New organisers of Edinburgh's Christmas festival reveal city centre expansion plans

The new organisers of Edinburgh's Christmas festival have revealed plans to expand the city's festive markets in both the Old and New towns when the event returns this year.

New sites at Parliament Square and Castle Street are being planned for an "artisan market" and a dedicated market for Scottish produce.

Other markets will be returning to East and West Princes Street Gardens, as well as the Mound precinct, for the festival, which is being taken over by the firm behind the Christmas markets in London’s Hyde Park.

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German firm Angel Events Experience, which won the right to produce the festival from long-time Fringe operators Underbelly, were previously involved in supplying and managing the Christmas markets in Edinburgh.

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    It has agreed to pay the council more than £1.08 million a year for up to five years for the right to run festive markets, rides and attractions in the city centre.

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    However, the German company insists it wants to work with local businesses on the festive markets in Edinburgh, including arts and craft makers, and food and drink producers.

    The company is planning to create a new ‘Santa Land’ for the west gardens, where rides, games and installations will be introduced. Only the upper section of the east gardens will be used.

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    Edinburgh Christmas Market has transformed East Princes Street Gardens in previous years. Picture: Ian Georgeson

    Discounted tickets for the Christmas festival will also be distributed to all of Edinburgh's primary schools.

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    A shake-up of Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay festivals was ordered in 2019 following protests about their impact on Princes Street Gardens, the cost of rides and attractions, and overcrowding during peak periods.

    An opinion poll carried out last year called for a greater spread of events across the city, fewer stalls selling alcohol and more activities for children.

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    Underbelly, which had previously produced both the Christmas and Hogmanay festivals, decided against bidding for the new year festival, which was won back by Unique Events, the firm which had been involved since its inception in the mid-1990s.

    Edinburgh's Christmas festival will be returning in Novemer. Picture: Tim Edgeler
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    Angels Event Experience has opened up applications for market stalls for the coming festival, which is due to run from November 18 to January 3.

    David Kohlert, managing director of Angels Event Experience, said: “We are delighted to be the preferred bidder for Edinburgh’s Christmas, and look forward to making it a great success for Edinburgh’s communities and locals and visitors alike.

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    "Our track record in delivering markets and festivals across Europe, alongside key local partners, are a recipe for success.

    “We look forward to evolving Edinburgh’s Christmas concept over the next three years, putting the community at the heart of the event.

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    "Over time, we look forward to partnering with local charities and associations, providing them with a stage to promote their work alongside the winter festival.”

    Val Walker, culture convener at the city council, said: “We’re really looking forward to working with Angel Events Experience, who will build on the huge success of Edinburgh’s Christmas and offer a rich and varied programme of festive activities, events and experiences that will be enjoyed by residents and visitors of all ages.

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    "Although plans are at an early stage it’s great to see such an emphasis on their planned engagement with local communities and discounted tickets for primary school children.

    “Edinburgh’s Christmas is a great family event and I welcome that a refreshed festival will move into new areas of the city centre that we haven’t used before. It’s really important to spread the positive impact and benefits especially by including local businesses in the markets.

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    "Not only does Edinburgh’s Christmas contribute to the wellbeing and enjoyment of residents but it also delivers real economic impact benefitting tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors in particular.

    "We want to continue to provide an inclusive high-quality festive celebration, to further enhance the city’s reputation and allow the benefits to be shared across our town centres and communities.”

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    Council leader Cammy Day said: “I’m sure Angels Event Experience will build on the success of Edinburgh’s Christmas to offer a rich and varied range of festive activities, events and experiences for residents and visitors of all ages.

    "We’ll continue to listen to feedback from our residents and local businesses on our festivals, allowing their benefits to be shared right across our city.

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    “Getting it right for Edinburgh’s people first and foremost will make sure our festivals are enjoyed by all citizens and our visitors for many years to come.”