Edinburgh's Hogmanay: Torchlight Procession (Cancelled)

Submitted by edg on Wed, 9 Oct '19 7.26pm
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Edinburgh's Hogmanay torchlight procession heading down the Royal Mile
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The 2021/2022 Torchlight Procession is one of the annual, headline events in the annual Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations with thousands of torchbearers creating a "river of fire" through the city streets. While it is not as big as Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party, around 40,000 people have come out for the event, to watch and take part.

The torchlight procession will start from three points or "zones" as in recent years - Waverley Bridge, Bristo Square, as well as outside St Giles Cathedral (West Parliament Square) - and streams down to Holyrood Park.

At the park, Procession participants will each light a candle which will eventually form an image over the course of the event. 

Fire illuminations 

Along the procession route, flames and light installations will illuminate the experience. Underbelly are working with fire-brandishing warrior troupe PyroCeltica who led the procession in 2019 wielding fire fans, claymores and fire staffs. Double Take Projections is the other creative partner. 

Holyrood Park offers good vantage points to watch the torches blazing down the street. The event is free to watch, but only those carrying a £15 torch can take part in the procession. The torches themselves are wax-based, like a big candle.

Background and evolution of the Torchlight Procession

Prior to 2017, the Torchlight Procession under previous organisers Unique Events took a different route from the High Street, down the Mound, along Princes Street, led by the Up Helly Aa vikings and accompanied by the pipes and drums of both traditional and contemporary outfits.

The pipes and drums component included the likes of the Dhol Drummers, the Erskine, Stewart's Melville and Coalburn Pipe Bands, the Sativa Drummers, She-Boom, the Coalburn Silver Band, the Impact Drumming Group, the Gutty Slippers and Commotion.

The torchbearers ended the procession and enjoyed fireworks in the Son et Lumière on Calton Hill.

The idea of having three separate starting points for the torchlight procession was introduced by new Hogmanay organisers Underbelly in 2017. The procession started from three points or "zones" in Edinburgh's Old Town - North Bridge, South Bridge, as well as outside St Giles Cathedral - and streamed down to Holyrood Park.  

At Holyrood Park, torchbearers spelled out the Scots word "braw". The word was voted most popular in a competition by young people. In 2018, torchbearers drew a giant map in fire of Scotland to mark the end of Scotland’s Year of Young People, and 14 wicker sculptures were placed together inside the map to form a heart-shape, representing "a collective national youth voice". The following year, torch-bearers formed a huge image of two people shaking hands, reflecting the year's Hogmanay theme "Be Together".

Torch inflation

In 2019, torches increased from £13 to £14 and wristbands cost £3 in advance. In 2021 the ticket and torch increased to £15 (plus £1 booking fee).

The event is not recommended for under-5s (although there is no age restriction) and buggies are not allowed.

Vouchers are available online, from the Hogmanay Box Office and other Hogmanay ticket outlets.

Hot Wax

Organisers point out that when burning the wax torches may drip:

"Safety guards are supplied to protect Ticket Holders from hot wax. Please note, when windy the wax from the torches can be blown onto clothing. Whilst easily removable (top tip – an iron and brown paper) please dress appropriately and do not carry torches if wearing delicate fabrics."