Merger plan for winter festivals

A reveller flies the flag at last year's Hogmanay street party
A reveller flies the flag at last year's Hogmanay street party
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A REVIEW of the Capital’s Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations is to consider appointing one private company to manage both events in a bid to cut costs, as well as looking at full “privatisation” of the festivities.

The Hogmanay street party has been run by Edinburgh-based Unique Events since it was moved to Princes Street in the mid-90s but the firm’s contract is due to expire after next year’s event. And Edinburgh’s Christmas producer She’s Gott It’s contract expires after this year’s festivities.

Now the city council is to appoint a Christmas producer for one extra year, to bring the contract “into synch” with the Hogmanay deal to allow the option of merging the events.

Discussions about the future of the Winter Festivals are at an early stage but the council is also considering whether to hand complete control of the events to the private sector.

However, city leaders insist that the review does not place the events under threat. Councillor Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, said: “This gets the contracts back into sync and it allows us the opportunity to consider if there should be one operator for both.”

The Christmas programme, which includes the German market, Highland Village, ice rink, fairground attractions, Nativity carol service and “Santa Weekend”, is mainly aimed at families, while the Hogmanay street party, which will this year be headlined by Primal Scream, is aimed at adults.

But the council is looking at ways of being able to market and promote both events to similar audiences. The Hogmanay event has run up four consecutive years of losses, with last year’s event going £81,000 over budget.

The Evening News revealed last year that the whole Winter Festivals programme could be entirely “outsourced” to the private sector, in order to reduce the financial risk to the council of backing the events.

Cllr Cardownie said: “We are looking at everything. It is the only event that is run by the local authority at the moment so we need to get some breathing space to stand back and look at whether the way it is currently organised serves best the needs of the city.”

Cllr Iain Whyte, culture and leisure spokesman for the Conservative group on the council, said: “I would generally welcome these proposed changes. It is important that we do seek value-for-money and putting these contracts out at the same time might allow savings, and that might make it more commercially successful.”

Pete Irvine, director of Unique Events, declined to comment and Nickie Gott, managing director of She’s Gott It, was not available.

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