Biffy Clyro, Snow Patrol, Madness and Fatboy Slim will all headline shows at the Royal Highland Showground at Ingliston under plans to stage up to nine under canvas gigs over three weekends in June.
Described as “Edinburgh’s latest pop-up venue”, ‘The Big Top’ is planned to become an annual fixture in the city for DF Concerts.
The company already stages outdoor Summer Sessions shows in Princes Street Gardens and Glasgow's TRNSMT festival. It also recently revealed plans to revive its Connect festival at a mystery location next August.
The Big Top gigs, described as "arena-scale" by DF, will herald the return of major live music acts to Ingliston, which has a long history of hosting gigs dating back to the 1970s. These include David Bowie, Genesis, Queen, Oasis, Big Country, The Jam, Rush, Electric Light Orchestra, Iron Maiden, Billy Idol, The Police, Duran Duran and Barry Manilow, with Madness appearing previously in 1992.
However, Ingliston, which largely hosted indoor shows before, has largely fallen out of favour in modern times, as new venues and arenas have opened outside Edinburgh.
DF has not used the centre since T on the Fringe gigs in 2002, while the last big shows by Biffy Clyro and Snow Patrol were at the Usher Hall.
The Big Top shows are a significant new addition to Edinburgh’s cultural calendar during one of its quieter periods.
However, the gigs will be staged at Ingliston in the run-up to, and during, the annual Royal Highland Show under a new partnership between DF Concerts and the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS), organisers of the long-running event, which celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2022.
The Big Top will be erected in a field normally used as a car park, to the west of the 180-acre site, just off the A8 and around ten minutes walk from Ingliston tram stop.
DF’s Summer Sessions shows next year include Lionel Richie, Michael Kiwanuka, Simply Red, Tom Jones, Simple Minds and Travis. Other outdoor shows in Edinburgh next summer include Olly Murs, Deacon Blue and The Script at Edinburgh Castle and the Eagles at Murrayfield.
DF Concerts chief executive Geoff Ellis said: “We’ve been looking at doing something outdoors at the Royal Highland Centre for some time.
“It’s very easy to access via public transport and it has very good infrastructure on site, so the impact on the environment will be a lot less than on most sites throughout Scotland.
“We really wanted to do a series of big top shows with a capacity of around 8,000 in June and were keen to find a new site somewhere in central Scotland. It wasn’t necessarily going to be in Edinburgh.
“The Royal Highland Centre just seemed to be the most logical place to go to.
“We felt it was really important to create The Big Top as a proper event across the three weekends.
“It will have a festival feel, but it will all be under canvas, so it will be a lot different from the Summer Sessions and TRNSMT.
"It’s also light in the evenings in June, but the shows will all be in darkness. It will be a totally different experience to these other events and will have the atmosphere of an arena, which obviously Edinburgh doesn’t have on the touring circuit at the moment.”
It is hoped the Ingliston gigs will appeal to many of those attending the agricultural show, which attracted a record audience of 194,000 in 2019.
RHASS members will be among those able to take advantage of a pre-sale for tickets on Wednesday ahead of the public sale on Thursday.
Mr Ellis said: “The final weekend of shows will coincide with the Royal Highland Show, which will be going ahead as normal.
"When we were talking to them, they loved the idea of the gigs happening in the evening so that people could go to both events and there are also a lot of people who are working and staying on site who also have something to go to in the evening. The Royal Highland Show will effectively have after-show parties.”
RHASS chair Bill Gray said: “In our 200th anniversary year, it will be an exciting proposition for visitors to be able to attend the Show during the day and then go on to see amazing acts in the evening.
"No doubt it will be a welcome addition to the young farmers dance, which will go ahead as usual.
“The Royal Highland Centre has seen significant upgrading of its infrastructure over recent years and this investment gives it the flexibility to run world class events such as big-name concerts, alongside Scotland’s largest outdoor event, the Royal Highland Show.
“Clearly, running these back-to-back will require a detailed event plan, which we will have in place to ensure both sets of visitors, show-goers and concert-goers have the best possible experience.”
Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody said: “We are so excited to play in Scotland again.
“One of our very favourite shows this year was TRNSMT and Scottish crowds are always utterly stellar. It’s always a joy to play in Edinburgh. We can’t wait to get back to Scotland for the show.”
Fatboy Slim said: “I’ve just played in Glasgow on my ‘We’ve Come A Long, Long Way Together’ tour.
“It had been a while since I was last in Scotland and, quite frankly, I can’t wait to come back. Nothing beats an up-for-it Scottish crowd.
"Well, maybe an up-for-it Scottish crowd in a green field in the middle of summer. See you soon, Edinburgh.”
Madness said: “We are still wiping away the sweat from this weekend’s gigs in Aberdeen and Glasgow, but we love the smell of Scotland. It only seems right to come play for the Madheads in Edinburgh. Bring on the summer."