The organiser of Dundee’s first Hogmanay party in two decades has laid the blame for its relocation solely at the feet of the local council.
But Dundee City Council licensing convener Stewart Hunter has flatly denied those claims and insisted safety was key in every recommendation made the Safety Advisory Group (SAG), which is made up of the local authority Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Tayside and the Scottish Ambulance Service.
And Mr Hunter revealed it is the first time the SAG has raised concerns prior to an event after considering almost 100 others in previous meetings.
Jill Gibson, the spokeswoman for the “It’s Happening” party throughout December 31, insists she and her team did everything Dundee City Council asked to ensure their event was safe to go ahead in City Square.
Event managers were told to satisfy five safety concerns by December 20 or face cancellation after council officers said the event could “put public safety at risk” if they were not addressed.
A timeline of interactions between GMC and Dundee City Council event planners shows 10 meetings over the course of seven months, and a complete resubmission of the event plan no less than five times.
Jill has criticised what council events chief Claire Dow called a “naturally flowing conversation” throughout the process – which saw new issues flagged up each time other problems were fixed.
Dundee’s licensing committee heard that this was done to avoid overwhelming GMC – but Jill says she wished the issues had all been mentioned at once.
“I’m angry at the council – they’ve done this. We’ve been forced into changing the venue because they kept moving the goalposts,” she said.
“We wanted the event to happen in the square but it was too risky to wait until December 20 to see what the story was.
“If we had waited until then and they said no we would have had to have cancelled the whole event.
“I’m 100% confident that our plan was safe and watertight.”
But Mr Hunter, a councillor for the Strathmartine ward, has said the SAG gave Jill and other event organisers every opportunity to make it work – and insisted he’d be delighted to see GMC return to the table next year with a similar plan.
He said: “The first thing is that this isn’t just the council – the safety advisory group is made up of a number of bodies, such as Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Tayside and the Scottish Ambulance Service, to make sure we can run events we have on really safely.
“Since the SAG was set up they have looked at nearly 100 events – this is the first time they have come to committee to say they have concerns.
“They aren’t trying to stop people from doing events – it’s about making sure that what we put on is safe.
“I want this to be successful, as I said at the committee. I think it’s unfortunate that they have made a decision to move it to Fat Sams but I think we were pretty clear they could do what was asked within the deadline.
“I’m disappointed it’s not happening in the square but I hope it is successful and that they aren’t discouraged so we can come back and look at this again next year.
“We’ve been working with them since May and a lot of work has gone in. I hope it’s a great event.
“They also aren’t the first people to approach us that are new – look at Carnival Fifty-Six. We are always willing to work with people that want to come to the city and create something new.”
A “very difficult” decision was taken on Saturday to relocate the event to Fat Sams. The full programme of acts, including Fun Box during the day and Kyle Falconer and Eddi Reader at night, remains as it was. Jill has promised an “outdoor atmosphere inside” – and has asked those who bought tickets expecting an open-air event to give it a chance amidst a call for refunds to be offered.
Asked why she thinks the council have come down so tough on the Hogmanay event, Jill doesn’t know for sure.
“I think it’s because this is new and because they don’t know us. But it’s not just me working on this – there’s a whole team of professionals behind me doing an amazing job.
“This was meant to be the spark to do more events – this was meant to be the first in a long line of celebrations for Hogmanay in Dundee. I can’t say what comes next – we need to get this year’s event done and make sure it’s wonderful, take a break and come back next year.
“All of the acts have been so supportive about what we’ve been trying to do. It’s just a shame we didn’t have the support of the council.”
“A massive difference between inside and outside”
Following the announcement that the Dundee Hogmanay event was moving from City Square to Fat Sams, the Tele took to the streets to get people’s views on the move – and whether it’s fair for punters to ask for a refund.
Martin Chisholm, 58, an IT consultant from Arbroath: “It’s preposterous, how can you say that’s fair? If they can’t get a refund then it’s not giving people a choice. They’re being forced to buy something they don’t want.”
Ellie Scott, 23, a medical student from Perth Road: “If that’s not what you want then it’s rubbish. The people who paid should get what they want. If this was one of the big events in Glasgow or Edinburgh people would be raging. There’s a massive difference between the indoor and outdoor events.”
Sam Muir, 22, a lifeguard from Polepark: “I’d be concerned for the families who booked in. You could take kids to an outdoor party, but you can’t take them to Fat Sams, at least I wouldn’t. If the organisers were supposed to organise it and they didn’t then it’s their fault.”
Adam Farini, 20, a student from the West End: “It seems totally unfair. If they change the venue then it’s a different event and people deserve a refund. Also, people need notice for a big change like this.”