Attacks on Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Loony Dook are ignoring the facts – Steve Cardownie

Ill-informed criticisms of the Loony Dook simply do not add up, writes Steve Cardownie.

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 6:00 am
There’s much more to the Loony Dook than just jumping in the sea, as Underbelly can attest. Picture: AFP/Getty

Last week I wrote about the misinformation that was circulating regarding residents having to apply for wristbands to access their premises within the Hogmanay Street Party perimeter. I pointed out that this scheme was introduced back in 2001 at the behest of council officials who deemed it as the best method of ­controlling numbers. Underbelly ­inherited this method and for this Hogmanay the 258 residencies were allocated six passes each, with 45 of them having their requests for more tickets entirely met.

Once more we are now witnessing a similar campaign of misinformation, this time surrounding the Loony Dook at South Queensferry on New Year’s Day.

The Dook was not always part of the official programme and formerly existed as a standalone, informal event carried out by a few hardy souls. Only after its popularity grew was some organisation required and the council took it under its wing. Indeed, I well remember council officials a few years later making a recommendation to me that we cut out the event altogether as it was costing too much money to put on.

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Only after my insistence that the Dook should not only continue but should be given greater status was a private sponsor found who stepped in and provided the money to safeguard it. That sponsorship is no longer available and Underbelly have to fund the event themselves, as did Unique Events, the previous Hogmanay celebrations provider, who introduced a registration fee in 2011 and charged £10 in 2017, the last time they ran the event.

Soldiers returning from WWII

Some of the ill-informed comments currently doing the rounds – including suggestions that Underbelly are charging people £12 just to jump in the water – are probably coming from some individuals who have never set foot in South Queensferry on New Year’s Day but take great delight on jumping on any passing bandwagon. So let’s look at the facts, shall we?

The Loony Dook was first performed by soldiers returning from the Second World War to wash away the sins of old and renew themselves for the year ahead and first took place on January 1, 1946. Jump to the present day and we would see 1092 ‘Dookers’ purchasing 974 tickets at £12 including booking fee, less a £1 donation by Underbelly to the RNLI, less VAT on the balance leaving £8928, then another 118 tickets at £11 (no booking fee) and less the £1 donation to RNLI, less VAT leaving £983, making a total of £9911 income.

Costs were as follows: programme (including the band, Noise Committee, at the head of the parade) £1250, stewarding £2500, policing £400, medical provision £1250, road closures £3750, staffing £3750, provision of commemorative T-shirts provided to all participants £3500, other miscellaneous production costs of £900, making a total expenditure by Underbelly of £17,300, which resulted in a £7389 loss to them. What a rip-off eh?

Edinburgh City Council should be doing more to champion Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, an iconic event recognised all over the world as such and not running for cover in the face of a campaign of deliberate misinformation, carried out by some naysayers and doom merchants who thrive on criticism and negativity and who do a disservice to those who would rather see a rational debate based on facts, not innuendo and downright slurs.

If Edinburgh’s Hogmanay suffers such a body blow that it ceases to exist then those at the helm in the city council will be responsible for killing the goose that lays the golden egg.