Rise of Ingliston as festival venue is long overdue for Edinburgh – Brian Ferguson

I’ve never been one to treat the age-old rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow too seriously.

Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 4:55 am
The revived Connect music festival will be staged at the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston at the end of August.
The revived Connect music festival will be staged at the Royal Highland Centre at Ingliston at the end of August.

The two cities have too much going for them to pay too much attention to those people at either end of the M8 motorway who would rather lose a limb than spend a night in what they see as enemy territory.

Yet a couple of announcements to emerge from the two cities over the last week have made me smile.

Some of the biggest hitters from Glasgow’s music scene were lined up behind the launch of a new campaign to establish it as the UK’s number one music city.

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Glasgow’s VisitScotland-backed campaign was exactly the kind of thing I might have expected from Edinburgh’s festivals at the start of their 75th anniversary year.

Yet Glaswegians may now be casting envious glances towards Edinburgh, after it emerged the revived Connect festival is heading there.

Not only that, but the 15,000-capacity event – fondly remembered from previous outings in the grounds of Invereray Castle in Argyll – will be staged on the final weekend of Edinburgh’s summer festivals.

It's fair to say that the Royal Highland Centre arena at Ingliston, which is best known for hosting Scotland’s biggest agricultural show, would not have been on many lists of potential locations to host a music festival a couple of years ago.

The Connect music festival will be staged at the Royal Highland Showground at Ingliston at the end of August.

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Edinburgh's Royal Highland Showground to host 15,000-capacity Connect music fest...

Its musical heritage includes indoor shows by Genesis, Queen, Oasis, Big Country, The Jam, Rush, Electric Light Orchestra, Iron Maiden, Billy Idol, The Police, Duran Duran and Barry Manilow.

However, major acts have not just bypassed Ingliston but largely sidelined Edinburgh in favour of arenas and festivals elsewhere.

The city’s music fans have had to make do with seeing major acts who have outgrown the 3,000-capacity Usher Hall perform in outdoor settings such as Edinburgh Castle or Princes Street Gardens.

The home of the Royal Highland Show will be hosting the Connect music festival in August.

But I wrote here in December about how there had been something of a sea change over the course of the pandemic.

Plans to create a new National Centre for Music at the former Royal High School and the city’s first new concert venue for a century on St Andrew Square were both firmly on track, while the much-maligned Corn Exchange had just been bought over and revamped.

Back then, DF Concerts, Scotland's biggest promoters had just announced plans to stage a series of 8,000-capacity circus tent shows at Ingliston in June.

Now they have sprung another surprise with the Connect announcement.

Suddenly, the prospects are a lot brighter if you’re a music fan in or around Edinburgh.

While some may question the wisdom of staging Connect when events like the International Festival, Fringe and Tattoo are still running, DF Concerts’ latest announcement is intriguing when seen against the backdrop of repeated calls for the city’s events to be far more geographically spread out.

But DF has pointed to its ambitions to create more sustainable festivals in future to explain why it has chosen Ingliston.

The existing infrastructure the wide range of public transport options is a far cry from its previous festival locations at Baladao, Strathallan and Inveraray.

With camping options to be limited to hiring “boutique luxury bell tents”, the festival should not see any repeat of the embarrassing scenes of a sea of discarded tents which have marred the aftermath of other events.

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