Gina Davidson: Xmas gift needs to be repackaged

The big wheel. Picture: Jon Savage

The big wheel. Picture: Jon Savage

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‘Underbelly aren’t so jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la; Santa’s gone and prices are folly, fa la la la la, la la la la; They’ve donned the city in gay apparel, fa la la, la la la, la la la; It’s a shame the public feels it’s over a barrel, fa la la la la, la la la.”

Apologies to the author of that carollers’ favourite, but I can’t help feeling those Underbelly chaps running Edinburgh’ Christmas won’t be full of festive cheer at the moment.

Given that Santa has quit saying the grotto is “nothing more than a cattle-herding exercise”, a seat fell 150ft from the Star Flyer leaving the woman in it clutching the ropes in terror, the consistent complaints about the price of everything from the ice rink to food and drink, the censoring of such criticism on its Facebook page, and the tragedy of a suicide from the Scott Monument on the opening day of the marketplace below, it’s hard to imagine that directors Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood are toasting each other with mulled wine and mince pies.

My sympathies are tempered by the fact that ultimately they will still rake in a fortune given how much is being charged for all the festivities (£7.50 for four minutes on the Star Flyer, £12.50 for ice-skating at peak times, no family tickets, no reduced prices for kids) but I hope that already “lessons are being learned” for next year.

They will certainly be horribly aware by now that putting on the Christmas attractions for a city like Edinburgh is a far bigger task, with many more pitfalls, than running their own Festival Fringe venues in the summer.

I’m quite sure they do a good job of that, but the scrutiny is much less intense given that they’re just one of many, many venue operators – and it’s more or less accepted that Fringe shows are more for the tourists than the locals. But Christmas is a donkey of a different colour. The people of Edinburgh feel, and quite rightly given the amount of public money which is spent on the attractions, that the ice rink, the big wheel, the markets, the whole illuminated shebang is for them.

Which is why you get people like mum Katie Campbell telling the men behind Edinburgh’s Christmas “it saddens me that the Christmas attractions must be [an] unaffordable luxury for many families in 
Edinburgh. We all deserve a bit of festive cheer in our own city, and I think this has been lost in the quest to make lots of money.”

It’s why actor Mike Daviot quit because of rules around being Santa, saying: “It’s nothing more than a cattle-herding exercise to keep the visits as short as possible so they can get as many people through the door as possible and make a lot of money.”

Whether we like it or not Underbelly will be running Christmas in Edinburgh for the next two years according to the contract signed with the council. This is the company’s first time at attempting to put on a Christmas festival, but Ed and Charlie need to have a serious rethink about just what kind of Christmas they’re going to offer in the future – and councillors and officials need to be planning with them every step of the way to rectify the mistakes which have alienated so many this year. Clue: it shouldn’t just be about money.

If they don’t then their names are going to end up as a punchline in a particularly cheap and nasty cracker.

Time to be jolly

THE Nativity plays are over, the carol concerts almost done. All that’s left is to wrap the presents and put them under the tree. So I hope that you all have a peaceful, happy Christmas when it comes.

Deadline looms for budget input

TOMORROW is the last day of Edinburgh City Council’s consultation on its budget.

To give the Labour/SNP coalition its due, at least it has published provisional budget plans and asked for the public’s input as it attempts to show it is more reflective of citizens’ wishes and to be truly “co-

operative”.

Despite that, it would seem that many organisations – including school parent councils – were unaware of the consultative process, so the figures on the number of responses received will be interesting. December is a busy month, but if you can, do take half an hour today to look at the council website, read what’s being proposed – such as cuts to school library services, cuts to additional learning support – and give your opinion.

Posters hit the Eddy heights

ARTIST Edd Wellesley-Davis has finally inspired me when it comes to Christmas shopping.

His movie posters with a definite Edinburgh spin – think New Town Story, Bridge Over the River Forth – are classics in the making.

Best of all though, they’re being sold through the social enterprise store ICE. A gift to make both purchaser and recipient happy. Sold.

Players tackle domestic abuse

IT’S great to see the city’s two football clubs and Edinburgh Rugby commit to the campaign to tackle domestic abuse, a problem which always increases at Christmas.

We can be thankful in Edinburgh that we don’t have quite the same problem as Glasgow where it’s been proven that incidents of domestic violence rise substantially following Old Firm games, but getting these clubs and players to talk about the issue hopefully will make perpetrators at least think about their behaviour. And remember you can still donate to our Christmas appeal on justgiving.com/edinburghwomensaid/donate.