Underbelly shares annual report on Scotland’s world-renowned Winter Festivals – Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

1st October

Today Underbelly reveals the results of its sixth Edinburgh’s Christmas and second Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in an annual report covering the programmes, audience statistics, the results of engagement projects, event developments, employment, community benefits, sustainability, funding, and social media and media engagement.

The report reveals the £2million savings to City of Edinburgh Council made since awarding both the Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay contracts to Underbelly two years ago.

The company, which runs the events from its offices in Edinburgh, is committed to sustaining Edinburgh’s Hogmanay as the world class event which reminds the world that Scotland is the home of Hogmanay and shines a spotlight on the country and its culture in the winter months. While doing this Underbelly seeks to reduce the burden on the public purse by using the commercial aspects of Hogmanay and Christmas to reduce need for public funding.

The expenditure budget for Hogmanay has remained at £4million (the same level as the last year of the previous contract in 16/17) but Underbelly delivers this with 38% less public funding than was needed in 16/17.

Public funding now makes up just 27% of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay income budget (compared to 41% in 16/17). Ticket income contributes 61% and the balance is derived from other commercial revenue streams.

The projected saving to City of Edinburgh Council over the duration of the 5 year contract is approximately 5million pounds.


Edinburgh’s Christmas

2018/19 was the most popular Edinburgh’s Christmas yet with 771,074 tickets snapped up for Christmas rides, attractions and shows. EH postcode holders claimed 186,799 of these using their 20% discount – up 31% on 2017.

929, 219 unique visitors were registered at Edinburgh’s Christmas events in the city last year.

Almost all visitors (93%) to Edinburgh’s Christmas said the Christmas celebrations influenced their decision to visit the Scottish capital and for those already living in the city, the question focused on their decision to visit the city centre - again, almost all (96%) said Edinburgh’s Christmas was an important reason for visiting the city centre. A fantastic 99% rated the quality of their experience as very good or good and 8 out of 10 visitors would be very likely to recommend Edinburgh’s Christmas.


Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

Hogmanay sold 88,546 tickets to its key events and 183,857 are thought to have attended across the three-day festival. 2018 saw a rise from 17% to 20% of people attending from Edinburgh, and a rise from 25% to 27% in international visitors, demonstrating both the growing popularity with locals rediscovering the event and the growing international profile.

71% of visitors from outside Edinburgh stated Edinburgh’s Hogmanay was their only or main reason for visiting Edinburgh.


Community Benefit

2018/19 saw 28,000 free tickets, the largest number of Edinburgh’s Christmas tickets yet given away to Edinburgh residents through local charities and community groups.

Underbelly also gave away 16,013 tickets to Christmas’s Silent Light to 36 local charities and community groups who had a terrific time dancing under the lights.

Edinburgh’s Christmas gave 200 tickets to looked after children and young people under the care of City of Edinburgh Council.

Edinburgh’s Christmas teamed up with Trussell Trust food banks again last year, highlighting the need for contributions in the dark winter months. Through the donation stall at Edinburgh’s Christmas this year 222.3kg of food and non-perishable items was gathered for the Edinburgh Food Project. Alongside this £1,000 was raised in financial donations and Edinburgh’s Christmas gifted 12,000 free tickets to Trussell Trust food bank users.

The developing relationship between Underbelly and OneCity Trust – a charity so important because of its simple and effective way to make a positive impact on local communities now and in the future – grew again over Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. Donations of 50p per each Silent Light and Torchlight Procession ticket raised a total of almost £30,000 for One City Trust

Edinburgh’s Christmas took part in St Andrew’s Fair Saturday – an initiative delivered in a partnership between Scottish Government and the Fair Saturday Foundation. All proceeds from Silent Light on 24th November supported 3 charities – Deafblind Scotland, National Deaf Children Society and Royal National Institute of Blind People raising £14,168.40 for the charities.

Box office and charity bucket collections including at Light Night raised a healthy £12,044 for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

The wonderful and wacky Loony Dookers raised £1,500 for South Queensferry’s RNLI at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

15,000 people came together for Light Night, a wonderful free to attend start to the Christmas celebrations on George Street at which the audience enjoyed rousing performances from many local dance schools and choirs.

Winter Windows, Edinburgh’s Christmas’s long running schools project lit up communities around the city including Ratho, Newhaven and Granton working with almost 1,600 children in 45 schools across Edinburgh. And Hogmanay’s newer Message from the Skies project invited young people from across the central belt to enter a writing competition to see their story up in lights.

Over 300 young people took part in creative workshops led by #ScotArt Young Champions and emerging Young Artists from Shetland to the Borders to decide on the final 14 #ScotArt symbols which formed the culmination of last year’s Torchlight Procession.

Underbelly is committed to measuring and further extending its financial contribution and charitable fundraising. This winter past the Community Benefit for Edinburgh’s Christmas was calculated at £534,000 and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay at £635,000. A cumulative total of £1,176,000. This figure is arrived at by calculating the spend on artist programming, infrastructure, staffing, free tickets and charitable donations raised at events.

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, Directors of Underbelly said: “The Underbelly team continues to be incredibly proud and excited to deliver both Edinburgh’s Christmas and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and we look forward to continuing to work with the Council and Scottish Government and other partners to deliver these world class and world-renowned festivals. Edinburgh’s Christmas last year saw the biggest take up of EH discounted tickets and most importantly the largest number of tickets given away to people in Edinburgh through local charities and community groups.

“We are proud that we have sustained the expenditure on Hogmanay while lessening the burden on the public purse, drawing on the commercial success of Edinburgh’s Christmas to cover Hogmanay’s overheads and administration. However, while Edinburgh’s Hogmanay remains a resounding success, it is important to note that it can only exist in its current format with regular ongoing public funding. We will continue to look for new sources of funding, both public and commercial, to keep improving the festival. Next week we will announce more of our plans for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay this year, we hope you’ll join us at the world’s best Hogmanay!”

Councillor Donald Wilson, Culture and Communities Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Edinburgh’s exceptional Christmas and Hogmanay festivals are internationally renowned.  There is no better place in the world to celebrate the festive season and the Winter Festivals play a key part in our year-round festival offering.  As well as contributing to the wellbeing of our citizens, they deliver positive economic impact for the city and for Scotland as a whole, benefitting jobs in tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors in particular.

“This report highlights just how much of a success the festivals continue to be.  As well as welcoming visitors to the city to enjoy everything it has to offer, there has been an increase in residents taking part, with festivities generating £44,000 for charity and £1,176,000 in community benefits.”

Download Edinburgh's Christmas and Edinburgh's Hogmanay annual report here

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