Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival needs more government backing on road to recovery - Brian Ferguson
It has been a long and difficult journey back from the dark days of lockdown for Edinburgh’s world-famous festivals and events.
Scotland's biggest Hogmanay celebration has had a troubled rebirth, to say the least, since the 2019 edition was staged.
Its enforced cancellation just before Christmas in 2021 was a huge blow particularly given that other events went ahead overseas.
Recovery from that eleventh-hour shutdown would have been more than enough of a challenge.
But the new organising team appointed by the city council have had to grapple with much more than trying to restore the event’s worldwide reputation.
The impact of rising energy bells, the cost of living crisis, reduced government funding and demands to reduce its impact on the city centre have all been in the mix for the consortium involving Unique Events and Assembly which was appointed in the summer.
Against that backdrop, it was something of a miracle for all 30,000 tickets for the street party to be snapped up weeks in advance, and for the Pet Shop Boys’ open-air concert to be declared a sell-out just after Christmas.
There can be little doubt that the near two-hour performance by the Pet Shop Boys, which was accompanied by a truly dazzling light show, was a triumph.
The same could be applied to a new curtainraiser, which saw Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Clare Grogan’s Altered Images appear at a Night Afore Disco Party in the gardens.
But what of the rest of the festival?
The main party on Princes Street, was something of a shadow of its former self, with its capacity cut in half from 60,000 in 2019, and several key streets dropped from the arena.
An absence of live entertainment was glaring, particularly for an event which was rightly praised for its past programming and showcasing of rising Scottish musical talent.
The harsh reality, however, is that the festival was constrained by a significantly reduced budget in its comeback year, a key factor in the absence of the much-missed torchlight procession.
The biggest challenge may well be ensuring that there is much more support in place for the 30th anniversary of the Hogmanay festival this year. For an event of clear international significance to Scotland’s, the onus is very on the Scottish Government and its agencies to step forward.