80,000 descend on Edinburgh for Hogmanay celebrations
Scottish indie-rock favourites Franz Ferdinand wowed their fans in Princes Street Gardens either side of the midnight fireworks 15 years after a previous planned appearance fell victim to bad weather.
Rising Glaswegian star Gerry Cinnamon performed to a huge crowd on Waverley Bridge in the run-up to “the bells.”
Around 80,000 people were entertained by live bands, costumed street performers, aerial acrobats and ceilidh bands throughout the vast arena on and around Princes Street, starting with a family-friendly Massaoke gig at 5pm.
Four fireworks displays were staged from 6pm ahead of the main display at midnight, which was set to a soundtrack of music by a German techno band, Meute.
Police chiefs said they were “delighted” with the conduct of the crowds, with no arrests reported at the event.
Shortly after the end of the street party at 1am, organisers Underbelly said they had put the first tickets on sale for the 2019-20 street party.
Crowds who braved the blustery weather but were spared predicted rain showers were greeted with large hoardings proclaiming this year’s “We Love You” theme for the three days of festivities, which included a programme lasting almost eight hours on Hogmanay.
Tickets sales from countries across the EU were said to have soared in the wake of a charm offensive aimed at attracting more European visitors to the event to coincide with the run-up to Brexit.
Visitors from more than 80 countries were said to have bought tickets for festivities now said to be worth around £40 million to the economy.
The 60,000-capacity street party, which was hosted by The Mac Twins was declared a sell-out more than 24 hours in advance, while organisers reported a last-minute rush for tickets for the Franz Ferdinand concert and an open-air ceilidh, which were both held in Princes Street Gardens.
Elsewhere in the arena, the crowds were entertained by performers in illuminated horse costumes, giant dancing puppets created by the Spanish company El Carromato, Belgian breakdancing troupe Prison Break Rockerz and the all-female “Divas and District” Scottish pipe band.
Chief superintendent Kenny MacDonald, the event commander, said: “We’ve been delighted with the behaviour and attitude of the vast majority of revellers in Edinburgh this Hogmanay.
“No arrests were made by our officers and we would like to thank the public for listening to safety messages and ensuring that Edinburgh welcomed in the New Year in an entertaining, but safe environment.”
Engineer Elena Fagnani, from Milan, was taking in the Bairns Afore event in Princes Street Gardens with six other relatives after arranging a house swap with an Edinburgh family.
She said: “Everybody knows Edinburgh is a wonderful city and we had heard that it had a very special atmosphere at this time of year, with the Christmas markets, the decorations, the torchlight parade and the street party.
“Everything has been beyond my expectations. It’s been a bit like thrown back into the past, but at the same time Edinburgh is such as modern, interesting city. It’s been great just to walk around.”
Parth Shah, 33, from Bombay, in India, who was at the Princes Street party with two friends, said: “I’ve just finished studying in Stirling and will probably be going back home in a few weeks, so I really wanted to come to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. My friends and I have heard a lot about these celebrations. They’re a lot different to anything we have back home. It’s clearly on a much bigger scale. We do have events, but they are usually scattered all over the city. They certainly don’t have a big party in the middle of the street. There is so much to see and so much to experience.”
Ian Zhang, 21, from Anhui, in China, said: “I’m studying events and hospitality management in Coventry at the moment. I’m really keen to get a deeper understanding of culture in Britain and I know Scotland is very difficult to England. Edinburgh was my first preference for a place to spend Hogmanay. The atmosphere feels a bit like Shanghai where people come together to celebrate the moment of the new year. Edinburgh feels as if it is full of culture and history.”
Before taking to the stage, Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos said the band jumped at the chance to headline the event - despite their previous support slot with Erasure in 2003-4 falling victim to gales.
He said: ““We were in a pub near Princes Street when it got called off. I can’t even remember if we sound-checked or not. There was a genuine danger to human life. “I remember we decided against going back to Glasgow just starting phoning everybody we knew. My sister was living in Edinburgh at the time and we ended up in the flat of the boyfriend of a friend of hers in Marchmont.
“We managed to get our gear together and play the gig in time to bring the new year in. I’ve got to admit the gig in that flat was the first thing I thought of when we got offered this gig.
”New year is celebrated across the planet and there are some great parties around the world, but nowhere celebrates Hogmanay quite like Scotland and there is nowhere else quite like Hogmanay in Edinburgh. For a band to be asked to do a gig like this is an exhilarating honour.”
Thomas Burhorn, trumpeter and founder of Meute, who worked with sound designer Dan Jones and the Macedonian Symphony Orchestra to create the midnight fireworks soundtrack, said: “All we really knew about Hogmanay in Edinburgh before we worked on this project were the crazy Scots who run into the freezing water on New Year’s Day.
“It was a big honour and really nice to have cooperation on a project that goes beyond all borders. It’s been so easy to work with everyone in Edinburgh and get here. We really hope that remains the case in future.”
New Year’s Day events include a family-friendly ceilidh at the McEwan Hall, which is also hosting two world music concerts programmed in collaboration with Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival. Around 1000 revellers are expected to take part in the traditional “Loony Dook” at South Queensferry.
Donald Wilson, Edinburgh City Council’s culture leader, said: “Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has long been the envy of cities across the globe. The events provide a massive injection into the city and the country’s economy and showcase Scottish culture to people all over the world.”
Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, directors of festival producers Underbelly, said: “Tonight Scotland celebrated with the world its cultural and social connections with Europe.
“Our artists gave the crowd the most amazing and passionate performances and there was a tremendous atmosphere across the arena.”