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Slessor Gardens: Does Dundee City Council make any money from Waterfront events?

Concerts and Christmas markets are among the events held at the Waterfront since 2016.

Summer Sessions could return to Dundee
Summer Sessions at Slessor Garden in 2022. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

It was once the site of a road, a casino and Dundee House.

But Slessor Gardens is now a green space and events venue with the ability to host thousands of people and some of the biggest names in music.

However, the park, which sits at the centre of the £1 billion Waterfront transformation, has suffered a couple of blows of late – with the scrapping of the Winterfest Christmas market, and news that the venue is not included in the Summer Sessions music festival plans for 2024.

Slessor Gardens is on council land, with permission needed from the local authority for any events held there.

So does the council – and the public – benefit financially from these events?


How do you book a concert at Slessor Gardens?

Organisers of a concert need to submit a note of interest to the council.

If they are serious about going ahead, they must provide more details to the local authority of what they are proposing.

This includes the size of the event, details of the artists appearing, evidence of putting on similar events in the past, and references from venues where these events have taken place.

Fans enjoying a Slessor Gardens concert.

The council says it will then make a call on whether it is a credible proposal.

Once the go-ahead has been given for the event to take place, the organiser must pay a non-refundable £3,000 deposit.

How many events can be held at the venue?

Dundee City Council limits the number of live music events taking place at Slessor Gardens every year.

This is mainly due to its prominent location in the centre of the Waterfront – and the potential need to put in place road closures and other restrictions during the show.

Normally this means there are three weekends available for use each summer.

Tom Jones performing at the Waterfront.
Little Mix on stage at Slessor Gardens.

Beyond that, the local authority says it will refuse to take any further notes of interest.

This is evidenced by the fact that the council turned down a bid to host gigs by Biffy Clyro and Fatboy Slim as part of Summer Sessions in 2022 because it already had three gig weekends booked.

Past performers at Slessor Gardens include Tom Jones, Rita Ora, Steps, Olly Murs, Little Mix, James, Bastille, Simply Red, Paloma Faith, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Stereophonics.

What money does the council make from Slessor Gardens concerts and events?

Although the amount will vary from event to event, the council’s income from events at Slessor Gardens is minimal.

The finances of a deal with a promoter include:

  • A £1,000 licence fee paid to the council for each day of occupation of Slessor Gardens – though this rate may be discounted for charities.
  • For each ticket sold over 5,000, the council will be paid £1. With the capacity of the venue said to stretch to about 12,000, the maximum income here would be in the region of £7,000.
  • The organiser is also required to pay the council a bond of £7,500, guaranteeing an obligation to repair any damage caused to Slessor Gardens resulting from the event. This is returned to the organiser if things are completed to the council’s satisfaction. However, no promoters have so far had to do this since the venue opened.
Dundee Winterfest cancelled as we reveal inside story on chaos
Winterfest at Slessor Gardens. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

The figures do not reflect the general cost to Dundee City Council of maintaining Slessor Gardens throughout the year.

Although the maintenance costs are factored into existing budgets, they are thought to have totalled more than £400,000 since the venue opened.

The number of people attending events at Slessor Gardens varies.

Approved capacities have ranged from 12,000 for the 2022 Dundee Summer Sessions to just under 5,000 for the Sausage and Cider Festival that year, while the 2021 Winterfest event could welcome up to 1,000 revellers at one time.

The council says actual attendance figures are held by the organisers.

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