The duration of the fireworks display for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2018 will be increased from six to nine minutes as the capital bids to compete with the increasing number of global cities hosting New Year’s Eve pyrotechnic spectacles.
Underbelly – the event company best known for its links to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival – unveiled a ‘rebooted’ Hogmanay festival today following the announcement in March that it had won the contract from Unique Events, the firm which had created the world-famous street party 24 years ago.
There was a sense of anticipation in the air as Underbelly directors Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam took to the stage at the city’s Mansfield Traquair venue to unveil its three-day schedule of signature events – its 25th birthday celebration year – which kicks off on December 30.
Much of the backbone of the landmark event will remain the same amid signs the firm is clearly keen not to abandon what has been a succesful formula. Wood and Bartlam signalled their intent to keep the event’s centrepiece – the street party (capacity 60,000) – largely intact, with its familiar musical stages and the night culminating in a fireworks display. However it will be turned into a six-hour street party hosted by Sanjeev Kohli, featuring street dancers, DJs, acrobats, disco divas and fire eaters. The opening event – the Torchlight Procession – will again commence proceedings, albeit with a slight twist. #ScotWord has been conceived as a nationwide quest to find out most what makes 8-26-year-olds “most proud to live in Scotland” (2018 is Scotland’s Year of Young People) and then to feature that word in a fiery display, which will be visible from the air from Holyrood Park at the culmination of the procession.
Wood told EventsBase: “We’re not turning it on its head but we’re evolving it with some exciting new elements like ScotWord, which will be visible from the sky. We have a whole new reimagined street party, making it feel like Edinburgh’s house party.
“I’ve got huge amounts of respect for Unique, it’s an amazing achievement. We’re honoured and humbled to have won the contract and we’re looking forward to making it a success. What Edinburgh has in its armoury to compete with all the other cities is the Torchlight, it is that party atmosphere, the whole street party, that is what people will be talking about. The fireworks are the icing, the cherry on top.”
London-based fireworks company Titanium will coordinate the display on the night, which will be set to music and feature a number of artistic and creative elements, set to music; the company has been charged with delivering the event in previous years and has orchestrated similar shows including London’s New Year’s Eve displays and the Forth Road Bridge 50th anniversary celebrations.
“When Edinburgh’s Hogmanay started 24 years ago as an event there were no fireworks in Hong Kong or Dubai and now every city – there are literally thousands of cities around the world – are all having fireworks displays. I think the currency of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has marginally dropped down the scale and it needs to compete. We compete by refreshing, we compete by reinvention,” Wood added.
Toby Alloway, Director of Titanium Fireworks, added: “A longer midnight show and the greater use of musical dynamics will showcase the synchronisation of light, colour and sound. These undulations will also serve to maximise the intensity and crescendos that are synonymous with this landmark event. Titanium Fireworks are thrilled to be working with Underbelly for Hogmanay 2017/18.”
Other new elements for 2018 include Bairns Afore – a family-friendly show (capacity 6,000) starting at 5pm on the New Year’s Eve in Princes Street Gardens; the event will also culminate in a fireworks display, allowing families to enjoy the occasion before the main street party commences. Three hundred of those tickets will be made available free to One City Trust, a charity dedicated to fighting inequality and exclusion in Edinburgh (50p for every ticket sold for the Torchlight will also go to the trust). Author Val McDermid has also been especially commissioned to create and write a short story called New Year’s Resurrection, which will be projected onto landmark Edinburgh buildings for an event called Message From The Skies, from January 1 to Burns night on January 25.
There have also been a number of important hires for the 2018 event; Martin Green, one of the UK’s leading live event producers, formerly Head of Ceremonies for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and currently the CEO and Director of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, will take up a role as executive producer and Struan Leslie, formerly Head of Movement at the Royal Shakespeare Company, also joins the fold.
“It’s the one thing where a committee works,” Wood adds. “Because that mashing of minds and ideas will create that performance. We’ve kind of morphed as an organisation into doing bigger city centre events, like Pride in London and West End Live in Trafalgar Square. But of course our roots are obviously back in Underbelly and the Cowgate – it’s still the theatre that excites us, and it’s that sense of drama and entertainment that we want to convey. You’ll feel like you’ve walked into a set. You’ll feel like you’ve walked into Edinburgh’s house that we’re making that night.”
Asked whether Underbelly feels a sense of pressure taking on the mantle for an event that has become synomous with a company it has worked alongside (through the duration of Edinburgh’s winter festivals), Wood adds: “We feel a huge responsibility to Edinburgh and Scotland. This is a great event. Every event needs to refresh and change.”
Live acts for the three street party musical stages will be announced later this year but for a full schedule of events visit here.