Edinburgh's Christmas: 'Silent discos' and 20 more stalls to be brought into Princes Street Gardens

Edinburgh’s lucrative Christmas festival set to take over more of Princes Street Gardens under a radical rethink for the event which will see new elements staged in the Old Town and outwith the city centre.

Organisers have revealed plans to run 20 new stalls on the south side of the Edinburgh-Glasgow railway line and bring daily festive-themed “silent disco” tours into the gardens for the first time.

A record 163 different stalls and bars will be spread across East Princes Street Gardens and The Mound precinct under a revamp designed to accommodate changes in the park since a major landscaping project was carried out as part of a £22 million project to improve access to the Scottish National Gallery.

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Silent Adventures, which runs silent disco tours across the UK, will be staging them from Monday-Friday in East Princes Street Gardens, avoiding the busy weekend peak periods at the markets and bars.

The expanded use of East Princes Street Gardens has been agreed by council chiefs after an announcement this summer about a review of the city’s Christmas and Hogmanay festivals against a backdrop of debate over commercialisation of public space and the so-called “Disneyfication” of the city centre.

However organisers have insisted the people of Edinburgh have “voted with their feet” in favour of using the gardens for Christmas events, with the local audience making up around a third of the overall attendees at the event, which offers a 20 per cent discount to people with EH postcodes. They insist there will only be a “net increase” of 12 stalls in the gardens as less space is available on their north side due to the re-landscaping work.

'Night Walk' in the Old Town

The overhaul of the Christmas festival, which sold more than 771,000 tickets last year and was worth more than £110 million for the economy, will see the “Light Night” curtain-raiser relocated to the Royal Mile, where Santa Claus will appear over the heads of the crowds as part of a 90-minute event running from the City Chambers to the Lawnmarket.

The Old Town will also play host to a revival of a critically-acclaimed “Night Walk”, first staged as part of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival, which audiences experience with the help of a tablet and headphones as they walk around its historic streets.

There will be no major attractions in St Andrew Square, where the ice rink has been banned by its owners, George Street, which has been home to the “Street of Light” attraction in recent years, or Festival Square, which has had its own pop-up theatre.

However festival producers Underbelly will stage 12 new community celebrations on 12 different days across the city in the likes of Craigmillar, Gilmerton, Oxgangs, Wester Hailes, Granton and Broomhouse.

Underbelly director Charlie Wood said: “We are slightly changing things around in the gardens this year, including having some stalls on the south side of the train lines.

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“Edinburgh’s Christmas festival is a highly popular event. We do accept that some people don’t like it, but people have voted with their feet. More than 3.5 million people walked through the festival site last year.

"The reason why the event generates £113 million for the economy is that it is sole or the main reason for those people coming into the city centre at Christmas. That’s surely a good thing. If people in Edinburgh didn’t like it they wouldn’t come to the event.”