Edinburgh Christmas market 2022: Company pulls out of contract for Edinburgh's Christmas festival sending plans into chaos

Edinburgh’s Christmas festivities have been thrown into chaos after the new organisers awarded the contract to run them pulled out.

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German firm Angels Event Experience Ltd was handed the job of staging the annual “Edinburgh’s Christmas” festival, which includes the Christmas market, in June.

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But now the company, which runs Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, has told the council it can no longer fulfil the contract.

And talks are understood to have begun with Unique Events and Assembly Festival on how the festival can be rescued. Unique Events won the contract for the Capital’s Hogmanay celebrations and also put in a bid for Edinburgh’s Christmas.

The two companies are expected to put a proposal to the council imminently, but it was not clear whether having to take over the task of producing the festival at a late stage will mean any scaling-back of the events.

This year’s Christmas festivities, due to run from November 19 to January 3, were being seen as being the first return to a full programme after the pandemic. And numbers were expected to be even bigger than previously because no Christmas market is planned in Glasgow.

Culture and communities convener Val Walker said: “Angels Event Experience Ltd have informed us that they’re unable to deliver on the contract to produce Edinburgh’s Christmas. We’re in positive ongoing discussions around ensuring that Christmas events can be successfully delivered for the city this year.”

Edinburgh's Christmas market is a big crowd-puller during the festive season. Picture: Ian Rutherford.

A spokeswoman for Unique Events confirmed the company had been approached by the council about Edinburgh’s Christmas, but said it was not in a position to comment further.

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The Christmas and Hogmanay festivals are together estimated to be worth more than £158 million to the Capital’s economy. But there were complaints in recent years, particularly about the stalls at the Christmas market damaging Princes Street Gardens. A survey found significant support for the festivals to continue, as long as they were overhauled.

When the council advertised the contracts for the two festivals in March, it emphasised the environmental sustainability of the events, including minimising use of greenspace; making the celebrations family friendly; extending events beyond the city centre; and giving priority to existing and new local businesses.

Under the contract awarded, Angels Event Experience Ltd was due to pay the council £5,473,500 for the right to run the festive events and attractions for three years with two optional 12-month extensions.

Talks are understood to be under way to rescue Edinburgh's Christmas. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The company had announced plans to expand the market to new sites at Parliament Square and Castle Street, restricting the use of East Princes Street Gardens to the upper section. It also planned to create a new “Santa Land” for the west gardens, where rides, games and installations would be introduced.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said he would urgently be trying to find out from the council what exposure to risk taxpayers in the Capital now faced.

He said: "Residents across the Capital will be wanting answers on why the contract has now failed and how and when and if the Christmas market and the other activities will be able to be delivered and what additional cost that will bring.

"Given Glasgow have cancelled theirs, Edinburgh was expecting a bumper year and a lot of people were looking forward to the return of festivities after Covid.

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"We need to have transparency from the council about how we got to this point, why a contract has been handed back so late in the day, what has gone wrong, and who has not followed due process to make sure this could be delivered effectively and on time.”

Council leader Cammy Day said: “We’re hugely disappointed that Angels Event Experience Ltd have been unable to deliver on their contract to produce Edinburgh’s Christmas. We’re in positive ongoing discussions around ensuring that Christmas events can be successfully delivered for the city this year.”

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