The South of Scotland has seen biggest-ever attendance figures at some of its events during the first half of Scotland’s year of Homecoming.
Latest reports reveal that events in the regions of Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders attracted record-breaking crowds as hundreds of thousands of people from the UK and overseas have embraced Homecoming Scotland 2014 during its first six months.
The figures for January to May show that over 890,000* people attended 34 funded events throughout Scotland, with many more enjoying the hundreds of ‘partner’ events taking place in the same period.
In Dumfries, The Big Burns Supper and World Curling Championships Seniors and Mixed Doubles were both success stories, attracting 14,312 and 8,305 visitors respectively.
And whilst official figures are not yet available for two recent South of Scotland Homecoming funded events - Tweedlove Bike Festival, the UK’s fastest growing cycling festival, and Wickerman Festival, a highlight of the UK music festival calendar - organisers have reported excellent attendances.
Tweedlove Bike Festival attracted more than triple the number of visitors this year with Homecoming funding supporting Tweed Ride which entertained more than 200 families, as well as the flagship event - The Enduro World Series Race, which saw local accommodation providers completely booked out.
The Wickerman Festival 2014 truly embraced the spirit of Homecoming with its first kilted Wickerman and new Lowland Links Tent with both of these attractions being a huge success with festival fans.
Elsewhere in Scotland, established events with a Homecoming feel including Celtic Connections, Electric Glen, and the Glasgow Film Festival welcomed their highest ever attendances, with 110,176, 27,008, and 41,806 visitors respectively
Brand new events such as the John Muir Festival and ‘Home’ - the International launch of the Kelpies were also success stories with 38,500 discovering more about the great Scottish naturalist and over 9,000 people experiencing the opening of Andy Scott’s horse head sculptures.
Homecoming’s special Whisky Month in May saw over 78,439 people from over 31 different countries** embracing Scotland’s national spirit at events such as Spirit of Speyside, Whisky Stramash, Glasgow Whisky Festival, World Whisky Day and Spirit of Stirling.
Homecoming signature event Bannockburn Live also proved a sell-out success in June with a 20,000 capacity crowd attending the large scale festival over two days.
2014 is Scotland’s second year of Homecoming with the first taking place in 2009. Launched in January 2014, the programme includes a record 970 partner and funded events across the country.
Key events still to come this year include Highland Homecoming (September and October), the Forth Bridges Festival (September), Ryder Cup Gala Concert (September), Royal National MOD (October) and the MTV Europe Music Awards (November).
As well as events, many businesses across Scotland have got caught up in the Homecoming excitement by producing their own themed products including tours, beer, whisky, cheese, chocolate, tablet, gin, shortbread and limited edition Coca-Cola bottles.
Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland said: “We’re only just over halfway through our second Homecoming Year and the engagement from locals, visitors and businesses has been astonishing, exceeding all our expectations. Record high attendances at events and a real passion and enthusiasm for celebrating Scottish culture, history, music, nature and ancestry has shone through and we are confident the second half of the year will be just as breathtaking as the first.
“2014 is a once-in-a-lifetime year for Scotland with an unprecedented number of high profile events including the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and the outstanding Homecoming programme. This is an important time for our events, business and tourism industries and the legacy created will confirm Scotland’s place on the world stage for many years to come.”
A full evaluation report for Homecoming 2014 will be available in Spring 2015. For more information about Homecoming events, visit www.homecomingscotland.com or download the app.
* 894,311attendances – for Homecoming events that have submitted attendance reports only. Includes only funded events from Jan 2014 – May 2014. More events will be added as year progresses.
**Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival began on 1 May. There were representatives from 31 different countries, with visitors coming from all over Europe, USA, Canada, Taiwan and Australia to join in the celebrations with Scots and celebrate the Year of Homecoming.