SCOTLAND’S world-famous Hogmanay celebrations are being massively curtailed this year as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the country’s cultural life.

Uncertainty also surrounds the traditional run-up to the festive season, with pantomimes and Christmas shows facing cancellation if a second wave of the virus hits at the beginning of winter, as some scientists fear.

Despite the Scottish Government’s announcement of emergency funding to help the cultural sector, many of the country’s well-known theatres have cancelled live performances and started redundancy talks in order to stave off closure.

Popular music lovers have also been dealt a blow with the news that drive-in gigs planned this month in Edinburgh have been cancelled over fears of a local lockdown.

Acts including The Streets, Dizzee Rascal, Kaiser Chiefs and Gary Numan were due to perform at the Royal Highland Centre, together with a staging of West End musical SIX, but promoters Live Nation cancelled after a local lockdown was imposed on the city of Leicester in England following an outbreak of coronavirus. Interactive science shows, family events and DJs were also planned at the 300 car gigs.

“The latest developments regarding localised lockdowns mean it has become impossible for us to continue with the series with any confidence,” said a Live Nation spokesperson.

While it was initially hoped the worst of the pandemic would be over by Christmas, a rise in cases in countries like Spain and France has prompted a rethink of traditional Hogmanay celebrations.

The popular Red Hot Highland Fling in Inverness is the latest to be axed, the Sunday National can reveal.

A record-breaking 15,000 people attended last year to watch the free show and fireworks. So many turned up that the gates to the Northern Meeting Park Arena had to be closed before midnight, with latecomers forced to watch from a distance.

A spokesperson for Highland Council said: “The City of Inverness Events and Festivals Programme has provided the City in the Highlands with a successful series of much-loved events for over 10 years.

“Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic means that there are no events planned for the coming Winter Festival Season at this time.

‘‘Our focus is on giving the health and welfare of our community the highest priority and noting the current Government guidance on events, the council does not believe it prudent to commission any events at this at this stage. This means that regrettably, noting the lead-in times for arranging our Red Hot Highland Fling, there is no prospect of the Red Hot Highland Fling taking place this year. We are examining how we can offer alternative type events that will add to the vibrancy of the city.”

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Last week, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street festival was cancelled and the city council is currently discussing what, if any, celebrations can be held.

“All involved recognise the uncertainty of the current situation and the significant requirements for anything Edinburgh hosts to meet public health guidance,” said City Council leader Adam McVey. “It’s clear that if our 2020 winter festivals go ahead they will look very different from recent years, using different locations across the city.”

The Hogmanay celebrations alone bring in around £40m to the economy, with the winter festivals worth around £113m. Last year’s Hogmanay in the city attracted more than 180,000 people, many of them from overseas.

In Aberdeen, thousands of revellers gather for a street party and fireworks on Hogmanay each year.

The City Council told the Sunday National that it was hoped a programme of celebration could still be run during the festive season.

“Whilst public safety is at the forefront of any event preparation, we will continue to review the evolving Government guidance in relation to Covid-19, but it is certainly our ambition to create a festive welcome in the City to help support our retail sector,” said culture spokesperson Councillor Marie Boulton.

“Plans are already underway, and we hope to be in a position to announce details of our programme shortly as we move into phase four of the Covid-19 route map.”

A question mark remains over this year’s panto season, however. In Edinburgh, the King’s Theatre and the Festival Theatre are to remain closed until the beginning of November, with performances cancelled or rescheduled.

“We continue to closely monitor the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and we have taken the decision to extend the closure of our venues until Sunday, November 1,” said a Capital Theatres spokesperson. “We are hopeful that things will get back to normal.”

Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre remain closed, hundreds of performances have been rescheduled and a redundancy consultation process has begun which has the potential to affect up to 70 part-time and 50 full-time roles.

“Whilst we’re doing everything possible not to cancel Christmas in Perth, a decision about our family panto will be taken in the coming weeks,” said Nick Williams, chief executive Horsecross Arts, the creative organisation and charity behind Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre

“Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve been forced to enter into a collective consultation process with staff over a number of potential redundancies.

‘‘This decision was taken as an absolute last resort to secure the survival of the charity as, with no performances taking place, our income stream turned off overnight.

“We’re doing everything we can to secure the financial position of the organisation, safeguard as many jobs as possible and support staff members at this difficult time. We very much hope that many people who may have to leave us now will come back when we are able to reopen for performances.”

He added that although the First Minister’s update on Thursday gave a provisional date of September 14 for the reopening of internal venues there were still no indications as to what physical distancing guidelines would be in place.

“We remain committed to reopening our venues as soon as we are legally permitted to do so, it’s safe for audiences and staff and economically viable,” he said..

The Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh has also entered redundancy talks with almost one-third of the staff likely to be paid off and expects to be closed until the end of the year.

In a joint statement Sir John Elvidge, chair of the Traverse Theatre Board and Linda Crooks, CEO, said it wasn’t financially viable for performances to be staged under current physical distancing guidelines.

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“We don’t know how long this is likely to be the case, but at present, we anticipate being closed to audiences until the end of 2020 at the earliest; it seems almost unfathomable, but it is our reality,” they said.

With regard to the redundancies they added: “We have worked tirelessly to explore all possible avenues and prevent this awful situation, but we currently have no other choice in order to protect the future of the Traverse and the vibrant organisation on which our community relies.”

AT the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh, staff are facing redundancy and the entire 2020 programme has been cancelled, with lost income already estimated at more than £700,000.

Director David Greig said he hoped the theatre could reopen next spring but had been left with a “stark choice” of total closure before Christmas or axing jobs.

At Pitlochry Festival Theatre, another much-loved venue and an important cultural hub in the Highlands, 42 staff are being made redundant in order to save the building from permanent closure as a result of the pandemic.

Artistic director Elizabeth Newman said it would go bust by November unless savings were made. Staff costs are £2m a year and the theatre has to cover 85% of its own funding, more than many other theatres.

“We have applied for monies from the Performing Arts Venue Relief Fund, as yet we do not know the outcome,” she said. We also do not know how this will impact redundancies.”

John Swinney MSP said the news was a source of concern for all within the community as the theatre was one of Highland Perthshire’s “finest attractions, and a venue that is rightly lauded for the high quality of its productions”.

Dundee Rep has also announced that it will not be delivering a buildings based autumn programme as planned, including the annual Christmas production.

“At this point in the year, we would have usually been announcing our 20/21 season of work, with our twin ensembles creating new theatre and dance productions and embarking on national tours; it has now become clear that touring of scale in 2020, either within the UK or internationally, is not going to be possible,” said a spokesperson. Last week Eden Court Theatre in Inverness announced all live performances currently scheduled until December 4 had been cancelled.

“A further update on our Christmas offer, including our pantomime Cinderella and festive productions for under-5s, will be announced in September,” said a spokesperson.

“Despite the cancellations, we do intend to begin a phased re-opening of the building to the public from sometime in late September/early October and it is hoped this will include the re-opening of cinemas with social distancing.”

However, despite the cancellation of the drive-in music gigs in Edinburgh, it is hoped other drive-in events will provide the first step towards a recovery of the live cultural scene.

Drive-in cinemas are already proving popular, with people flocking to Loch Lomond shores and Braehead in Glasgow to view classic films.

Edinburgh International Film Festival will be running a drive-in cinema at Edinburgh Airport beginning this month, with more screenings planned for Hallowe’en and the festive season.

Outdoor physically distanced theatre is also due to start this month. Edinburgh-based Grid Iron Theatre Company hopes to bring a world premiere of Doppler to audiences of not more than 20 at each performance.