Plans for Christmas shake-up

Last year's Winter Wonderland. Picture: IAN GEORGESON
Last year's Winter Wonderland. Picture: IAN GEORGESON
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THE Capital’s iconic winter ice rink would move to St Andrew Square this year under proposals for a shake-up of Edinburgh’s Christmas celebrations.

Many of the fairground rides could be also move on to Princes Street, shifting the events away from their historic home in Princes Street Gardens in a bid to freshen up the event.

Council chiefs are set to work their way through bids from companies interested in running this year’s events now that a deadline to note any interest has passed.

The contract is only for one year as the council is preparing to merge the two main winter festivals – Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – with one operator to be appointed in time for the 2013-14 event.

It has emerged that council chiefs want to shift the risk on to the promoters of the events to protect the public purse, which has been hit by years of budget over-runs.

They have advertised the one-year Christmas contract as a “service concession contract”, which means that the council will provide only £200,000 and not be responsible for any losses above that.

In a note to bidders, officials also said: “To encourage a fresh approach, the council are willing to consider variations to the historic event in terms of content, length, city centre locations utilised etc. However, the council’s budget will remain capped at £200,000.”

A council source said: “One of the options being considered is moving the ice rink to St Andrew Square.”

Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, said: “We won’t demand that future [winter] festivals have to be within the same shoeprint as this year. A pedestrianised Princes Street presents an opportunity that should be considered.”

In relation to handing greater control and risk to private firms, Cllr Cardownie said: “It is an exciting prospect. The thing about many festivals and events is we can’t rest on our laurels and believe that because they’ve been successful in the past they will be in future. Funding is tight and [operators] will have to maximise any surplus to make sure they do not suffer a loss.”

Cllr Iain Whyte, culture and leisure spokesman for the Tories on the council, said: “I would hope that any new look at this would bring in opportunities for savings and for new ideas.”

Paul Anderson, director of Razzo Coffee in St Andrew Square, said: “If it can be properly managed then I would very much welcome this, as it would certainly bring a of people to the square. We tend to be more a summer business, so something like this which could boost visitors during the winter would be very beneficial.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com

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