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  • Writer's pictureJenna Cockburn

NEWS: Edinburgh's Festival Theatre usher wins prestigious Unsung Hero Award at The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals 2024

Festival Theatre’s long serving usher Graham Simpson has been celebrated as an Unsung Hero of musical theatre at The National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals.  


Graham, who first joined the Festival Theatre in 1994, marked the start of his 30th anniversary with the organisation through a surprise award at the event, which aired on BBC One on Saturday 27 January. His nomination was kept secret and he was taken to the Manchester AO Arena under the guise of representing Capital Theatres at an industry event. Graham was surprised on the night by friends and colleagues including the likes of Brian Cox, Honorary Patron of the King’s Theatre, who appeared on screen to congratulate Graham on his award. 


Graham was presented with a commemorative plaque which will be installed at the Festival Theatre, a venue where he has worked as an usher for three decades as well as providing much loved public tours and tending to the rose garden. 


The event was hosted by Jason Manford in-front of an audience of 12,000 musical theatre fans at the Manchester Arena and featured 12 of the UK’s West End and Touring productions including Hamilton and A Chorus Line which will tour to the Festival Theatre later this year. The event serves as a massive thank you to National Lottery players who in the past year, have helped The National Lottery award more than £517m to arts projects across the country, with £46m going towards theatre related projects. The King’s Theatre is one of these projects being supported by The National Lottery’s Heritage Fund. 


Unsung Hero Graham Simpson said:  

"It’s a real privilege to be recognised as an Unsung Hero of theatre. The whole experience was surreal, and it was such a surprise on the night, I'm glad I didn't twig! Capital Theatres is such a massive part of my life, it has been for the last 30 years and will be for many more. A massive thank you to the National Lottery for a special night.” 


Fiona Gibson CEO of Capital Theatres said:  

“We are all thrilled that Graham’s dedication to Scottish theatre across the last thirty years has been recognised through the Unsung Hero Award at the National Lottery’s Big Night of Musicals 2024. We are incredibly proud of Graham and the phenomenal impact he has made in bringing care and joy to so many through all the fantastic work he does for Capital Theatres. The Unsung Hero Award, of which there is only one, really shines a light on the sheer variety of remarkable activity that takes place both on and off our stages.” 


Adam Chataway, Head of Partnerships at The National Lottery said:  

“We were thrilled to bring back The National Lottery's Big Night of Musicals to the AO Arena, showcasing the immense talent and magic of musical theatre. The event was a heartfelt thank you to National Lottery players who have helped to raise over £7.8 billion to arts and theatre projects across the country since The National Lottery began. We were also honoured to present Graham Simpson with the Unsung Hero award for his incredible work and dedication to the Scottish theatre community for the last 30 years.”



Capital Theatres presents world-class shows to entertain and inspire audiences of all ages. The three venues we manage include two of Scotland’s largest, oldest, and most respected theatres: Festival Theatre (1,915 seats), King’s Theatre (1,122 seats, currently closed for a major redevelopment) and The Studio (155 seats).  Together they host over 700 performances each year with a broad and inclusive programme featuring the very best in drama, dance, musical theatre, family shows, live music, comedy, and pantomime.   

We are a receiving house which means we work with producers across the UK to programme their work. We also commission and co-produce a select number of productions of our own each year. Much of our programme is exclusive to our venues in Scotland, providing the only opportunity for audiences to see the biggest shows touring north of the border, the best in international contemporary dance and the latest productions from leading local and national companies.  We are also the home of Edinburgh’s largest community companies, providing them with a platform each year to share their work.    

As Scotland’s largest theatre charity, we support access to the arts for everyone and have an extensive Creative Engagement programme of talks, workshops and events to introduce and develop participation and interest in the heritage of our buildings and all areas of live performance. We are also evolving an artist development programme, Open@TheStudio, and have just won the UK Theatre 2023 Award for Excellence in Inclusivity for our work with people living with dementia. 



● Camelot UK Lotteries Limited is the licensed operator of The National Lottery® and is committed to raising money for National Lottery Good Causes designated by Parliament. Camelot is not responsible for distributing or awarding these funds.   

● The National Lottery generates £30 million each week for National Lottery-funded projects. In total, over £48 billion has now been raised and more than 685,000 individual grants have been made across the UK - with hundreds of lottery grants in every postcode district, most people will have benefited from a National Lottery-funded project at some point 

● The National Lottery has awarded over £92 billion in prizes to date and created more than 7,000 millionaires or multi-millionaires since its launch in 1994.   

● For further information on Camelot, The National Lottery and its games, please visit: and   

● Players of all National Lottery games must be aged 18 or over.  


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