Should Festival fireworks be on Friday or Saturday?

It’s the traditional end to the Festival when a quarter of a million revellers gather to watch the largest fireworks concert of its type in the world.
Some kids could be missing out due to the fireworks being on a school night. Picture: Scott TaylorSome kids could be missing out due to the fireworks being on a school night. Picture: Scott Taylor
Some kids could be missing out due to the fireworks being on a school night. Picture: Scott Taylor

But with some children unable to attend the school-night extravaganza on Monday, questions are now being asked whether it should be moved to a Friday or Saturday slot.

While the display was held on a Sunday for many years, parents told the Evening News that the 10.30pm finish on a school night with lessons to get up for the next morning was too much of a strain.

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But there were also some who said that they preferred the new Monday night slot because there was generally less rowdiness and the event felt safer for children and families.

Some kids could be missing out due to the fireworks being on a school night. Picture: Scott TaylorSome kids could be missing out due to the fireworks being on a school night. Picture: Scott Taylor
Some kids could be missing out due to the fireworks being on a school night. Picture: Scott Taylor

Organisers have now pledged to “review” how the display worked this year before ruling on its future – but they also stressed that holding the display on a Saturday night was “not suitable”.

The fireworks finale was previously held on a Saturday but was moved to a Sunday back in 2004 amid claims the event was being marred by drunken teenagers causing trouble.

The display was also held 90 minutes earlier in a bid to make the spectacle more “family-friendly” after police admitted concerns about its Saturday slot.

Mother-of-two Amanda Campbell, of the parent council at Wester Hailes Education Centre, was among those who said she favoured a weekend display.

She said: “It should be held on a Friday or Saturday night. It is far too late at night. If you let kids stay up to watch it, they are absolutely knackered the next day. They are tired. They are grumpy. They get in trouble at school. It causes problems all around. This is not just about the children. It would just suit everyone better if it was on the weekend.

“Some folk are up at 6am for work [during the week] and more people would be able to enjoy it if it was held at the weekend.”

In 2001, a gang of teenagers embarked on a string of assaults which left 13 people injured, while the following year police swooped on gangs of youths heading into the city centre.

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Speaking at the time, the then-Festival director Brian McMaster said he felt growing numbers of families were reluctant to attend the event late on a Saturday night and that a move to an earlier slot on a Sunday would take some of the “tension” out of the atmosphere.

Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, wants the entire Festival to be moved to open up access to people living in the Capital.

Last week he said the Fringe should start in July to coincide with the school holidays. He said: “It wouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to change the calendar of the festivals and the school holidays so the festival finished on the Sunday and the schools go back the following Tuesday.

“Rather than the Festival move completely, the Festival could move back a week and the school holidays move forward a week.

“Then it [the firework display] would be the culmination of the school holidays and of the Festival. But whatever happens, I think the display would have to be on the last day of the Festival.”

Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s festivals champion, cautioned against any “knee-jerk reaction” in the days after the event.

He said he would welcome a “debate” but called for “sober” and “balanced” response, weighing up the pros and cons of a decision to move the display to a weekend slot.

He added: “At the end of every Festival they will review what went well.

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“This is the first time the International Festival and the Fringe have finished at the same time.

“That will have to be reviewed, as any of these operational matters have to be, by the organisers.

“Any change would have to be balanced against the fact the display is traditionally at the end of the Festival.

“It has been a fantastic year for the Festival with a great growth in sales but we will have to look at what the changes meant.

“There are pros and cons, arguments for and against [having the display on a weekend] which will need to be looked at as part of corporate strategy.

“One should always be exploring pros and cons. But [organisers] do that anyway, which is why the Festival is able to maintain its premier position.

“They are always looking at the offering and not resting on their laurels.

“So let’s have a proper look at how things went. But these things take time to digest. Let’s look at this in a sober and considered way rather than have a knee-jerk reaction.

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“The festivals are where they are because they are constantly open to new ideas.”

He also warned that having the fireworks at any other time than at the end of the Festival might take people away from gigs and events.

A spokeswoman for the organisers said: “The fireworks concert is the traditional final event of the summer festival season, which was on a Monday this year for the first time. It was for many years held on a Thursday night, then on Sunday nights, as a Saturday night was not suitable.

“The Festival and our partners will, of course, review how the event worked this year before deciding what is best and practically deliverable for the future. Comments and feedback will be brought into future planning.”

Meanwhile, proposals to move the event to a Friday or Saturday sparked lively debate on social media.

Writing on the Evening News Facebook page, Danielle Archibald wrote that the whole Festival should be moved to cover the school holidays, adding: “It’s not fair for the local kids to miss out.”

But Zander Clark argued that it should be on a Monday because of “all the kids that would be out drinking and causing bother”.

Gillian Martin wrote: “No, it should be on a Friday or Saturday night so the children of Edinburgh could attend. They already miss out on the Festival due to schools starting back in middle of August.”

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Tam Diamond added: “Why should local people miss out on the Festival or fireworks? The whole thing should be moved to allow locals to enjoy it.”

Jane Tierney wrote: “Too late for kids who have school in the morning. Don’t know why it can’t be a Friday or Saturday so kids can enjoy this.”

Debbie Kelly added: “So stupid that it’s been changed to a Monday!”

And Nell Conquer said: “Not too sure it’s a good time for all the young children wanting to watch who have school in the morning.”

Dave Scott said: “It’s a one-off event, I think it’s a more suitable/safe environment for children during the week since there’s less likelihood of people being blind drunk out on the town.

“It’s something I’ve taken my daughter to and will continue to as long as she wants to. A late finish is not an issue for one day tired at school. An early night tonight solves that problem.”

More than 400,000 fireworks, choreographed to live orchestral music, lit up the sky against the backdrop of the Castle on Monday.

This year the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker, performed classics with a dance theme, including Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, Dvorák’s Slavonic Dances, and Strauss’ Thunder and Lightning Polka, accompanied by a display created by international fireworks wizard Keith Webb of Pyrovision.