Towering 80 metres above Edinburgh’s New Town, it was a dramatic new centrepiece for the city’s world famous festive celebrations.
However, despite offering 360 degree views, the festival’s “Drop Tower” has been shelved after just one year – after office workers were disrupted by the ear-piercing screams of festive revellers.
There were also complaints from businesses that the illuminated attraction, which could be seen from across the city, was out of keeping with the World Heritage status of the New Town.
The Drop Tower will instead be replaced by a mass “silent Christmas disco” attraction for up to 3,000 revellers at a time. Around 130 different shows, each running for 20 minutes, will be staged during the seven-week festival inside a huge light installation, which is returning to George Street under a new partnership between silent disco operators Silent Adventures.
However, unlike the Street of Light’s previous visit to the thoroughfare two years ago, which attracted more than 280,000 revellers, amplified music from the giant archways will be outlawed during the coming season.
And the silent Christmas disco, which will have three different soundtracks, will be timed to avoid normal office hours, getting under way at 6:15pm Monday to Friday. Festive revellers will also have to pay £4.50 each to enjoy the full Silent Night experience.
The Drop Tower was brought to George Street for last year’s festivities in the wake of the popularity of the Star Flyer, a 60m tall ride that has been a feature of the city centre’s Christmas attractions since 2013.
Roddy Smith, chief executive of business group Essential Edinburgh, said there was “more or less unanimous” opposition to it returning.
He said: “One of the main reasons was that it was sited in the middle of a lot of businesses and it just wasn’t appropriate to have people flying down at great pace and screaming all the time. In terms of the aesthetics of the street, it didn’t look great either. Everyone was pretty much agreed that that sort of thing isn’t what George Street needs. It needs a high-quality light attraction.
“Street of Light is comfortably the best thing that has ever been on George Street in my opinion. Underbelly wanted to make it a bit different to how it was in 2016. What’s proposed is the perfect fit for George Street and will have a great impact on the late afternoon and evening footfall. It will be a real centrepoint for Christmas activity in our area. It’s also very important that it is happening in the west end, a key strategic priority for us.”
Dr William Duncan, chairman of the George Street Association, said: “The general concern about George Street is about putting things on that you would expect in an upmarket, high-class street in a World Heritage site.
“There is a difficult balance to be struck between things that will attract people across a wide range of interests that you would expect in a upmarket high-class street. There were a range of factors that gave people concern last year.
“Clearly the whole purpose of those sorts of rides are to create a thrill. Its physical size, it did attract some attention. It’s a case of trying to get things that are the most appropriate for a location. That sort of thing could be highly appropriate and attractive in another location. George Street has a diverse range of businesses. What suits one business is different to another. You experiment and see what works. If it doesn’t, you think again.
“Underbelly has taken on board the comments and feedback. The plans for this year seem to be much more in keeping with George Street.”
Underbelly director Charlie Wood said of the decision: “The local businesses are very keen to see something work on that section of George Street.
“We’ve been around them all to discuss our plans and they’re extremely excited.
“There were people who expressed concern about the Drop Tower last year, but the reason it’s not coming back is that we wanted to do something different this year.”