Edinburgh Hogmanay chief Barry Wright retires

Barry Wright is retiring. Picture: Greg Macvean

Barry Wright is retiring. Picture: Greg Macvean

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THE man tasked with the smooth running of the Capital’s annual Hogmanay celebrations is to step down after 20 years.

Barry Wright, 67, said he would retire as operations director of the event, which has the world-famous street party in Princes Street at its heart and is now worth more than £30 million to the nation’s coffers.

Mr Wright will continue to work as an event consultant and organise concerts at Edinburgh Castle each summer.

Expressing amazement that the New Year bash was ever given the go-ahead, he said: “I never thought I’d be allowed to close Princes Street for a party.

“It’s a bit of a little boy’s dream to do something amazing on that scale and something that the whole world has a great time from.

“I’m always amazed that we were ever allowed to do it.”

Mr Wright’s decision to step down comes after an illustrious career as one of Scotland’s top promoters.

Working with business partner Pete Irvine, he launched Glasgow’s Hogmanay party in George Square to mark the city’s year as European city of culture before persuading council chiefs in the Capital to back an Edinburgh equivalent.

They began staging gigs at Tiffany’s in Stockbridge in the 1970s, before launching a rock festival during the Fringe in 1978.

The pair were also behind the live music venue created above the Playhouse in 1980, the reopening of Glasgow’s Barrowlands in 1984 and stadium concerts by iconic acts such as Simple Minds and U2.

It was in 1993 that their Unique Events company pitched a Hogmanay party idea to Edinburgh councillors, with a flagship “concert in the Gardens” part of early plans for the event.

He said: “We did the two Hogmanay events to mark the beginning and end of the European City of Culture year in Glasgow.

“At that time, nothing at all happened in Edinburgh.

“All there was then was a few hundred people having a fight and throwing bottles around at the Tron. You would literally go up there for a barney.

“We produced a report for the city which basically said that Edinburgh had a fantastic venue and site, the city and Scotland was the home of Hogmanay, and we should own it.”

He said the event’s later success was due to the can-do attitude of people in the Capital.

“It was really about changing the whole image of what New Year was about. There had actually been bills from the 1600s onwards banning any kind of celebration at Hogmanay,” he said.

“There was a very positive attitude from the city. Absolutely everyone bought into it That is what made it so good – the police and council were onside.”

As well as being the Hogmanay party’s public face, Mr Wright also had overall responsibility for ensuring it proceeds without a hitch on the big night.

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com