THE organisers of the T in the Park music festival are bidding to take over Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations, The Scotsman has learned.
DF Concerts, which also runs Glasgow’s outdoor ice rink and handled the visit of the Pope to the city, is preparing a bid for the two events after they were jointly put out to tender for the first time in five years.
The move could see long-time Hogmanay producers Unique Events ousted from any involvement with the Hogmanay festival, which the firm has masterminded for the past 20 years.
DF Concerts has organised T in the Park since its inception in 1994 and is also the promoter of major outdoor concerts at the likes of Hampden Park in Glasgow and Murrayfield in Edinburgh. It also ran the ill-fated Connect festival in Inveraray for two years in a row before it was axed due to poor ticket sales. The company was behind the long-running T on the Fringe strand of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but has scaled back its involvement since the withdrawal of sponsors Tennent’s.
At its height, major outdoor shows were staged in Princes Street Gardens, where the main Hogmanay concert is held, as well as Meadowbank Stadium.
DF Concerts is understood to have been in talks with Durham-based firm She’s Gott It, which has organised Edinburgh’s main Christmas events in the past five years, about launching a joint bid. One source said: “It is no surprise DF Concerts are interested in this contract. The company has huge experience of outdoor events and could easily handle both Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and T in the Park because of the large gaps in the calendar between the two events.
“The council is always looking to keep the costs of the Hogmanay programme down and the successful bid will have to be very competitive.”
Another insider said questions had been raised about the mid-January deadline for bids because of its close proximity to the Christmas and Hogmanay events.
Tender documents issued by the city council state that they are seeking bids to run the events for up to 2018, including a two-year extension option. Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, said the shake-up for future events was aimed at ensuring they go from “strength to strength and are fresh and exciting”.
The tender documents state: “The successful contractor shall be required to produce, deliver and manage a range of services connected to the design, co-ordination, management and delivery of Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay festivals.
“The successful contractor shall act as the central point to drive all activities associated with the design and delivery of the festivals and have overall responsibility to develop and deliver the entertainment programme, sponsorship and marketing to ensure the best possible visitor experience is created and delivered to the highest possible standard.”
The Christmas events in and around Princes Street Gardens were run by Unique Events and veteran Fringe promoter Karen Koren from 2000 until 2007, when the contract was handed to She’s Gott it.
The decision was blamed on behind-the-scenes friction between Unique Events supremo Pete Irvine and senior council officials ultimately responsible for the events.
Ms Koren was later brought back in by She’s Gott It to help run the ice rink, but she has not been involved for several years after the council was forced to write off a sum of debt.
Unique Events was handed a contract to run the Christmas events in the spring of 2000 after the city council decided to scale down the capital’s Hogmanay festivities after the Millennium.
Mr Cardownie, who is also the deputy council leader, said: “Edinburgh’s hugely popular Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations and attractions are an integral part of the Scottish festival calendar and annually provide a great boost to the economy.
“We want to ensure the events go from strength to strength and are fresh and exciting each year, which is why we keep them constantly under review.
“We are confident that, by consolidating the promotion and management of the programmes, we can maintain and improve upon their long-standing success in making Edinburgh a top destination for Christmas shopping, sensational Hogmanay events and festive family fun.”
No-one at DF Concerts was available to comment.
Mr Irvine told The Scotsman he was unaware of interest from DF Concerts in the new contract for the two events, but declined to comment further.
Mr Cardownie praised the policing of the event, and also called on revellers at this year’s event not to accept bottles of drink from strangers during the celebrations: “When I’m handling different questions about Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations from people in different parts of the world, they are amazed at the lack of problems.
“We have 75,000 people on Princes Street and the security given by the police and G4S is second to none. It’s an extremely safe environment and people know that they are able to go home safely.
“If someone you don’t know offers you a bottle, be very careful indeed. Come with your own drink so that you know where it has come from.”