Unique Events, one of Scotland’s foremost event producers, has been stripped of its contract to run Edinburgh’s world-renowned Hogmanay street party – just days after it won Best Cultural Event or Festival at the annual Scottish Thistle Awards.
The firm hit out last night after Edinburgh City Council controversially awarded the contract on a three year basis to rival company Underbelly, which for the last three years had worked in partnership with Unique on Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay festivals, with Underbelly running the former.
It’s a double blow for Unique, run until last year by veteran impresario Pete Irvine, after it also recently lost the contract to run the Botanic Lights son et lumière show at the city’s Royal Botanic Garden in the run-up to Christmas, to be replaced by a new event.
In a statement the firm said: “Despite winning on quality, programme and experience, Unique were unsuccessful due to the proposed pricing of the contract.
“We believe the almost 20 per cent reduction in council subsidy, coupled with dramatically increased event costs present a very real threat to the Hogmanay festival. We’re deeply concerned for the future of Hogmanay and believe it runs the risk of losing its international status.”
Unsurprisingly, Underbelly, a major promoter of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, welcomed the decision by city councillors to award it the contract.
Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been given the opportunity to produce Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay. We’ve hugely enjoyed helping to develop Edinburgh’s Christmas for the last four years and we couldn’t be more excited about the next three years.
“We’re honoured to be building on the extraordinary work and success of Pete Irvine and Unique Events since the start of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. We look forward to announcing our plans for both events in due course. 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. Watch this space.”
Edinburgh city council insisted that the transfer of the £813,000 Hogmanay contract would not affect the quality or scale of the event.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh’s Festivals and Events Champion, said: “Edinburgh’s winter festivals provide the city and Scotland with unrivalled promotion and shape the Capital’s reputation as a great place to live, work and visit. Last year, the combined economic impact of the events were estimated at £160m demonstrating the huge importance these events place on the success of Edinburgh’s winter economy.
“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.”
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay scooped the Best Cultural Event or Festival at the Scottish Thistle Awards, dubbed the ‘Scottish tourism Oscars’, at the EICC in Edinburgh last week.
Unique saw off competition from across Scotland’s event industry including nominations from NVA’s Hinterland, Celebrate Aberdeen, Solas Festival and the Oban Winter Festival. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay was praised for its ‘innovative approach, involvement of all audiences, whether local or visiting, and inspiration to showcase Scotland’s greatest features’.