West Lothian Christmas light show saved as new operator wins contract

A festive lights show put on by GCLive
-Credit: (Image: GCLive)

A West Lothian based specialist events company has won the contract to take on the Beecraigs winter festival.

Bathgate based GC Live Ltd already runs winter festivals across the country including in Glasgow, Dundee and Angus, as well as local Christmas light shows.

There was anger in Linlithgow in December when Rowen Events, the town based team which had first set up the festive event in 2019, were told they would have to go into a bidding war to keep the event.

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The council is obliged to reissue the contract after the agreed lease date expires.

However Rowen Events chose not to bid to retain the light show. Councillors sought assurance that the new festival would use local suppliers.

In a report to the council’s Executive, David Baird, property and estates manager, told the meeting the previous commercial licence had come to its end in December 2023. A comprehensive marketing exercise ran for five weeks earlier this year.

He added: “The bid from GCLL will the council to double its guaranteed licence fee to £30,000 per annum and will also provide the council with extra income from a percentage of the ticket sales.”

Councillor Pauline Orr told the meeting: “The previous lease holders provided evidence of using local suppliers. What guarantee do we have that this new company will do the same? We have an obligation under community wealth building to this.

Scott Hughes, Strategic Property Asset Manager said: “ This was a criteria that officers set out to establish as part of the marketing exercise and the bidders all submitted detailed responses. GC Live provided a robust submission of 123 pages that they would seek to engage with local businesses.

“Examples of that would be using local recruitment for stewarding, marshalling of events delivery and as well as seeking to use local suppliers for food and beverage concessions.”

Councillor Orr also sought assurances that the council would not lose out should the event not make a profit.

Mr Hughes replied: “The financial return to the council has two elements. There’s a guaranteed base rate of £15,000 a year and subsequent there’s a percentage of ticket sales that will come to the council there’s also a safety net that secures no less than £30,000 a year.”

The report to the Executive said: “ GCLL have offered to pay the council an annual base rent of £15,000 in years 1-5, plus 5% of income from ticket sales in years 1, 2 and 3 and 6% of income from ticket sales in years 4 and 5. Based upon GCLL’s projections, the council would receive a total of £211,464 in revenue income from GCLL over the course of the five year licence period.”

It added: “GCLL are a West Lothian based company with an established track-record of designing, building and delivering multiple successful illumination trails, Christmas events and festivals across Scotland, including Wondrous Woods, Christmas at Deans Castle and Perth Christmas Wonderland.

“GCLL are also the creative and production team behind Glasgow Christmas, Dundee Christmas, Conifox Christmas and Brechin Castle Centre.”

Councillor Kirsteen Sullivan the depute leader of the council said: “I think it's to be welcomed that it’s a West Lothian based company that has put in a bid to support our local entertainment and hospitality businesses. Having this come forward shows that we are investing in businesses in this county. It's a great event for the whole community.”

Local Lib Dem Councillor Sally Pattle told the meeting: “ I really welcome the fact that we do a winter themed event going ahead at Beecraigs this year and for the next five years. It’s a brilliant asset for the country and also great that it has gone to an established West Lothian company.

“I do just want to say that it’s a great shame that the original contractor was treated in such a manner for the last couple of years that they didn't feel able to enter the bidding process. It could have been handled in a more constructive manner with original contractors.”

Labour’s Tom Conn said: "I’m disappointed that the previous operators did not put in a bid, they had the past experience and knowledge of how the event could be organised. They could have brought that expertise to a new bid."

Councillor Conn said he welcomed the proposals that would sees more than £200,000 coming to the council instead of £55,000 as had done in the last five years and added that there were two sides to the negotiations.

Geoff Crow, Director of GC Live said, “We are delighted to secure the license for future winter events at Beecraigs. As a West Lothian business, we are looking forward to working with the Council and the Beecraigs Country Park team on site to produce an event that will bring much enjoyment to locals and those travelling from further afield."

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