Future of Edinburgh’s Winter Festivals – feedback published

Survey reveals overwhelming support for continuation of winter celebrations in the Capital, but with a revised format.

Residents and organisations across Edinburgh have backed the continuation of the city’s Christmas and Hogmanay events, according to the results of a major independent survey published today (Wednesday, 24 November).

More than 8,600 people and 35 organisations responded to the survey on the future of Edinburgh’s Winter Festivals, with 87% expressing support for a Christmas celebration and 86% for Hogmanay.

The 12-week consultation, carried out in Spring this year by independent market research company Progressive on behalf of the Council, sought feedback from the Capital’s residents, communities and businesses on the events from 2022 onwards, after the current contact ends. Several targeted focus groups were also conducted with parents, young people and special interest groups. 
Respondents were asked about their experiences of winter celebrations in the Capital, as well as what activities they would like to see included in future.  Overall, results showed a wish to continue to provide high quality Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations which will be valued by residents and visitors and to also provide events that will continue to enhance Edinburgh’s reputation, and to make changes to past formats and avoid overcrowding and improve access.

Responses and the findings in the report have provided a framework and general principles for the delivery of future editions of the Winter Festivals.  There is a clear desire for the city to celebrate this time of year, albeit with a revised format, and as a result, it is being proposed that new models for their delivery are piloted in 2022/23. These proposals, along with the results of the consultation, will be discussed by the Council’s Policy and Sustainability Committee next week.

It is proposed that a procurement exercise will be undertaken to identify a producer to deliver Edinburgh’s Christmas for a one year pilot, using the clear feedback from the consultation to ensure that it meets the needs of residents and businesses and is of appropriate scale.

For Hogmanay and wider winter activity, it is proposed to appoint an individual or organisation to a Winter Festivals Director role. They would have responsibility for developing and delivering a Winter Festival programme based on the theme of Light and incorporating the desired elements of fireworks, lighting installations and live music from the consultation.  Partnership with local artists, communities, performers and creatives would be essential in the development of this programme.

Council Leader Cllr Adam McVey said:

Firstly, I want to thank all those who took the time to take part in the consultation – we had an excellent response and the views of people in Edinburgh will shape the future of these events. Our Winter Festivals have grown in size and popularity over the years and have created some amazing experiences and images that has shown Edinburgh at its best.

However, if we’re to make the fun and enjoyment of winter sustainable, we must listen and respond to the views of our residents and other stakeholders. Through this major consultation, we’ve got a better idea of how they regard the celebrations, both positive and negative.

The results are very encouraging but, as expected, respondents highlighted a range of issues that we will factor into our planning for future years.

Some of these issues were already known to us, particularly in relation to pressure on the city centre, and this year’s lay-out reflects this as we look to respond to concerns and aspirations of residents and business.  But we know from the positive experiences of the summer festivals that we can and must do more to spread the benefits across our communities.

Council Depute Leader Cllr Cammy Day said:

The festive period is an extremely special time for our Capital City and, as well as contributing to the wellbeing of our residents, our Winter Festivals deliver real economic impact, benefitting tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors in particular.

It is fantastic to see that there is a clear desire to keep the winter celebrations with many respondents commenting on how they are now part of Edinburgh’s tradition, and how much they were missed in 2020. However, it was also hugely important to hear what concerns there are and what people would like to see more of.

Thanks to the feedback gathered earlier this year we’ll now be able to take people’s comments and ideas into account as we plan for next year, and beyond.

Key findings included:

  • Food and beverages (82%), musical performances (77%) and activities for children (76%) were the top preferred activities for Christmas.
  • Fireworks (79%), lighting installations (77%) and live music performances (75%) were the top three preferred activities for Hogmanay.
  • Alcoholic drinks (56%) and funfair rides (47%) were the least wanted activities for Christmas celebrations.
  • Street party and mass gathering (49%) was the least wanted activity.
  • Respondents also called for future winter celebrations to have local involvement of artists and performers and Scottish/local culture.
  • In response to making Christmas and Hogmanay more accessible to people with disabilities, physical access issues such as wheelchair accessibility and restrictions on the number of people attending dominated.

Find out more about the consultation responses online.

Published: November 24th 2021