Connect Festival: Major Edinburgh music festival loses bid to extend stage times over noise concerns

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Event sparked more noise complaints than any other in the city this year

A major music festival returning to Edinburgh next summer has been refused permission for acts to play later into the night, after the event sparked more noise complaints than any other in the city this year.

Connect Festival will bring internationally-renowned bands and artists including The Killers back to the grounds of the Royal Highland Centre following the success of the inaugural event held in August.

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The council’s existing policy stipulates outdoor concerts should finish by 10.30pm, however organisers called for acts to be allowed on stage until 11pm when the festival returns. They argued the half-hour extension would ‘make such a difference to the audience, the artists and long-term success of the event’ and boost ticket sales.

The inaugural Connect Festival at Ingliston took place this year.The inaugural Connect Festival at Ingliston took place this year.
The inaugural Connect Festival at Ingliston took place this year.

Councillors sitting on the licensing board threw out the request amid concerns over the impact on residents living nearby, following a high number of complaints to the council during Connect this year.

The festival, which was previously hosted at Inveraray Castle in Argyll in 2007 and 2008, has been revived by DF Concerts and moved to Ingliston and saw the likes of Idles, The Chemical Brothers, The National and Mogwai play across three days in August.

The main weekend festival will run again next year from August 26 to 28 with four standalone ‘Connect Presents’ concerts planned from August 29 to September 2, which includes a live show from The Killers who will play their first-ever gig in the Capital.

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Geoff Ellis, head of DF Concerts, told the licensing board on Monday (December 19) that Edinburgh is an anomaly when it comes to curfews for live shows.

He said: “10.30 is a very restrictive time to finish for any concert, to the best of my knowledge there is nowhere else in the UK that doesn’t have 11 o’clock as a standard curfew. The city centre of Glasgow is 11 o’clock, city centre of Dundee is 11 o’clock – as far as I know every city in the UK is 11 except from Edinburgh.

“I think when you’re running a festival as well you want as many acts on as possible and for those acts to play a long a set as possible and you can’t really open a lot earlier to get people in.”

The festival boss, who was behind every T in the Park during its 23-year history, said a 10.30 finish would result in “at least one less artist” on each of the two stages at Connect.

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Mr Ellis said in his experience of booking artists he struggled to get a lot of “big name artists” to play in Edinburgh due to the earlier curfew imposed by the council, making Glasgow venues more attractive for many acts.

He continued: “We want to grow the attendance, we want people to feel that it’s a real festival, but again when they’re having to go home at half 10 it doesn’t feel like a music festival and it’s hindering ticket sales as well. That extra half an hour would make such a difference to the audience, to the artists playing and to the long-term success of the event.”

However, the authority’s environmental health team objected to a variation being granted for the entertainment licence due to the “possibility of undue public nuisance”.

Council officer Dermot Connolly said: “Outdoor music events such as Connect have the potential to cause significant amounts of disturbance to nearby residents. This has been the case on a number of occasions in the past. One of the main ways to allow events such as this to go ahead is whilst maintaining protection for residents is to use noise controls and time limits as part of the licence conditions.

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“Extending the curfew to 11 o’clock significantly runs the risk of disturbing residents further and generating more complaints about the event and venue.”

He said 27 complaints were made to the council during this year’s Connect Festival, adding: “27 is the highest number of complaints we had for any event held in Edinburgh earlier this year.”

Councillors unanimously refused permission for extended stage times, however said they would consider supporting another bid in the future if new measures are put in place to reduce noise disturbances next year and these prove effective.