Edinburgh winter festivities set for ‘refresher’

A consortium including Pete Irvine is set to take control of the winter festivals. Picture: Kate Chandler/ TSPL
A consortium including Pete Irvine is set to take control of the winter festivals. Picture: Kate Chandler/ TSPL
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THE firms set to be awarded the contract to manage Edinburgh’s winter festivals for the next three years have promised a “refreshed programme” with new events and locations to mark Christmas and New Year celebrations.

A joint bid by Edinburgh firm Unique Events – run by Pete Irvine – and London-based outfit Underbelly has been revealed as the preferred tender by the city council to run the festival.

Councillors are poised to rubber-stamp the decision at Thursday’s finance and budget committee meeting in a move that will cost the council £1.29 million a year.

The consortium has guaranteed to deliver a “totally re-imagined programme of Christmas events and attractions”, with a focus on family entertainment across the six-week festival running from November to January.

The two firms, which have agreed to bear the cost of any financial overruns, remained tight-lipped on the planned changes to both festivals. It is a significant success for Underbelly, which has grown into one of the main promoters at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since being formed in 2001.

Unique Events has managed Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations for 20 years, but the decision ends a six-year tenure in charge of the Christmas festival for Durham-based firm She’s Gott It!.

City festivals and events champion Councillor Steve Cardownie said: “Through this process, we wanted to ensure that both elements continue to go from strength to strength and remain fresh and exciting every year while, at the same time, transferring the financial risk away from the council.”

Two consortium bids were made for the contract following 37 expressions of interest. A group made up of it She’s Gott It!, Edinburgh entertainment specialist Northern Light and T in the Park promoter DF Concerts was overlooked.

Nickie Gott, managing director of She’s Gott It!, said her consortium had promised to deliver the festivals for £150,000 less than the rival tender.

She said: “We were looking at putting on a much bigger headline act [for Hogmanay] and taking it to another location. We had also looked at putting something into Edinburgh at the start of December that would form the basis of a countdown that was very big and iconic.”

Councillor Iain Whyte, finance spokesman for the council’s Tory group, said hotels and businesses that benefited financially from the winter festivals needed to be asked to contribute towards costs in future years. He said: “The key thing is that we minimise the cost to the taxpayer in these financially difficult times.”

Voted the best in Britain

IT has been billed as one of the most iconic Christmas celebrations in the world and voted the best in Britain.

The Capital’s Christmas festival sees the city centre being transformed into a carnival of light and entertainment each winter.

Traditional features have included the much-loved ice rink and German-style markets, with the big wheel a familiar backdrop to the Scott Monument.

Last year’s programme involved the lighting of a Norwegian Christmas tree sent as a gift from the people of Hordaland, and a Light Night pyrotechnics ceremony on The Mound to open the festival.

The long-running Hogmanay festival also recently added several new features outside of the street party, fireworks display and the Loony Dook, with a triathlon and dog sled races on New Year’s Day.