SCOTLAND’s capital is gearing up for an invasion of up to 80,000 revellers in the city centre tonight as it hosts the centrepiece of its 21st annual Hogmanay festival.
Edinburgh’s main “concert in the gardens” headlined by the Pet Shop Boys sold out yesterday, but it will take a last-minute rush before the box office closes at 9pm today if passes for the street party on Princes Street are all to be snapped up. Several thousand tickets – which are priced at £20, £5 more than last year – were still available yesterday. Ticket holders have the chance to see two of Scotland’s highest-rated new bands, Django Django and Chvrches.
Organisers revealed that demand from overseas is as high as ever, with advance bookings from across the world. Two thirds of revellers are expected to be from outside Scotland.
Last night’s torchlight procession and tonight’s open-air ceilidh at the Mound were sold out in advance while the annual “Loony Dook” at South Queensferry on New Year’s Day is also fully subscribed.
A better than expected weather has been predicted for the capital’s festivities, with forecasters saying there is a chance the city could escape downpours like those which drenched Edinburgh yesterday.
During tonight’s five-hour party, fireworks will be blasted from 52 different locations around the city centre in seven separate displays from just after 8pm, above Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill and Princes Street.
The displays – the most extensive planned above Edinburgh on Hogmanay – have taken around two weeks to set up and involve more than 20 tonnes of equipment. Organisers are expecting much greater world television coverage of the celebrations due to Scotland’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2014, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and the second Year of Homecoming campaign, as well as the independence referendum.
The three-day festival, worth £32 million to the economy, has been promoted under the banner of “Scotland’s Big Year Starts Here” to reflect the scale of the major events calendar.
A specially curated four-hour film and soundtrack show – dubbed “Rewinder” – will be beamed on to giant screens marrying some of the biggest hit songs made in Scotland over the years with iconic moments in Scottish history.
The street party, the concert in the shadow of the castle and the ceilidh will feature 15 bands.
Pete Irvine, managing director of Unique Events, producers of the capital’s Hogmanay celebrations for the past two decades, said: “With seven big fireworks displays, 13 giant screens and hundreds of artists over three days we are set for a fantastic 21st birthday party.”
Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, added: “Scotland’s capital has forged a much-envied reputation as the best place to see in the New Year.” Among the revellers thronging the Royal Mile yesterday were Lexie and Jeff Dunn from Los Angeles. Ms Dunn said: “LA has no New Year celebration at all so we decided to come to the biggest one in the world for a change.
“We’re looking forward to the ceilidh the most. It’s outdoors, but we’re still going. It’s Scotland, what do you expect?”
Other ticketed celebrations are being held tonight in Stonehaven and Stirling, headlined by Simple Minds and Deacon Blue respectively, while Inverness is to throw a free outdoor party at the Northern Meeting Park.
However, revellers will be turned away from George Square in Glasgow from 10pm after the city council decided to shun any formal celebrations, although free family-friendly entertainment will be on offer there from noon.
Ahead of the festivities getting underway in the capital and around the nation, the Scottish Government and health experts joined forces to urge revellers to celebrate sensibly.
Sir Harry Burns, Scotland’s chief medical officer, said: “Everyone should have a night to remember and this means taking responsibility for your drinking.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a drink, as long as it’s done safely and not to excess.
“If you are planning to drink, then enjoy a good meal before you go out. It’s also important to keep track of what you are drinking. Cocktails and generous home pours can contain much more alcohol that you might think.”
Justice minister Kenny Mac-Askill said: “Seeing in the New Year, particularly in the city which is the home of Hogmanay, is one of the most enjoyable parts of the festive period.
“While we want everyone to have fun it is important that you watch how much you drink.“I urge everyone to take care when they are out and about over the festive season. A few precautions will ensure that your New Year celebrations are memorable for all the right reasons.”
Edinburgh: All tickets have gone for the headline performance by the Pet Shop Boys in Princes Street Gardens. Tickets are still available for the street party.
Stonehaven: Simple Minds head up the sold-out live music line-up in Market Street.
Stirling: Scottish pop-rock icons Deacon Blue and singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean head up for the annual concert on Stirling Castle’s esplanade.
Inverness: Around 10,000 revellers are expected at the free event at the Northern Meeting Park, which the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Skerryvore are headlining. GLASGOW: Ten hours of free entertainment, winding up by 10pm.