A DRAMATIC new curtain raiser for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations lit up the Royal Mile and saw a fiery new symbol of Scotland unveiled in Holyrood Park.
Thousands of revellers at the head of a 20,000-strong procession which brought the Old Town to a standstill went on to form the word “braw” beside the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.
The display, which heralded the start of a year-long celebration of Scotland’s young people, was the culmination of a two-month campaign to come up with a single word to sum up Scotland.
Workshops were held across Scotland to produce a shortlist - which also included welcome, hame, alive and diverse - which was put to a public vote.
An estimated 25,000 spectators lined the Royal Mile to watch the torchlight procession filed past for well over an hour.
Around 2000 torchbearers were brought together to spell out “braw” across a 100 metre-stretch of the park, while images of the finale of the #ScotWord project were captured from a helicopter which circled above the participants.
An all-young cast of pipers, drummers and Shetland Vikings paraded down the High Street and the Canongate, before sweeping past the Scottish Parliament into the park, where more young musicians entertained the crowds, along with fire dancers. Two fireworks displays were also held above Calton Hill to herald the start of the celebrations.
Australian torchbearer Raquel Mendez-Lopez, 24, a first-time visitor to Edinburgh, said: “I wanted to come to Edinburgh for Hogmanay because it just looked amazing.
“I’m doing all the events, including the Loony Dook, there just seems to be so much going on.
“It’s great to be part of such a traditional event like the torchlight parade in a really historic place. Edinburgh has got something really special about it.”
Jyothi Mani, 42, from India, who was also visiting the city for the first time, said: “I hadn’t really heard a lot of Edinburgh other than that it is a lot of fun to be here for the new year.
“It’s been awesome so far - the tradition and culture has been amazing and I want to know much more about it.”
Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, who led the parade down the Royal Mile, said: “It is a special moment to lead such a breath-taking torchlight procession through Scotland’s capital and to see people come together from all over the world to celebrate the start of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.
“You see the city at its best and you can’t help but feel proud of its streets and its people. This year, the event has involved young people from all over Scotland to welcome in the Year of Young People. I want to thank every single young Scot who has been involved in the event.”
Braw, which Hogmanay organisers translated into grand, fine or beautiful for visitors to the city, is thought to have been used in Scotland since the early 17th century.
It has triumphed four years after being trounced by “dreich” in a poll to find the nation’s favourite favourite Scots word.
Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, directors of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay said: “When we set about designing Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2018, we wanted to engage the
people of Scotland and at the start of Scotland’s Year of Young People, most especially young Scotland.
“This is a country that empowers young people and has a proud history of discourse that we’re so pleased to see is flourishing.
“The #ScotWord project has been the blazing voice of Scotland’s young people telling the world why they’re proud to live in this extraordinary country and what better word to sum that up than braw?”
Katie Tweedie, one of the champions of the #ScotWord project, said: “It has been absolutely incredible to be part of the #ScotWord campaign for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. I’ve engaged with youth groups and charities allowing as many young people as possible to to get together and think big about what makes them proud to live in Scotland.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of national tourism agency EventScotland, which supported the opening event, said: “Scotland will put its young people in the spotlight in 2018, celebrating their talents, contributions and creating new opportunities for them to shine.
“A nationwide events programme - which is entirely co-designed by young people and the events and festivals industry - will showcase our amazing youth sector and provide opportunities for young people to express themselves through culture, sport and other activities.”
The city’s three-day Hogmanay festival is being staged amid the biggest ever security operation mounted at the event.
Record numbers of armed police and extra anti-terror barriers have been ordered, as well as extra road closures around the main events, as part of a series of “precautionary” measures put in place to protect the festivities.
The torchlight parade, which kick-started Edinburgh’s 25th official Hogmanay festival, was completely overhauled this year, rerouting it away from Princes Street and Calton Hill, which was inaccessible to many participants in previous years as the event grew in popularity.
The main celebrations on Hogmanay itself have also been overhauled as part of a drive to help Edinburgh step with competition with its main new year rivals, including London, Sydney, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Parkour performers, wall runners, trapeze artists, fire throwers and giant puppets will all be appearing throughout the event, which will start at 7pm, two hours earlier than normal. Groups of pipers, drummers, ceilidh dancers and choirs are also expected to help warm up the crowds.
An extended nine-minute fireworks display from midnight will be choreographed to a specially-commissioned score, which will feature the music of the Skye-based electronica band Niteworks, who are also performing at the street party.
Still Game star Sanjeev Kohli will hosting his own Hogmanay TV show around the arena, which will be beamed onto giant screens at the event, along with highlights of the various music acts appearing at the festivities.
New special effects are expected to light up the 60,000-capacity arena under plans drawn up by a team of directors, producers and designers who have worked on the opening and closing ceremony of the London Olympics, the Queen’s golden jubilee celebrations, Royal Shakespeare Company productions and videos for The Pet Shop Boys and The Rolling Stones.
The main entrances to the arena will be turned into replicas of tenement flats with teams of acrobats and other aerial performers offering a new twist on the traditional Hogmanay welcome.