UP TO £1.2 million of public money is to be ploughed into a gala party to herald the arrival of the Ryder Cup golf tournament in Scotland next year.
The opening ceremony – which will be held days after the referendum vote in September, 2014 – is expected to be one of the most prestigious events ever staged in the country and is aimed at showcasing Scotland to a global audience.
Although the three-day golf competition is being held at Gleneagles in Perthshire, the 12,000-capacity Hydro arena in Glasgow will form the backdrop for a mixture of Scottish and American artists in a show that could be broadcast live on television.
Many of those in attendance will be players, officials, visiting VIPs and media covering the Ryder Cup, but some tickets will be kept aside for the general public.
The aim is to emulate the open-air concert staged at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff before Wales hosted the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor three years ago. Dame Shirley Bassey, Katherine Jenkins and Catherine Zeta Jones topped the bill at that event, which also saw the European and American teams introduced to the crowd.
Event companies from around the world are thought to be vying to stage the “once-in-a-lifetime” event, which some of Scotland’s leading performers are expected to be invited to appear at.
It is understood the Hydro event will feature a mixture of pop, rock, folk and classical music acts. Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti and Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis joined forces to perform together at the official Ryder Cup “handover” ceremony in Chicago last year and could reunite in Glasgow.
Robbie Clyde, EventScotland’s Ryder Cup project director, said: “The Wednesday of the Ryder Cup week has built into a real curtain-raiser at previous Ryder Cups and we are looking to build on that even further. We’ve gone out to tender at the moment for an opening concert that will provide that showcase for the beginning of the week.
“It will be a concert celebrating what is great about Scottish music and Scotland’s artists. It will also be a Homecoming signature event next year.
“Obviously, half of the interest in the Ryder Cup comes from our cousins over the water, so we want to ensure it is a line-up and creative presentation that appeals to as wide an audience as possible.
“But this is all about broadening the reach of the Ryder Cup. There will be plenty of people going to the concert who will not be going to Gleneagles.”
The Ryder Cup concert – which is expected to be the most expensive event of 2014’s Year of Homecoming – is being paid for by national tourism agency VisitScotland and its events arm, EventScotland.
The bill for the event is over and above the £10 million cost to the public purse of bringing the Ryder Cup to Scotland, as well as VisitScotland’s marketing initiatives around the event, which are expected to cost several million pounds more.
The last Year of Homecoming cost £5.5m in total, but the 2014 celebrations, which will coincide with the Scottish independence referendum, are expected to be much higher profile because they will coincide with the Ryder Cup, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.
As well as the £1.2m Ryder Cup concert, a £4m cultural programme linked to the Commonwealth Games is planned, as well as a further £1m fund from arts agency Creative Scotland for as-yet-unannounced Homecoming projects.
DF Concerts, promoters of T in the Park, are expected to be among the front-runners to stage the Ryder Cup event, along with Unique Events, the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay producers, who will also organise the Bannockburn celebrations.
The event is being billed by VisitScotland as “a once-in-a-lifetime concert which will celebrate the very best in Scotland’s music, film, fashion and culture on a global stage, a fitting opening to one of the world’s biggest sporting events, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles which will feature a host of stars from both sides of the pond.”
Clyde added: “At the end of the day, we are experts in tourism, but are we experts in putting on big concerts? No. That’s why we’ve gone out to the market to identify the very best company or companies that can deliver that for us.
“We’ve had interest from all over the world. We are at the end of the tender process at the moment and within the next few weeks we’ll be finalising the contracts.”
VisitScotland has had to ringfence £10m to meet the costs of staging the Ryder Cup, which will be held from 23 to 28 September, and help promote golf in the run-up to the tournament.
The agency has also pre-booked 6,000 hotel rooms for the event, around half of which are in Glasgow, 2,000 in Edinburgh, with the remainder in locations such as Perthshire and Stirlingshire. Around 45,000 spectators a day are expected at Gleneagles, with a further 7,000 people due to be working on site.