Virgin Money in Edinburgh festival fireworks deal

THE future of the spectacular fireworks finale to Edinburgh’s summer festivals season has been secured for another two years, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Virgin Money, which has backed the Edinburgh International Festival event since 2011, has signed up again following months of talks with organisers.

The move ensures that the fireworks concert – which was first held in 1982 – will not have to be scaled down or shelved in 2014, the final year of Australian impresario Jonathan Mills’ reign at the helm of the festival.

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About 250,000 spectators gather in the city centre to watch the display, which involves more than 100,000 fireworks being blasted off Edinburgh Castle rock.

The sponsorship deal – one of the most lucrative involving the arts in Scotland – is thought to be worth in the region of £250,000 a year. Virgin Money, which is the financial services division of Sir Richard Branson’s empire, is also the current sponsor of the London marathon.

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Mills, the festival’s director, said: “We’re delighted that, after two years of supporting our stunning fireworks finale, Virgin Money has decided to continue its sponsorship for a further two years.

“The company has already proved itself a strong new player in Scottish corporate life, and we are pleased it is engaging with enthusiasm in Edinburgh and Scotland’s ­cultural life.”

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Virgin Money is also thought to be in negotiations to extend its backing of the free street theatre arenas run during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on the Royal Mile and the Mound.

The new deal for the EIF event – officially known as the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert since 2011 – has been confirmed days ahead of the festival launch on Tuesday. Virgin Atlantic is also due to launch a Edinburgh-London Heathrow service next month.

The future of the fireworks event – which is built around an open-air concert by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra – had previously been in doubt when its long-time backer Bank of Scotland pulled out, and festival organisers had ­issued a ­major appeal for potential sponsors to come forward.

Virgin Money’s involvement came at a time of financial uncertainty for the capital’s festivals, with Royal Bank of Scotland ending its involvement with the Fringe and Standard Life pulling out of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. RBS is still involved with the Tattoo and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

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Paul Lloyd, Virgin Money’s marketing director, said: ­“Virgin Money is proud to be the headline sponsor of the Edinburgh International Festival fireworks concert. Last year’s event was a magnificent spectacle and was a perfect fit in the year of the Queen’s ­Diamond Jubilee.

“The fireworks concert is a fitting finale to a festival with a global reputation and we are delighted to announce that Virgin Money will continue as headline sponsor for the next two years.”

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The new deal for the fireworks concert is also a major boost for the SCO ahead of its 40th anniversary celebrations. Roy McEwan, the orchestra’s chief executive, said: “We are overjoyed that Virgin Money will continue to sponsor the fireworks concert for a ­further two years.

“We have formed a great partnership with them and, ­together with the Edinburgh International Festival, we are developing what will be a spectacular event for the 30th fireworks concert.”

Priority booking for the ­fireworks concert opens on Wednesday.