Edinburgh Hogmanay tech trial to benefit hard of hearing

Biffy Clyro will be performing at the Concert in the Gardens. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Biffy Clyro will be performing at the Concert in the Gardens. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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NEW technology which could transform live concerts for people with hearing problems is to go on trial at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations, organisers revealed today.

Fans attending the annual Concert in the Gardens beneath Edinburgh Castle will be among the first to test out the new wireless headsets which have been developed by Scottish audio engineering experts.

Organisers of the sold-out concert say the technology will allow concert-goers with hearing impairments to enjoy “full audio sound” for the first time at an outdoor music event in the UK. Around 20 volunteers for the pilot project will be providing audiology reports which will help produce tailored coverage of the four-hour concert.

Unique Events, the producer of the Hogmanay festival, has secured the backing of three bands lined up for the event – Biffy Clyro, Idlewild and Honeyblood – for the trial.

Other volunteers are being recruited from a specialist “sensory centre” to test the system, which has been developed by the Grangemouth-based firm Silent Seminars and will eventually transform the experience of live concerts and events for people with hearing difficulties.

Penny Dougherty, head of operations at Unique Events, said: “The trial at this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay will show that Scotland leads the way in innovation and technology as we are one of the first to use this system for an outdoor concert event. We’re excited to be working with the team at Silent Seminars to offer this opportunity to those with hearing impairments to fully enjoy these great Scottish bands.”

Chris McCarron, general manager of Silent Seminars, said: “We’ll be asking all the people who have hearing impairments to provide us in advance with a copy of their audiology report.

“We’ll be getting a sound feed from the artists and will then be creating a tailored mix which gets broadcast out to the wireless headsets. It will sound completely different to them from what they would otherwise hear from the PA system.

“The big difference with this technology is that it’s really difficult to install induction loop systems for outdoor events. There’s also an issue if they’ve not been installed properly in indoor venues, so this could make a big difference there as well in future.”

Lynne Frail, fundraising coordinator at the Forth Valley Sensory Centre, in Falkirk, said: “This is an excellent opportunity to collaborate and support Silent Seminars and Unique Events in offering our service users this truly magnificent experience, which will give many of them the opportunity to build on self-confidence and independence skills.”