Edinburgh’s Hogmanay director to step down

Director is still amazed Princes Street party got the go-ahead. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Director is still amazed Princes Street party got the go-ahead. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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One of the linchpins of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations is to end his involvement after 20 years – and he still cannot believe they were allowed to stage the huge Princes Street party in the first place.

Barry Wright, 67, is stepping down as the event’s operations director, which has seen him lead the team behind a celebration now worth more than £30 million to Scotland’s economy.

Mr Wright, who will continue to work as an event consultant and organise outdoor concerts at Edinburgh Castle each summer, said he had not had a year off since 1989.

He has been one of Scotland’s top promoters since the 1970s, and launched Glasgow’s Hogmanay bash in George Square with business partner Pete Irvine to mark the city’s reign as European capital of culture.

Three years later, the pair –who founded Regular Music, Scotland’s first major music promoter – persuaded councillors in Edinburgh to allow them to stage a concert in the shadow of the Castle and provide entertainment on Princes Street.

Mr Wright and Mr Irvine started working together in the late 1970s, staging gigs at Tiffany’s in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge and launched a rock festival during the Fringe in 1978.

They were behind the live music venue created above the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1980, the reopening of the Barrowlands in Glasgow in 1984 and stadium concerts by acts such as Simple Minds, U2, Prince and REM.

Their Unique Events company pitched a Hogmanay party idea to Edinburgh councillors in 1993 after staging a string of events to coincide with the EU summit in the city at the end of 1992.

The flagship “concert in the gardens” was part of the initial Hogmanay event.

Mr Wright said: “We did the two Hogmanay events to mark the beginning and end of the European City of Culture year in Glasgow. At that time, nothing at all happened in Edinburgh. All there was then was a few hundred people having a fight and throwing bottles around at the Tron. You would literally go up there for a barney.

“We produced a report for the city which basically said that Edinburgh had a fantastic venue and site, the city and Scotland was the home of Hogmanay, and we should own it.

“It was really about changing the whole image of what New Year was about. There had actually been bills from the 1600s onwards banning any kind of celebration at Hogmanay.

“There was a very positive attitude from the city. Absolutely everyone bought into it That is what made it so good – the police and council were onside.

“I never thought I’d be allowed to close Princes Street for a party. It’s a bit of a little boy’s dream to do something amazing on that scale and something that the whole world has a great time from.

“I’m always amazed that we were ever allowed to do it.”

While Mr Irvine has been the artistic and creative director of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay since its inception – and very much its public face – Mr Wright has been the man responsible for the smooth running of the event on the night.

Over the past two decades, he has spent Hogmanay with police and council officers in the main command control room. He said: “Nowadays, one or two people get arrested, and less than 100 people have any injury at all out of 80,000 people.

“Around 24 per cent of people who go are from overseas, with two-thirds from outside Scotland, and it creates the equivalent of 580 full-time jobs.”