Edinburgh Christmas: Free ride for Mary and Joseph

Brother and sister Anna, ten and Joe Divito, eight, from Balerno in front of the big wheel. Picture: Jane Barlow
Brother and sister Anna, ten and Joe Divito, eight, from Balerno in front of the big wheel. Picture: Jane Barlow
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What do health service staff, the police, anyone with red hair, an elf and eight-year-old Joe Divito all have in common?

They will all get the chance to grab free tickets to Edinburgh’s Christmas festivities as part of a massive Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway announced today by event organisers Underbelly.

A total of 5400 tickets for the ice rink, the big wheel and the Star Flyer are to be handed out “as a thank you to Edinburgh”.

The event has attracted a record-breaking 1.8 million-plus visitors to its sites on Princes Street and St Andrew Square in its first four weeks and attracted widespread criticism over the cost of attractions.

The free tickets will be given away with quirky conditions attached including wearing an elf costume, having red hair or being named Mary or Joseph. Health service workers, police and the Armed Forces will also be rewarded with 450 tickets being offered to them on one of the promotional days.

Charlie Wood, director of Underbelly and producer of Edinburgh’s Christmas, said the event had been “extremely popular” and promised to take all feedback into account for next year.

Mr Wood said: “This is our way of saying Happy Christmas and thank you to Edinburgh.

“Edinburgh’s Christmas has been enormously successful and it has been good for the city. The rides and attractions have all been extremely popular and footfall in the city centre has been hugely up on last year. It has been a really high quality event, higher than in previous years, and quality does come at a slightly higher price.

“Next year will be different. We always planned to do something different from one year to the next. We have had a lot of feedback, some positive and some negative, and we will be taking it all on board.”

The free tickets will be given away each day, beginning tomorrow and ending on January 5, with those wishing to claim their free ride, spin or skate able to do so between 10am and 5pm on the relevant day.
Other conditions to be applied on different days include carrying a lump of coal or being on honeymoon.

City festivals champion Steve Cardownie welcomed the ticket giveaway and said the visitor numbers showed that overall the event had been a success so far despite the concerns about cost.

He said: “This sounds great. Edinburgh’s Christmas has hit record levels of footfall and ticket sales which shows that they must be doing something right.

“This is a welcome gesture on the part of the organisers and hopefully people will enter into the spirit of the offer for a bit of fun.

“It should make for some entertaining pictures. I can just see the ice rink filled with kilt wearers. Hopefully we can now put all of what has happened behind us and move on and enjoy what are fantastic Christmas attractions.

“I hope that those who have been left disappointed by any aspect of the event will avail of this offer.”

Dad of two, Gary Murray, 37, from Blackhall, added: “To be fair, it’s a nice gesture and shows they’re getting into the spirt of Christmas at least. It’s a bit of fun. The prices for the attractions are pretty steep, especially when you factor in two children. It cost us £16 to ride the Santa train. ”

The six-week festival is being run for the first time under a new partnership between London-based Underbelly and Edinburgh firm Unique Events.

In February, its organisers were jointly awarded the contract for both winter festivals, including Hogmanay, for this and the next two years.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com