Edinburgh’s Hogmanay: Police say event was successfully staged ‘without serious incident’ despite crowd control concerns
Organisers were forced to apologise in the run-up to the bells over lengthy queuing delays for some of the 40,000 ticket-holders trying to get into the main street party and the Concert in the Gardens headlined by the Pet Shop Boys.
Concerns were also raised about overcrowding at the street party, which was staged in a smaller arena than in recent years and with a capacity roughly half of what it was before the pandemic.
Police Scotland declared the event had been a "success," with no arrests made inside the main arena, while new organisers Unique Events and Assembly insisted the staging of the celebrations had seen Edinburgh retain its world-wide reputation as the 'Home of Hogmanay."
The festival said 25 people were treated for minor injuries across the two ticketed events, with two revellers transferred to hospital.
Unique and Assembly’s consortium have been awarded a new £4 million contract expected to run for up to five years to take over the running of the Hogmanay festival, which will mark its 30th anniversary at the end of 2023.
However reduced government funding, problems securing sponsors, rising costs and uncertainty over demand for tickets in the aftermath of the pandemic were all blamed for the scaling back of the festival programme compared to recent years.
Both the torchlight procession through the city centre and the Loony Dook at South Queensferry were dropped from the official line-up while the street party arena was “condensed.” Waverley Bridge, Hanover Street, Rose Street, and the east end of Princes Street were dropped from the main arena, which did not have any live music stages.
However the festival, which had distributed an LED wristband to each reveller as part of a rethink of the event in its comeback year, was inundated with complaints on its Facebook and Twitter pages during and after the event.Posting on Facebook, Maddine Jewell said: “Came all the way from Australia and there was only one bar we could get to which closed early. The bar staff claimed there were more bars and space further up which we couldn’t reach due to absolute overcrowding.
“It was a downright dangerous and disappointing experience due to inadequate organisation. It’s a shame we can’t get our money back. You know it’s bad when even locals are complaining.”
Dayle Hindmarch said: “Worst experience of our life. Left at 10pm. Like a cattle market. No entertainment whatsoever within the street party. Everyone stood jammed in like sardines.”
Posting on Twitter, Lydia Miller said: “Fireworks were lovely, but spending almost 30 quid for dangerous squashed crowds, no entertainment, and bad organisation and safety was a disappointing way to go into 2023. It’s supposed to be a world-famous nye event.”
Oliver Findlay tweeted: “It was shambolic and dangerous. The police were helping people escape over the barriers at one point. There was nothing to see or do on the street.”
Another reveller, Ainsley, posted on Twitter: “Street party was an absolute shambles. Lack of crowd control and an appalling DJ. Organisers are lucky there were no major incidents, it didn't feel safe at all.”
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay said: “The queues some revellers experienced to enter the street Party were caused in part by bag searches which were necessary to ensure that all our revellers (and staff) could enjoy the night safely and partly by the challenging weather conditions. All gates were clear and everybody was into the street party and the Concert in the Gardens well before 11:00pm.
"Some areas of the Street Party were busier than others, and audience movement around the site was monitored closely throughout the evening.
"While some people do find that level of crowd overwhelming, the vast majority of the 30,000 revellers enjoyed their night dancing to live DJ sets relayed on big screens along the length of West Princes Street (as advertised) before cheering in the new year to a spectacular 10 minute Midnight Moment with Fireworks lifting from Edinburgh Castle and a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne.”
Superintendent David Robertson, the officer in charge of policing the event, said: “Significant planning and preparation was undertaken ahead of the city’s first street party since 2019 and I am pleased to say that it has passed without serious incident.
“My thanks go out to all of the officers, stewarding staff and other key partners who worked diligently to ensure the Hogmanay celebrations were a success.”
City council leader Cammy Day said: “Once again, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations have been the envy of cities across the globe.
"With one of the most impressive fireworks displays against the most stunning of backdrops this was a fantastic way to ring in 2023.
"We’ve brought 40,000 revellers from all over the UK and further afield to discover our great capital city and it has truly been an international celebration of Scotland.”
Unique director Alan Thomson and Assembly general manager Dani Rae said: “The Pet Shop Boys rocked the Concert in the Gardens, and revellers across the street party danced the night away with the fantastic wristbands, which really made everybody part of the party.”
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festival ended with an an afternoon of free New Year’s Day gigs at 13 venues across the city centre, free “Sprogmanay” family events at the National Museum of Scotland and Assembly’s Roxy venue and a “Final Fling” concert in Princes Street Gardens featuring Tide Lines, Elephant Sessions and Hamish Hawk.