No less a leader than Winston Churchill said: “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing, but reflection…”
So with the Christmas festivities now well under way in the heart of Edinburgh it is an opportune time to reflect – and look back on a great year of partnerships and progress that have enhanced our city centre and continue to make it a great place to visit, work, live and enjoy.
Event Scotland, Visit Scotland, Scottish Enterprise, the City of Edinburgh Council, European Rugby, Edinburgh International Festival, Underbelly, Salt n Sauce, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Unique Events to name but a few have all worked closely this year with Essential Edinburgh to bring activity and events to the city.
As a small organisation that facilitates and promotes activity this has been a key part of the progress made in the year. These events have ranged from the striking Bloom in St Andrew Square, to the imaginative Edinburgh Georgian Shadows, the celebratory Red, Red Rose Street and the inaugural break out of the Book Festival from Charlotte Square.
This activity, amongst other things has contributed to the city centre increasing its retail sales by 3.1 per cent on the year with leisure and hospitality sales up by more than 6 per cent . It is crucial that Essential Edinburgh uses its available resources to achieve maximum benefit for our member businesses and through working closely with partners we have achieved this. In fact, for an investment of just over £100,000 we delivered nearly £6million of economic impact through our own four key events, and once the partner events are added in this impact will be in excess of £150m.
Late last month, we celebrated the start of the Christmas activities with our annual Light Night bringing more than 20,000 people onto George Street. In partnership with event organisers Underbelly, an afternoon of music and dance by local groups was concluded with a fantastic firework display.
If you doubt the impact of light displays at this time of year, consider this: last year, the Street of Light attracted more than 280,000 people to George Street over the festive season, driving an increase in footfall of 47 per cent. The start of the Christmas celebrations is always a big moment for any city centre as it signals the start of the crucial trading period. We are delighted to play a major role in supporting this both financially and logistically.
Our annual report highlights many of the key success and other partnerships delivered during the year, and these range from our award-winning work in trade waste collection with Changeworks Recycling, wayfinding in the east end of the city centre, partnerships with vital third sector organisations to help address issues of homelessness and begging, supporting important projects such as China Ready, and delivering vital reports on key city centre issues through the collation and publication of Essential Trends each month.
Over the years we have launched a number of successful initiatives aimed at making the city safe and secure – usually through partnerships. These have included Check Out, to reduce retail crime, Check In to tackle hotel fraud, and Gold Watch to help deter criminals targeting our city centre jewellers.
In addition, we have helped increase the presence of CCTV in the area, and our taxi marshalls help those enjoying our weekend night-time economy get home safely and more easily.
Recently, our innovative partnership with Police Scotland to support a dedicated city centre policeman is already bearing fruit with increased communication between businesses and police, crime prevention and awareness training and an increased street presence all going to support everyone feeling safe and secure.Finally I would like to wish you all a safe, happy and prosperous 2018.
Roddy Smith, chief executive, Essential Edinburgh