Edinburgh's Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations: shake-up and pilot year for Capital's winter festivals

A shake-up of the Capital's winter festivals has been backed by councillors after a major survey of residents and others on the future of the events.

By Ian Swanson
Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 4:55 am

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It is planned to have a "pilot" year with distinctive approaches adopted for the Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations.

A producer will be appointed to take charge of Christmas activities and a separate individual or organisation will take on the role of winter festivals director, overseeing the Hogmanay side of the festivities.

The fireworks were the most popular feature of the Hogmanay celebrations. Picture: Toby Williams

The council's policy committee was told the appointments were expected to be made by late spring 2022.

The independent survey, which drew responses from 8,614 individuals and 35 organisations, found clear support for both Christmas and Hogmanay festivals continuing.

But there was criticism of overcrowding, over-commercialism and the environmental impact of the festivals.

Edinburgh respondents were less positive than those from the rest of Scotland and the UK about the winter celebrations being welcoming, enjoyable, unique, affordable and beneficial to business.

Capacity at Edinburgh's Hogmanay street party has been reduced by more than half to 30,000 this year Picture: Toby Williams

And alcoholic drinks and funfair rides were the least wanted popular features of the Christmas celebrations.

Council leader Adam McVey told the committee: "Two years ago, when we started this process, I had a very open mind about what the configuration of these celebrations and events were in future years.

"Edinburgh residents have come back very strongly and said they want to see these events happen. They have also given us some really valuable insights about how changes can be made in order to deal with some of the issues we've had in previous years and also really maximise the local benefit."

He said the responses had given the council "a real roadmap forward to meet the city's aspirations and also deal with concerns".

He continued: "I'm looking forward to events getting better and better. Not every event is for everyone, but it is important we do have events for everyone.

"Families and older people and local people in the city centre are all looking for something slightly different and I think as much of it can be catered for as possible, putting the city on a very firm footing to develop a really mature offer that is not simply spiralling out of all sense of proportion and maintains a real Edinburgh heart by linking into our local businesses."

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said any new event brief had to be clear on the specifics of how the Edinburgh community would be targeted.

"They're the ones who pay for this and they have made very clear what they want – they don't particularly want funfair rides and they don't particularly want a street party.

"There might be things we put on for tourists and others, but we have to understand why we're doing that and we have to do something that gets to local people and meets their aspirations.

"And that means spreading it out - spreading it out in the city centre so it's not so congested, but also spreading the economic benefit throughout the city.

"I know businesses in the city centre do appreciate the winter festivals, but other businesses in Stockbridge or in Leith and Morningside would like to see some more of that spread out through the city."

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Edinburgh's winter festivals face shake-up after poll reveals divided opinions

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