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Updated Underbelly statement on Edinburgh’s Christmas

14th Nov 2019

We look forward to the enquiry that Councillor McVey has asked for and to contributing fully to the reasons why we are in the position we are now in. Our previous planning permission ran for 4 years but expired in January 2018; and we operated under the same conditions as applied for in the previous year. With the new arrangement in place, agreed by the Council on 12 October, we are in the process of applying for the next planning consent.

13 November 2019 

We appreciate the images of the build period have not been aesthetically pleasing but we can assure that the end result will be an event which both befits the environment and is sympathetic to it, as has been the case every time Underbelly has produced the event. Edinburgh’s Christmas is a hugely popular festival which brings many hundreds of thousands of people into the city centre for the benefit of the city; as well as underpinning the free and community events produced throughout the city and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and we’re looking forward to sharing these events with the city and its visitors in the next few weeks.  

Underbelly has welcomed and will contribute to the Council’s consultation on the winter festivals from 2022 onwards. Up to and including the 2021 festival, Underbelly has a contract with the City of Edinburgh Council to produce Edinburgh’s Christmas in East Princes Street Gardens and the new structure is designed and engineered to fulfil that, while protecting the Gardens and making the event more accessible. Following the design approval by the Council’s engineers in October, we are in the process of submitting a planning application as soon as possible and are awaiting our Building Warrant.

5 November 2019

Underbelly is proud to produce Edinburgh’s Christmas, one of the most successful and highly regarded festive events in the UK and Europe. In 2018, the event attracted a footfall of over 2.5 million through East Princes Street Gardens with over 900,000 unique visitors. 99% of visitors surveyed rated Edinburgh’s Christmas very good or good and 8 out of 10 visitors said they would be very likely to recommend Edinburgh’s Christmas. It is a hugely popular event not least with local residents – 31% of visitors came from Edinburgh and the Lothians with 186,000 tickets sold with the EH postcode discount. It is also an event that encourages people to come to Edinburgh and into the city centre: 71% of visitors in 2018 said that they came into the city centre solely or mainly because of the event and, overall, 93% said Edinburgh’s Christmas influenced their reason to visit. Year after year Edinburgh and its visitors have voted with their feet by coming to Edinburgh’s Christmas and by doing so, have benefited the wider city: the visitors’ collective spend in businesses across the city was calculated by an independent survey in 2017 to have generated an economic impact to Edinburgh of £113 million. What this means is that an extra £113 million was spent in Edinburgh during the festive period, money which would not have been spent here had the festive celebrations not taken place.


There has been some recent attention about Edinburgh’s Christmas’s use of East Princes Street Gardens and the infrastructure currently being put in place, which we’d like to address.


Underbelly has been aware of the National Gallery of Scotland’s capital works programme for many years and has worked with both the Galleries and the Council to find a safe and enjoyable way to sustain the scale of the event for the many visitors who come to it and to maintain the wider benefits to the city while also protecting the Gardens. In 2016 there was an informative attached to the first planning permission granted to the Galleries for their work which required discussions to take place with the Council to ensure the proposed works did not affect the Edinburgh’s Christmas programme. Underbelly made its proposal for this year’s structure in April. The proposal was assessed by the Councils’ engineers and approved in October. Following this approval, we are able to submit a planning application for the next three years which we will do as soon as possible. 


Fundamentally, safety is always our first priority and the installation in the East Gardens is safe. The design has been signed off and certified by independent engineers who are Approved Certifiers of Design of Building Structures and who have issued an SER certificate and it has also been agreed by the Council’s engineers. The installation has been designed in accordance with the appropriate codes to more than accommodate the capacities expected by Edinburgh’s Christmas through our busiest periods and in all weather conditions. The installation is also subject to a building warrant and will therefore be compliant with the Building (Scotland) Regulations.


The city of Edinburgh is a spectacular place all year around but during Edinburgh’s Christmas it is alive with lights, shoppers and festive cheer all of which contributes to the city’s success economically and to its reputation as a world renowned welcoming festival city; as the producer of Edinburgh’s Christmas we take seriously the trust the city has invested in us and we’re proud every year to have delivered a safe event which has opportunities for all to engage and enjoy, and on an annual basis to have increased the number of free events and the community benefit delivered.


So we’re proud to have provided community engagements with a value in 2018 of over £500,000 (details are contained in our annual report, the link to which is below) including 26,741 free tickets which we gave out via charities and social groups throughout Edinburgh.


In 2019, we want to build on this and Edinburgh’s Christmas will be taking some of the festive celebration to twelve locations over twelve nights around Edinburgh, bringing a building in each location to life for one night only with winter projections accompanied by local choirs performing some of their best-loved festive tunes for their community.


And finally, we’re very proud that the combined Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay programmes have expanded their programmes while reducing the burden on the public purse, saving the Council over £1m a year since the previous contract expired in 2017. There’s more info in our Christmas and Hogmanay Annual Report 18/19.

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