Underbelly gets Hogmanay

Mar 23 2017 | By More

Unique Events loses out

Underbelly has been announced as the winning bidder for both of Edinburgh’s major winter festivals: Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

The Edinburgh fringe operator, most famous for its great purple cow Udderbelly, took over Edinburgh’s Christmas in 2013. It now adds Hogmanay, which was created by Edinburgh-based Unique Events and has been run by them since 1993.

Birds eye view of Princes Street at Christmas. Photo CEC

Underbelly is being tight-lipped at this stage about its plans, but directors Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood said in a statement: “We can however confidently say that our plans for both events are exciting and hugely ambitious and will see an expansion and growth of Edinburgh’s Winter Festivals rather than any diminishing of them.”

The City of Edinburgh Council earlier announced that its subsidy for the winter festivals would be reduced by £500,000. The new contract is worth £813,000 a year for three years to run Hogmanay. Edinburgh’s Christmas will be run without subsidy from CEC.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the finance and resources committee today, Thursday 23 March, following a competitive procurement exercise. There were 35 notes of interest for the contracts, with five submissions.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh’s festivals and events champion, said: “The appointment of these contracts is confirmation for the city that, despite the financial pressures facing the Council, these important events will continue to operate for the benefit of the people of Edinburgh and our many thousands of visitors.


“I am sure Underbelly’s activities will build on the huge success of Edinburgh’s winter festivals to date. Along with Council officers past and present, I wish to thank Unique Events for continuously providing the city and Scotland with Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations over two decades.”

Ironically, this year’s Hogmanay event was recognised only last week at VisitScotland’s Scottish Thistle Awards as Scotland’s Best Cultural Event/Festival. In its winning citation it was praised for its “innovative approach, involvement of all audiences, whether local or visiting, and inspiration to showcase Scotland’s greatest features.”

In a written statement, Unique Events said it is both “deeply disappointed” in the tender process organised by the CEC regarding the winter festivals, and “hugely saddened” by the decision not to continue with its services as producers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – “a festival which we created and have produced for over 24 years”.

It also warns that the new year festival “runs the risk of losing its international status”.

Pointing out the successes of the celebrations which have positioned “our small city up there alongside the giants of New Year celebrations in New York, Sydney, Rio de Janiero and London,” Unique says it has annually attracted audiences of over 150,000 and generated an economic benefit for the city of over £40 million.


The statement continues: “Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is a Council owned event, and the process of the Tender is to provide the most ‘economically advantageous’ outcome for the city, but this should not be at the expense of the quality and safety of the festival.

“Despite winning on quality, programme and experience, Unique were unsuccessful due to the proposed pricing of the contract. We believe the almost 20% reduction in Council subsidy, (compared to cuts of around 5% to other Festival grants) coupled with dramatically increased event costs present a very real threat to the Festival.

“We are deeply concerned for the future of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and believe that Scotland’s New Year Festival runs the risk of losing its international status.”


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