New organisers set to win control of Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay festivals till 2030
A new shake-up of Edinburgh's Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations is set to be ordered, with future organisers expected to run both festivals, reduce their impact on Princes Street Gardens and ensure a greater spread of attractions across the city centre.
City council officials are recommending handing over control of the two events for up to six years in the wake of the collapse of a contract for the Christmas festival last year months after it was signed.
They are expected to award the new contract - which could run until 2030 - much earlier than previously to help efforts to raise new funding, make them easier to run logistically and ensure detailed proposals are fully backed by the council.
Councillors have been warned against attempting to run the events in-house because of the level of financial risk the council could face. The council has also admitted it does not have the skills or expertise to run the two events on its own.
It has only currently allocated £813,000 for the winter festivals, all of which is intended for the three-day Hogmanay event.
The contractor is expected to cover all the costs of the Christmas festival, which is understood to have cost more than £3 million to stage in recent years, while the last Hogmanay event is believed to have cost more than £3.5 million.
The council launched a major review of the winter festivals in 2019 following growing concern about their impact on East Princes Street Gardens. More than 8600 people responded to a wide-ranging public consultation, with a majority calling for the events to continue, but in a revamped form.
Concerns were raised about levels of overcrowding, the cost of tickets and the targeting of the festivals more at visitors than the people of Edinburgh, while there were calls for a greater spread of events.
However food and drink were cited as the most popular elements of the Christmas festival, while fireworks and live music received the most backing for Hogmanay.
Separate three-year contract were approved by councillors last June, however German firm Angels Event Experience pulled the plug on its involvement in September after admitting it could not deliver on the terms of its £1 million Christmas festival contract.
A newly consortium formed by Unique Events and Assembly, which was awarded a three-year Hogmanay contract to produce the three-day event last summer, was later put in charge of the Christmas festival and has been re-appointed for this year.
The council is recommending that the new joint contract is awarded this year and would start to take effect for the 2024-25 event.
An official report states that future plans for the Christmas festival “should reduce the concentration of activity in East Princes Street Gardens, and attempt to activate other spaces in the city centre and beyond,” as well as “respect the council’s net zero ambition.”
Val Walker, the council’s culture convener, said: “We’re at a key stage now where we can plan for delivery of great winter festivals for the people of Edinburgh and our visitors – very much in the spirit of feedback received in our city-wide consultation.
“It is important that we balance residents’ needs and aspirations with the continued success of the festivals, whilst protecting our beautiful Princes Street Gardens.”
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