Big Noise charity appoints former banker as new chairman

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Benny Higgins with some of the children who are learning to play an instrument
Image caption,
Benny Higgins with some of the children who are learning to play an instrument

A former banker is the new chairman of a charity which helps children from disadvantaged backgrounds learn a musical instrument.

Benny Higgins will take up the unpaid, part time role at Sistema Scotland next month.

It runs the Big Noise programme, which reaches more than 2,500 children in Stirling, Glasgow, Dundee, and Aberdeen.

The man who founded the charity is retiring as chairman.

Richard Holloway set up Sistema in 2008, and is stepping down in December. He started working with a group of 35 children in Raploch, Stirling, and the charity now reaches more than 2,500 children and young people.

As well as the base in Stirling, there are centres in Govanhill, Glasgow; Torry, Aberdeen; and Douglas, Dundee.

Image caption,
Benny Higgins takes up the role in December

Those who run Big Noise say it equips children with a wide range of social and life skills, and claim independent research proves the programme is changing lives.

Positive impacts are said to include engagement with education, securing emotional wellbeing, encouraging healthy behaviours, and offering respite and protection for vulnerable children.

Benny Higgins has held a number of senior executive roles in the banking sector, including with Standard Life, RBS, and HBOS.

'Transformative power of music'

He became chief executive of Tesco Bank in 2008, and after retiring earlier this year, was appointed by the Scottish government as strategic adviser for the establishment of the Scottish National Investment Bank. He is also chairman of the National Galleries of Scotland.

Mr Higgins said: "I am convinced from my own experience, growing up in both Govanhill, a community where Big Noise now works, and nearby Toryglen, of the transformative power of the arts and music, and the vital importance of ensuring they are inclusive and open to all.

"That is why I am excited to be appointed Chairman of Sistema Scotland.

"The charity has achieved a huge amount in its first 10 years and there is compelling independent evidence of the benefits accruing to the children and young people taking part."

To celebrate Sistema's 10th anniversary, Big Noise performers recently played at the Scottish Parliament, at BBC Proms in the Park, and at the opening of V&A Dundee.

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