Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has China in its hands

Edinburgh shows how to put on a display. Picture: Jane Barlow
Edinburgh shows how to put on a display. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A MAJOR Chinese broadcaster will beam live footage of Edinburgh’s world-famous Hogmanay bash to an audience of more than 80 million people for the very first time, it has emerged.

Central China TV is among a raft of media firms set to broadcast the Princes Street spectacular to a global audience this year – a profile-boosting move described by festival champions as “something money can’t buy”.

Broadcasters from Japan and the United States will also screen footage from one of the world’s biggest New Year 
celebrations that attracts around 75,000 revellers every year – a third of whom are international visitors.

News of interest from the Far East comes just months after organisers of the Military Tattoo revealed they were in talks with Chinese and Indian broadcasters about lucrative TV deals.

Chinese television companies were also in the Capital in the summer to film documentaries about festival events, and the number of tourists visiting the city from China has soared nearly five-fold in four years.

A huge influx of visitors from more than 60 countries is expected over the coming days, with tickets for major events such as the Torchlight Procession, an open-air Hogmanay ceilidh in Princes Street and the New Year’s Day Loony Dook at South Queensferry already sold out.

Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion for the city, said the international interest would boost Edinburgh’s global appeal.

“Scotland is synonymous with Hogmanay, and Edinburgh is the place to be,” he said. “It’s great to see the Chinese TV here to showcase Edinburgh.

“China is one of the emerging markets and we are keen to attract them. It’s the kind of thing that money can’t buy. These pictures will be beamed all over the world.”

Three days of Hogmanay festivities kick off this evening with the Torchlight Procession snaking from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill.

More than 8000 torchbearers from 70 countries will take part with around 20,000 spectators lining the route to watch the procession that concludes with a fireworks extravaganza.

These will be among 26 individual fireworks shows over the next three days – including mini displays at 9pm, 10pm and 11pm on Hogmanay, before a carefully planned display at midnight to celebrate the dawn of 2015.

Pop star Lily Allen, right, will headline the Concert in the Gardens supported by Abba tribute band Björn Again and iconic 90s act Soul II Soul.

Scottish indie stars Twin Atlantic, Twilight Sad and Young Fathers – the Edinburgh-based Mercury Music Prize winners – will wow crowds at the Waverley Stage while folk singer Eddi Reader is among the performers on Scottish Stage in 
Frederick Street.

Thousands of street party wristbands are understood to be available as well as limited tickets for the Concert in the Gardens but passes for the main stage enclosure in the gardens, and the Candelit Concert in St Giles’ Cathedral are all sold out.

Pete Irvine, director of Unique Events, which runs Edinburgh’s Hogmanay on behalf of the council, said the Hot Dub Time Machine – a musically-eclectic DJ set from Australian Tom Loud that spans the decades – would be a popular new addition to the main street party.

He said: “With a fantastic line-up across five stages, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is the UK’s biggest outdoor winter music festival – come and join us for a rocking good party to welcome 2015.”

Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, Edinburgh’s police divisional commander, would not reveal the number of officers scheduled to patrol the city centre party for reasons of “operational sensitivity”.

It comes after safety fears were raised amid a funding row that will see the number of officers patrolling the event slashed by a third.

Last month, the News told how 300 police officers had been on duty last Hogmanay with around 100 fewer expected to marshal the event this year following the introduction of a new Police Scotland policy aiming to charge “commercial events” up to £83 per hour per officer – a move Hogmanay organisers said would cost £250,000 for a police presence.

It is understood there will be an extra 70 stewards drafted in to help boost security at the site amidst a ‘scaled back’ police operation – and it is understood the council have negotiated the final bill from Police Scotland down to less than £100,000 for the three-day festival.

Ch Supt Williams, “gold commander” for the Hogmanay celebrations, said police had been working closely with Unique Events, the city council and G4S security to ensure there was a “more than sufficient number of officers and stewards there to keep people safe”.

An estimated 570 G4S security staff will be marshalling the event alongside police.

He said: “Watch your alcohol intake and ensure you plan your journey home ahead of time. Have a great night, but don’t spoil it by coming to the attention of the police or medical services.”

The celebrations will continue into New Year’s Day, with hardy souls braving the Loony Dook at South Queensferry. Revellers are also invited to nurse their hangovers on Thursday by soaking up Scottish art and culture at the Scot:Lands exhibition. Visitors can attend ten Old Town venues which have been customised by artists.