I caught up with Charlie Wood yesterday and took the opportunity to quiz him about Edinburgh’s forthcoming Christmas celebrations as his company, Underbelly, is responsible for the programme of events that will be on offer.
As the former Festival and Events Champion with the city council, I am only too well aware of the time and effort that goes into our Christmas celebrations, making it the best that the UK has to offer.
From humble beginnings, Edinburgh’s Christmas is now a major attraction for visitors both within these shores and beyond as well as providing weeks of entertainment for the city’s inhabitants. This takes months of planning.
Charlie told me that he is almost permanently domiciled in the city for the duration of the Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations, with only fleeting visits to his home in London to see his young family until they join him here during the school holidays. His sons Jago, 5, one-year-old Ivo and daughter Margot, 3, along with his wife Hatto travel up to the city to not only see Charlie but to enjoy the festivities on offer. Their prolonged visit is undoubtedly welcome and helps to make Charlie’s heavy workload more tolerable.
Many of the Christmas favourites will be making a return this year including the Star Flyer which I have had the dubious pleasure of experiencing first hand on more than one occasion, with the spectacular view of the city and across The Forth to Fife living long in the memory.
The Big Wheel which has 36 enclosed, weather-proof pods each sitting six people and the ice-rink in St Andrew Square will no doubt prove as popular as ever and the markets in East Princes Street Gardens with the Santa Train chuntering along nearby promises to be another winner with visitors.
When I was young (yes I do remember that far back), no Christmas was complete without a trip to Santa’s Grotto so a visit to Castle Street with the kids in tow is a must and La Clique Noel-Part Deux performed by the internationally acclaimed company is set to enthrall audiences at The Spiegeltent on Festival Square.
Silent Light on George Street will merge with the team from Silent Adventures to stage an outdoor event that merges The Street of Light with a silent disco, which will bring an added attraction to the programme.
Underbelly has written to more than 50 charitable organisations and community groups in Edinburgh inviting them to apply for free tickets for this show, with 26,000 of them being set aside to cater for potential demand.
Charlie told me that they didn’t want anyone who couldn’t afford a ticket to miss out. People who do pay will see 50p from every ticket being donated to One City Trust, which supports the isolated and excluded communities in the city.
All the programmed events are designed to ensure that Edinburgh remains No 1 in the UK for Christmas celebrations and the 20 per cent discount on offer to all EH residents will no doubt be again welcome.
So, just a few months after the greatest arts extravaganza on Earth, Edinburgh is heading for yet another Christmas celebration which will leave the opposition trailing in our wake.
Words fail the Chief Executive
A recent letter to all city councillors from Chief Executive Andrew Kerr, read: “I am writing to inform you that I have been asked to become, and accepted a place, as a trustee of the National Society for the Prevention of Children UK as a Scottish Trustee.
“This is a voluntary position and will have no effect on my job as Chief Executive as any duties will be carried out in my own time. I have been contributing to this charity for a number of years now and it is close to my heart so I am delighted to play a small part in keeping children safe in Scotland. I thought that iI would inform you now as you will no doubt read it in the press in the coming days.”
Quick as a flash, Joanna Mowat, Conservative councillor for the City Centre ward, wrote back: “Umm, is the name of the charity quite right – this reads like a birth control charity rather than one for welfare of children.”
Relax Joanna, we are not likely to see the Chief Executive handing out condoms in the High Street anytime soon – he has been appointed as a trustee to The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Good news for young Alfie
In a previous column I told of the plight of Alfie, Ed Bartlam’s young son, who is suffering from cancer and had gone through numerous treatments and operations. Ed is the co-founder of Underbelly and organises a charity event during the Fringe with all the proceeds going to The Brain Tumour Charity.
Ed received the good news last week that a scan had revealed nothing was recurring in Alfie’s spine and the tumour in his brain was stable. That wee boy has been put through the wringer, let’s hope that he has now turned the corner.
I’ve clocked that Ryan’s a bit slow
During a stroll through a public park, my friend and I happened across a sundial. My friend, Ryan, asked me what it was so I told him that it was for telling the time.
How he asked? I told him that a sundial is a device that tells the time of day when there is sunlight by the apparent position of the Sun in the sky.
Basically it consists of a flat plate (the dial) and a gnomon which casts a shadow onto the dial.
As the Sun appears to move through the sky the shadow aligns with different hour lines which are marked on the dial to indicate the time of day. At that Ryan spun on his heels and as he walked away I heard him muttering to himself: “Good grief, whatever will they think of next?”