A MAJOR rethink has been ordered over plans to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, due to a clash with the UK’s annual Armed Forces Day celebrations in nearby Stirling next summer.
Concerns over crowd management, public transport capacity, traffic congestion and the prospect of air displays disrupting animals and live performances at the battlefield site have been raised behind the scenes.
Organisers of the three-day festival being held at Bannockburn are warning ticket sales could be affected by the free Armed Forces Day event on the first day of their event.
Local politicians say the double-header will leave Stirling Council with a “huge” logistical headache and an alternative date should have been found for Armed Forces Day, which may attract more than 50,000 people.
To compound the logistical challenge, some 1,000 pipers are expected to take part in a pre-Bannockburn parade through Stirling the night before Armed Forces Day.
The review of the Bannockburn event is expected to examine the impact of the one-day military showpiece on plans to mark the battle’s anniversary, which was expected to attract around 45,000 people.
A high-level taskforce set up to handle the clash of the two events includes the National Trust for Scotland, which is responsible for the battlefield site, Police Scotland and Unique Events, the firm producing the Bannockburn festival.
Armed Forces Day is expected to feature a 1,500-strong parade from the castle esplanade before a huge open-air gathering at Kings Park, which will have a tented village, military displays, performances by forces bands, and an air show. Although Armed Forces Day, on 28 June, is a free event, tickets for the Bannockburn festivities cost £22 each or £60 for a family.
At least three daily battle re-enactments are planned as part of the “Bannockburn Live” festival, which will involve music, a food and drink showcase, a clan village and outdoor activities. The event has received a public subsidy of £400,000 so far.
Unique Events managing director Pete Irvine said: “We are currently re-looking at the whole event in Bannockburn again, because Armed Forces Day has now arrived on the same weekend.
“We obviously have to reconsider things. There are now going to be huge crowds coming to Armed Forces Day. We have to work out how the two events sit side by side and how they are worked logistically.
“You can’t move the date of a battle that was 700 years ago. The weekend before is when the new Bannockburn visitor centre officially opens. We can’t have the festival on then because of the number of visitors that are expected to come for the opening event.”
Caroline Packman, Homecoming project director at EventScotland, said: “We are now working very closely with Stirling Council, who are leading on the organising of Armed Forces Day, and we have set up a project management structure to make sure everything is properly coordinated.
“The intention is that, rather than just having two separate events, there will be a coordinated programme of activity in Stirling across the whole weekend.
“We are having to be even more meticulous in our planning so that we don’t have, for example, the Red Arrows flying overhead during one of the battle re-enactments.”
Scott Farmer, SNP group leader on Stirling Council, said: “Having these two events on the one weekend will present a huge logistical challenge for our officers.
“The announcement that Armed Forces Day was coming here came like a bolt out the blue and the council will have to find around £250,000 to meet the costs of the event. It would have been better to have had these events on different weekends so the business community had two bites at the cherry.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out in Stirling for the Ministry of Defence’s annual showpiece, held in Edinburgh in 2011, which will include a 1,500-strong parade from the castle esplanade to Kings Park. Stirling was one of five bidders to host the event, which will be held for the sixth time on 28 June.
Around 100,000 people turned out for the most recent event in Nottingham, which saw Prince Harry represent the Queen. Both Prince Charles, left, and Prime Minister David Cameron attended the event in Edinburgh two years ago, which saw a march down the Royal Mile.
The Bannockburn Live festival is one of the centrepiece events of the second Year of Homecoming, which the SNP has instigated next year to coincide with the battle anniversary, along with the staging of the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup in Scotland.
The chance to see historical encampments and “brutally realistic” battle re-enactments are expected to be among the main draws at the three-day event, which has a capacity of around 45,000.
The festival arena will include a contemporary music stage, a showcase of Scotland’s natural produce and outdoor activities.