It’s selfish and elitist to object to Summer Sessions concerts – Geoff Ellis

It’s fine to dislike the music of Lewis Capaldi or Tom Jones, but Princes Street Gardens are for all to enjoy – music fans included, writes Geoff Ellis.

The Summer Sessions in Princes Street Gardens.
The Summer Sessions in Princes Street Gardens.

We are exceptionally lucky to have the support of thousands of music fans, who bought tickets for nine outstanding shows, which included local artists too, during Summer Sessions in Princes Street Gardens. Whilst sales tell us that people love these concerts, we face the inevitable complaints from a few, including Cliff Hague of the Cockburn Association in Scotland On Sunday at the weekend.

We are all entitled to opinions, but I feel a duty to respond in the interests of fairness and honesty, and to stand up for music lovers in this city.

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Cliff Hague: Princes St gigs mean curtains for common good
Lewis Capaldi on stage during his recent Summer Sessions concert in Princes Street Gardens. Picture: Neil Hanna

At DF Concerts & Events, we’re all about making incredible cultural experiences accessible to as many people as possible. We’re proud to be at the forefront of the hugely important music scene in Scotland. Our Summer Sessions concerts attract international appeal, bringing 50,000 visitors into the Gardens, a third of whom reside in Edinburgh, to enjoy music surrounded by a stunning setting.

We understand Cliff may personally dislike the music of Lewis Capaldi and Tom Jones, but that doesn’t mean he should deny Edinburgh audiences from seeing them outdoors in their city – which is realistically the alternative.

The Gardens are for everyone to enjoy, including music fans. To deny such joys is both selfish and elitist. We received feedback that the experience we offer for accessible customers is magnificent and beyond what is offered by most event organisers.

The sarcastic comments regarding Summer Sessions are largely childish. We work with Police Scotland and council officials to ensure safety is maintained throughout. We listened to feedback, installing a retractable curtain to allow full views of the Gardens during the day. A happy medium, in my view.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive of DF Concerts. Picture: John Devlin

Safety is our only concern with regards to the screening, and the barriers have been placed in front of the benches to prevent anyone climbing railings and risking injury. There is still ample space to walk on the pavements but if people congregate there, it becomes unsafe.

If Cliff’s aversion is to ticketed events, I wonder if he appreciates that “free” concerts must still be paid for, presumably as a burden to council tax payers. The city council would lose revenue from renting out the Gardens, which are not free to hire. In fact, the fireworks which Mr Hague approves of may only take place for one night each year, but actually block access to the Gardens for a week beforehand. It begs the question – why isn’t he consistent in his disapproval?

Furthermore, not that I have any issue with the fantastic event, I’ve never seen criticism from such commentators on the fencing blocking Charlotte Square each year for the Book Festival. Is this one rule for literature and another for rock ‘n’ roll? That hardly seems fair.

Eyes from around the world are on Edinburgh during August, and it feels right that locals and visitors can enjoy an iconic music festival as part of the festivities, boosting the atmosphere and civic pride in the city. We’re bringing communities together, and generating hundreds of thousands of pounds for the local economy at the same time. With the images the world sees of our stage beneath the iconic Edinburgh Castle, we are doing our bit to promote the beauty of Edinburgh on an international scale to potential visitors. Perhaps Lords Cockburn and Moncreiff would have approved! It’s been said that these concerts are Scotland’s Red Rocks equivalent. I would argue that they are even better, and we hope to be back again in 2020!

Geoff Ellis is the chief executive of DF Concerts