Every January, Edinburgh dies a little - Liam Rudden

EVERY January, Edinburgh dies a little bit, and I’m not talking about the exodus of tourists and pop up tat stalls. I’ve always found the first weeks post-Hogmanay the most depressing of the Capital year.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 3:52 pm
Edinburgh in January

After all the glister of the festive season, the return to the dull, dreich cloak that swaddles the city at this time is almost soul-destroying. That’s never more true than when observing the mud-bath that is East Princes Street Gardens - don’t worry, the Council Parks Department will have it back in all its verdant glory in no time at all, they assure us.

With the arrival of a new decade, Edinburgh actually appears more deserted than in previous years. No one seems to be going out. Whether it’s the Brexit effect, the dread of the next credit card bill after the exuberance of December or just the cold and rain keeping people at home in front of the telly, the city is noticeably quieter.

Consequently, businesses are suffering. At least two well known restaurants have shut up shop over the last 10 days having endured ‘disappointing end of year figures’ despite the influx of visitors, or so a hospitality insider tells me. They won’t be the last, he adds. Just take a trip through town right now and it’s surprising how deserted many bars and restaurants are - staff forlornly fiddling with their mobiles while waiting on a customer or two to appear.

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The fact that, with the odd exception (yes, the King’s panto and The Lion King and still plodding on against the flow), the Capital’s entertainment venues also pull the plug for the first weeks of the year, makes the place almost a ghost town by night.

All of which begs the question, is Edinburgh’s hospitality and entertainment scene now so over-saturated that businesses can’t compete even when the city’s population swells beyond all recognition? If so, what is the answer?

There are, of course, still tourists around, a few stragglers anyway, who either got their timing wrong, took advantage of a bargain basement hotel deal or just confused their dates... don’t worry, you might have missed one festival but there will be another right along - Burns & Beyond, 25 January, if you were wondering.

The undeniable truth, however, is that, much as we as a city may rally and rail against perceived over-tourism, these festivals are vital to our economy - imagine how many businesses would go under without them, or what the hike in council tax might be.

What we actually need is a way of delivering them that doesn’t impinge so heavily on life in the Capital and a transparency from the City of Edinburgh Council, which ratepayers have a right to expect and appears absent without leave at the moment.

Or maybe, it’s just that January is the most depressing month of the year, one when Edinburgh does indeed die a little.