Watch: New film exposes impact of Edinburgh's Christmas market on Princes Street Gardens

A new short film highlighting the impact of Edinburgh’s controversial Christmas market on East Princes Street Gardens - and lampooning city council leader Adam McVey has been unveiled.

Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 12:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th February 2020, 5:54 pm
Large puddles have formed West Princes Street Gardens in the aftermath of Edinburgh's biggest ever Christmas market.
Large puddles have formed West Princes Street Gardens in the aftermath of Edinburgh's biggest ever Christmas market.

An Edinburgh-based artist and filmmaker has edited together footage shot in the gardens in recent weeks.

Steven Reynolds’ two-minute film shows the full extent of the damage to the gardens and how badly waterlogged the park has become since the market ended at the beginning of January.

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The most recent Christmas market was the biggest in the history of the event, spreading to the south side of the main Edinburgh-Glasgow railway lines for the first time.

Heritage and community groups want a rethink of the number of market stalls, bars and fairground rides even if councillors approve a new “space deck” infrastructure which was brought into the gardens by event producer Underbelly, despite not having planning permission.

The film was commissioned by the Citizen campaign, set up last year to “defend” Edinburgh against over-tourism, gentrification, privatisation of public space and the impact of its ­festivals.”

The film is set to a soundtrack of excerpts of Cllr McVey speaking at a recent tourism summit, in which he described the city as the “front door” to Scotland and “one of the world’s must-see destinations.”

Mike Small, co-founder of Citizen, said: "We've been concerned about the takeover and abuse of public space and common good land for some time - reflecting the concerns and anger of people across the city.

"This film contrasts the rhetoric of council leader Adam McVey - which combines a sort of naive utopian narrative about Edinburgh - and a dismissive tone about people who have concerns and questions about the city's governance.

"It also challenges the idea of 'progress' being aligned with endless grinding commercial exploitation and the idea that they are synonymous and there is no alternative.

"One of the fallacies about 'city development' is the idea that the past was one of a cultural void where nothing happened and no-one existed.

"It starts with the idea of Scotland and Edinburgh as a sort of blasted heath and that is why we end up with a culturally hollowed-out hellscape of Harry Potter, German markets and tartan tat.

The impact of Edinburgh's Christmas market on Princes Street Gardens is highlighted in the new short film created by Steven Reynolds.

"We are working with committed to working with artists and filmmakers as a creative response to the crisis in our city. We're also open to creative dialogue with anyone who we think is acting in good faith."

Mr Reynolds, who used his two children to shoot some of the scenes in the gardens, said he had been sent some drone footage "anonymously" by an individual who had been "threatened with arrest".

There are strict city council rules outlawing unauthorised uses of drones or model aircraft in public parks. Police Scotland issued a warning two years ago the dangers of flying drones in public places after two incidents in Princes Street Gardens and the Royal Mile.

Mr Reynolds added:: "The film came about after I took my kids to the gardens and seeing them start to sink in the mud. I thought it was very concerning and should be highlighted."

East Princes Street Gardens hosted Edinburgh's biggest ever Christmas market for seven weeks between November and January.

Cllr McVey was a keynote speaker at last month's Edinburgh Tourism Action Group conference at the Assembly Rooms.

During his speech he said the recent debates on the impact of tourism and events in the city had been tarnished by "ugliness" and "extremism" based on where people who were living and working in the city came from.

The council leader said he would prefer that the city was still “grappling” with the tourism industry’s growth and success in 10 years’ time rather than see Edinburgh become “so insular as to think ourselves of just another city.”

Cllr McVey is quoted in the short film stating: "I hope we have not become so insular as to think ourselves of just another city or pretend that the residential amenity in the city centre of a capital city can be the same as living in a suburb of an average town. It isn't the same and it shouldn't be the same.

"Nostalgia doesn't create good policy. Nostalgia dragging you back to a year that is gone and a place and time that is gone doesn't give you a good way of looking to the future.

"Edinburgh is the front door to Scotland in so many ways for visitors. We are on bucket lists of people across the globe. That didn't happen by accident."