Edinburgh Hogmanay: Thousands of unsold tickets

ORGANISERS were left with thousands of unsold tickets for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party – despite a last-minute rush when the weather forecast improved.
The Edinburgh street party saw 70,000 revellers - the event had a capacity of 80,000. Picture: Jane BarlowThe Edinburgh street party saw 70,000 revellers - the event had a capacity of 80,000. Picture: Jane Barlow
The Edinburgh street party saw 70,000 revellers - the event had a capacity of 80,000. Picture: Jane Barlow

Police chiefs said around 70,000 people attended the capital’s world-famous celebrations, which was 10,000 lower than the official capacity.

The attendance was recorded after organisers increased the cost of tickets for the street party to £20 – their highest ever level – to help boost the line-up of acts.

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The official box office on the Royal Mile was kept open 90 minutes later than planned on Hogmanay – until just half an hour before security gates were closed – to accommodate last-minute revellers.

The Edinburgh street party saw 70,000 revellers - the event had a capacity of 80,000. Picture: Jane BarlowThe Edinburgh street party saw 70,000 revellers - the event had a capacity of 80,000. Picture: Jane Barlow
The Edinburgh street party saw 70,000 revellers - the event had a capacity of 80,000. Picture: Jane Barlow

Several thousand party-goers were thought to be inside the arena before ticket cordons began operating in the early evening.

Unique Events, who organise the capital’s celebrations on behalf of the city council, insisted ticket sales had not been affected by the decision to increase the price of most tickets by £5.

Organisers admitted only 70,500 tickets were sold in advance for the event, which is promoted on official website as having capacity for “80,000 revellers.”

However a spokeswoman insisted a further 5000 passes were kept aside for staff working at the event, including the emergency services, broadcasters, traders in on-street bars and performing artists.

The festivities were the first to be organised under a new £1.3 million, three-year joint contract to run the city’s festive events, awarded to Edinburgh-based Unique and Fringe promoters Underbelly last February.

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The London-based firm has already faced criticism over its prices for certain Christmas events.

The official attendance last year was said to be around 75,000. The capacity of the street party was lowered five years ago, from 100,000, due to a drop in demand following the introduction of charges for tickets a decade ago. Unique was awarded an additional £400,000 by Visit-Scotland to boost Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh and around the country to ensure there was a high-profile start to a 12-month “Homecoming” campaign, with early-evening fireworks displays.

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The flagship Concert in the Gardens, headlined by the Pet Shop Boys, sold out the day before the event, while an open-air ceilidh on the Mound was also fully subscribed.

The tickets for the street party failed to sell out despite some of Scotland’s biggest musical acts – including Chvrches, King Creosote and Django Django – being booked to appear and the event enjoying almost perfect weather conditions.

However, Pete Irvine, the creative guru behind the event, argued that people were put off buying tickets after Christmas in the wake of reports that the event could be affected by bad weather after the pre-event safety briefing with the Met Office, council officials and the police. A police spokesman said an “agreed attendance” of 70,000 had been recorded at the event, which is organised jointly with the city council and Unique Events.

The Scotsman told last week how weather forecasters were warning there would be “no great change” to the pattern of storm weather which had hit various parts of the country over the festive season.

Council chiefs admitted at the time that the fate of the event was “in the hands of the weather gods”.

Mr Irvine said: “We did not hear a murmur of discontent about the ticket prices. Everything other than the street party was sold out in advance. We didn’t sell out the concert last year, when Simple Minds played.

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“Some of the reports about the weather put people off. The Met Office said we had had unsettled weather and that it may continue over the event. I’ve had a word with them about it.

“There were storms around the country but, relatively speaking, the weather in Edinburgh has actually been OK over the last few weeks. There was no actual indication of bad weather here.”

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Ironically, organisers of the capital’s Hogmanay festival were forced to apologise after too many people turned out for what was billed as one of the biggest ever celebrations of Scottish culture. Around 9000 people were said to have descended on the National Museum of Scotland to take part in the Scot:Lands event, which saw them spin a wheel to be sent to one of nine historic venues across the Old Town.

However they faced lengthy queues to see the free music, theatre and dance performances, which were inspired by different parts of Scotland and featured a host of big-name performers.

Among the venues to drew huge crowds were St Giles’ Cathedral, Dance Base, Greyfriars Kirk, The Hub, the Roxy Art House and the City Art Centre as part of the £200,000 “Scot:Lands” event, which was funded by the Scottish Government.

Mr Irvine, who is also artistic director of the festival, said: “There were some very lengthy queues and we can only apologise for them. I hate queuing myself. It was down to the sheer numbers of people who turned up.

“We’ll be reviewing the event, which you have to remember was completely free. Ideally, we’d run an event like this over five days.”

Scottish Album of the Year winner RM Hubbert, Mercury Music Prize nominee King Creosote, BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winners Lau and Karine Polwart and acclaimed actress-director Cora Bissett appeared.

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Among the areas which inspired the various shows were the East Neuk of Fife, the Shetland Islands, Ullapool, in the Highlands, and the former mining village of Pathhead, in Midlothian.

The New Year’s Day festivities in the capital were rounded off with a “One For The Road” event which saw pubs in the Grassmarket host live music performances.

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Meanwhile, police chiefs reported just five arrests were made at Scotland’s biggest Hogmanay party – and praised the “good-natured conduct” of the global audience that descended on the capital. Four arrests were made at the street party 12 months previously.

No major incidents were reported inside the event arena during the five-hour event, where extra fireworks displays were staged in the run-up to the Bells.

One overseas visitor, Great Pang, 35, from Beijing, in China, told The Scotsman: “It’s terrific here – the music and DJs have been fantastic. People do like to drink too much, but all this is a good excuse to drink too much.”

Organisers of Scotland’s Year of Homecoming hailed the stunning backdrop of “fire, light and music” created around the country at the nation’s first linked celebrations, which saw special displays above the Wallace Monument, and Stirling and Inverness castles.

But Mr Irvine, whose company also masterminded the joint celebrations – which were aimed at capitalising on “Scotland’s Big Year” in 2014 – has said that it was disappointing that Glasgow was not part of the linked festivities.

He said: “We had hoped Glasgow would be involved and did talk about doing something, but the problem is Glasgow does not have the arena that we have in Edinburgh, or that Stirling and Inverness do.

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“All there is in George Square is an ice rink and a big tent. It is a shame. All they had was the indoor broadcast for the BBC.”