ORGANISERS of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations have vowed to expand the money-spinning event if they can win significant extra funding.
Pete Irvine, who has masterminded the city’s festivities since their inception in 1993, said the event was in danger of becoming a victim of its own success.
Mr Irvine warned the existing programme of the festival, which is worth £30 million to the economy, is under serious threat due to rising costs and the prospect of cuts in the event budget in future years due to the squeeze on public funding.
But he said he still hopes to add an extra day to the programme, expand the New Year’s Day programme and bring back major events like the Night Afore carnival which saw international street theatre acts on George Street, if new backing can be found.
Funding problems have led to the scaling back of the city’s festivities to just three days in recent years, with the torchlight procession being brought forward a day early to 30 December, while the capacity of the main street party on Princes Street has been reduced from 100,000 to 75,000.
The city council currently ploughs £1.3 million a year into its programme of Christmas and New Year events, but has warned it may not be able to protect the budget for major events in future.
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Mr Irvine said the amount the festival had available for programming had shrunk in recent years due to the increasing safety bill for the main street party and the torchlight parade curtain-raiser, which drew 50,000 people into the city centre – a crowd two-thirds as big as the one which filled the city centre arena on Hogmanay.
He admitted the festival’s main element on New Year’s Day, the Scot:Lands celebration of culture staged across ten venues in the Old Town – which attracted a 10,000-strong sell-out crowd – would not have happened if it was not being directly funded to the tune of £200,000 by the Scottish Government.
The Loony Dook at South Queensferry, which was fully subscribed well in advance, also came under threat, with a headline sponsor only being confirmed a week before Christmas.
Mr Irvine said: “Our problem with Hogmanay is that we just have too many people. They all have to be kept safe – it’s not just the costs of security, it’s everything else that goes with that.
“Because of the huge crowd numbers we are getting for our events, we need to put more and more funding into the management of those crowds.
“Obviously we charge for the Concert in the Gardens and the street party, but our fireworks can be seen right across the city and beyond.
“You can go along to the torchlight procession without buying a torch and I’m told we had more than 50,000 people along watching it this year.
“The event is a great advert for the city as the pictures from it go right around the world and are seen before the fireworks in places like Sydney and Auckland. It is of incalculable worth.
“But it’s an event that gets more expensive every year because more people come.”
The Scotsman told earlier this week how Mr Irvine and Steve Cardownie, the festivals and events champion at the city council, had called for the introduction of a tourist tax in the capital to support the Hogmanay festival.
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