COMMENT: Events that caught the imagination

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PETE Irvine has been at the helm of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations for so long that it is now hard for many in the city to recall a time when the event did not exist.

Almost quarter of a century has passed since the music promoter and his long-time business partner Barry Wright persuaded senior council figures that the city should launch a new festival and promote itself as the home of Hogmanay.

It is odd to recall that the idea emerged from the pair being asked to help stage a series of special public events in the city to coincide with its hosting of the European Summit in December 1992.

Major outdoor events were few and far between in Scotland in those days, before T in the Park was launched, far less in the depths of a Scottish winter. But events such as the torchlight ­procession and the Princes Street Gardens concert not only caught the public imagination but also brought swift international attention onto Edinburgh.

Before long, towns and cities across Scotland were launching their own Hogmanay celebrations on the back of Edinburgh’s success in the run-up to the millennium, when it felt as if the Capital was the centre of the world.

By then, events had become strictly regulated, with security barriers and tickets necessary, following a near-disaster when far too many people turned up.

Mr Irvine has remained involved for another 15 years, clearly reluctant to give up an event he has an obvious attachment to and concerned that it is able to continue in his absence.

With the current funding pressures on the city council, its future is by no means secure, particularly as the policing and security costs continue to rise.

But he has put in place a winning formula, which the city would be wise not to tamper with if it wants Edinburgh to continue to host one of the best New Year parties anywhere in the world.