Sales of tickets for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festival have soared in countries across the EU after organisers launched a charm offensive to celebrate Scotland’s relationship with the rest of Europe.
Organisers have reported the most significant surges in bookings for the celebrations from Spain, Germany and Italy. The news emerged as the main street party was declared a 60,000 sell-out more than 24 hours in advance.
They say the event will have significant echoes of the first Edinburgh International Festival, which was staged in the aftermath of the Second World War, to provide “a platform for the flowering of the human spirit”. The German band Meute has been asked to create a special soundtrack for the main fireworks display.
The three-day Hogmanay festival, which got under way with a spectacular fire parade through the historic heart of the Old Town, have been promoted with a “We Love You” strapline this year to coincide with the run-up to Brexit.
Thousands of torch-bearers formed an image of a love heart in the middle of a map of Scotland in Holyrood Park at the climax of the annual curtain-raiser, which brought tens of thousands of spectators on to the streets.
Official Hogmanay celebrations were first organised in Edinburgh 25 years ago following the success of a one-off programme of winter events staged in the city to coincide with its hosting of an EU summit in December 1992.
Underbelly, the current producers of the Hogmanay festival, have invited street performers, musicians and DJs from France, Germany and Spain to take part in events. All three countries, along with Italy and the Netherlands, have been targeted in online marketing campaigns.
Tickets have been sold to more than 80 countries, while organisers are also reporting record interest from international media arriving in Edinburgh to in cover the event.
Underbelly – which says it wants to celebrate the city’s internationalism and its cultural links with Europe in the way the first Edinburgh International Festival did in 1947 – has commissioned six writers to create “love letters” to Europe for the event.
Images of their words will be projected on to six landmarks around the city, including the National Monument on Calton Hill, the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile, and Leith’s former Customs House.
Underbelly director Charlie Wood said: “Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has always been a festival of celebration and a time when one looks back and forward. The city asks the world to come through its door to celebrate the end of one year and the start of another.
“Regardless of what happens in 2019, Scotland and Britain will still be a full part of Europe, social, culturally and historically, but that is particularly the case in Edinburgh with the history of its festivals.
“When a committee was formed in 1945 to set up the Edinburgh International Festival its intention was to create a new post-war identity as ‘the cultural resort of Europe.’
“I think it is entirely right, as Britain may be just about to exit the EU, for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay to restate that and celebrate that we are still very much a social, creative and artistic focal point for Europe.
“Hogmanay is playing its part in ensuring we honour a founding principle of the festivals. Our response is a cultural one, not a political one. It’s a statement which we hope will engage our audiences and the wider world to emphasise that whatever happens politically in 2019, Scotland will remain part of Europe culturally, socially and historically.
“I can’t think of a better representation of our celebration than asking the German band Meute to compose the music for the midnight fireworks off Edinburgh Castle. It’s an echo of the Vienna Philarmonic performing in 1947 at the Edinburgh International Festival.
“We’ve sold more tickets than ever before at this stage, we have more press and media accredited from around the world. The eyes of the world will be on Edinburgh. It’s a great opportunity to say it is still very much part of Europe and it wants to celebrate its links with Europe.”
Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, who led the torchlight procession to Holyrood Park, said: “For 25 years now we’ve hosted one of the world’s best New Year’s Eve celebrations. The festivities set just the right tone for how we’ll enter the new year.
“Our capital is international and outward looking, we’re proud of our citizens and welcome our visitors. We celebrate our reputation as the ‘festival capital of the world’ and we’ll always be a beacon of culture.”