Edinburgh's Hogmanay: Plug pulled on torchlight procession through city centre

Edinburgh has pulled the plug on the torchlight procession that normally launches its Hogmanay celebrations.

Tens of thousands of people normally line the streets of the city to watch the “river of fire” spectacle. Funding problems and the economic climate have been blamed for the decision to scrap the event this year.

Doubts over the future of the fire parade emerged last year after an opinion poll on the future of the city’s winter festivals, which was carried out while Covid restrictions were in place, found “mass gatherings” were one of the least popular elements of the Hogmanay celebrations.

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Edinburgh has already confirmed the scaling back of its Hogmanay street party to a capacity of 30,000 this year – roughly half of what it was pre-pandemic. However, the city council, which provides the bulk of funding for the festivities, and the new producers it has brought in to stage the event this year both said they hoped the torchlight procession would be able to return in 2023.

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The fire parade has traditionally launched the city's Hogmanay festival since the first official events were staged nearly 30 years ago. Fears for the future of the scale and programme of the Hogmanay festival emerged earlier this year after the city council failed to confirm any direct funding from the Scottish Government for this year's programme before putting a new tender out.

Unique Events, the company that launched the festival in 1993, joined forces with Fringe operator Assembly to form a consortium, which secured a £4 million contract to take over the city's world-famous new year festivities for up to five years.

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It has announced a series of back-to-back events in West Princes Street Gardens featuring the Pet Shop Boys, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Altered Images, Tide Lines and Elephant Sessions. However, growing numbers of people who had booked trips to Edinburgh for the Hogmanay festival had been questioning why tickets for the torchlight procession had not gone on sale.

A statement from Unique Events and Assembly said: “We have been trying hard to find a way to bring the torchlight procession into Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations this year. However, we are very disappointed to confirm that due to the current economic climate, and the drop in available funding, we are unable to go ahead with this event in 2022.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay torchlight procession brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of the city centre. Picture: Ian Georgeson

“Our full programme of events, including activities for families and children, will be announced later this week. We very much hope to bring back the torchlight procession to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme in 2023.”

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City council leader Cammy Day said: “This is a new chapter for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration as we continue to build back following the pandemic. I’m sure many will be disappointed that the torchlight procession hasn’t returned straight away, but we look forward to seeing it back next year, better than ever.

“Whilst I share the disappointment with many that we won’t see the return of the torchlight procession, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay will still be the best place to welcome 2023.

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“So far Unique and Assembly have announced an exciting ‘Night Afore Disco Party’ with Sophie Ellis-Bextor, the return of the best street party in the world with Pet Shop Boys headlining the ‘Concert in the Gardens’ and have topped it off with an inaugural New Year’s Day ‘Final Fling’ showcase.”

A torchlight procession has traditionally launched Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival.

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