor, writer, project manager, advisor and consultant. She has been awarded five honorary doctorates for her work.