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Dundee Winterfest: Timeline reveals U-turn over ‘missing’ Christmas event

A festive market had been due to run in the city centre - but failed to appear last week.

Revellers enjoy the Winterfest markets in 2021
Revellers enjoy the markets in 2021. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

Dundee Winterfest’s absence has left locals baffled.

The 2023 Christmas event has failed to open despite organisers saying the festive market would run from December 1 to 24 – opening at 10am each day.

About eight stalls were expected to be set up for the commercial event – which is separate from the council’s activities at City Square.

One reader said: “Utter shambles.”

Another added: “And people wonder why we go to other cities.”

The Courier lays out the timeline of announcements and assurances that preceded the Winterfest mystery.

October 14

A post is published on the Winterfest Facebook page for the first time since New Year’s Day, confirming it is welcoming applications from traders to be part of a Dundee event this year – along with winter hub events at two sites in Glasgow.

It says the Dundee city centre event will run from December 1 to 24 – a shorter run of dates than in previous years – but no indication is given about a location or attractions.

The post says: “We are seeking for trader applicants for the following: hot food; festive offerings; bar/beverages; fairground operator; novelty gifts/craft.

The 2022 Winterfest featured a big wheel and children’s rides. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson

“Decisions will be made promptly and applicants will be notified accordingly.

“We kindly ask you to refrain from asking for updates as this delays the process.

“If you wish to apply for multiple stalls please complete one application for each product.

“We have options for you to either rent a unit from us or alternatively, bring your own.”

November 11

Winterfest’s organisers follow up on their October post, saying on Facebook that trader spots for Dundee Winterfest are “selling fast”.

The post also confirms the event will be at a “new location in Dundee city centre” though does not say where, and sets out opening times of 10am to 6pm – meaning there will be no late-night opening like in previous years.

Nothing is said about the ice rink, big wheel or children’s rides from past events.

The post says the “last few vacancies for food and craft” are available.

November 14

After inquiries prompted by the absence of ice rink and big wheel details, The Courier reveals Winterfest is moving to a new city centre location.

Locals hit out at the reduced Christmas offering, with many calling for a return to festive celebrations of the past at City Square.

November 15

Winterfest organiser M&N Events confirms to The Courier the event is being moved from Slessor Gardens to an area on High Street, near City Square, but that the big wheel, ice rink and rides will not feature.

Instead, there will be a smaller Christmas market.

Montana Thomson, manager of operations, says: “It’s not going to be the same event as last year.

“Dundee Winterfest 2022 didn’t really get the footfall from the previous year.

“With the current cost-of-living crisis the event will be reduced considerably.

“There will be no big wheel or ice rink.

It was confirmed in November the ice rink would not feature this year. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson
The organisers said a Christmas market would still go ahead in 2023. Image: Steve Brown/DC Thomson

“There were considerable operational costs for the ice rink, as well as electricity and fuel – they all played a factor in the move.

“We still intend on delivering a great offering for local people at our new location on High Street, near City Square.

“There will be smaller attractions available this year.”

November 19

Dundee City Council breaks its silence on moves to downsize Winterfest this year.

Although the council does not fund or organise the event, it previously worked in tandem with M&N Events to promote Winterfest and hailed its economic impact after the first event in 2021.

Councillor Steven Rome – the fair work, economic growth and infrastructure convener for the SNP administration  – tells The Courier he is “grateful” for Winterfest having taken place in the last two years but that he is “acutely aware of the huge impact” of the cost-of-living crisis.

He insists locals can still make “truly special memories” with the council’s own activities at City Square.

November 20

The leader of Dundee City Council says spending funds on Christmas celebrations would lead to budget cuts elsewhere.

John Alexander says he would like “nothing more” than to increase the number of festive events in the city.

But he says the council – which needs to make about £20 million of cuts in 2023/24 – is in no position to dip its hands in its pockets, and instead launches the Thrive initiative aimed at encouraging businesses to support events.

December 1 (morning)

Dundee Winterfest is due to start at 10am – but there is no sign of the event on the morning of Friday December 1.

There are no posts on the Winterfest Facebook page to update locals, while the website – named after its previous location – remains down for “maintenance”.

There was no sign of Dundee Winterfest in the city centre on Friday. Image: James Simpson/DC Thomson

December 1 (afternoon)

There is still no sign of Winterfest in Dundee.

And the mystery of its absence deepens when the council says there have never been ANY official plans for Winterfest this year – something it did not reveal when contacted for comment in November.

A spokesperson tells us: “Dundee City Council has received no formal proposal for Winterfest to be part of the city’s official Christmas festivities this year.

“While Winterfest has complemented the council’s Christmas programme over the last couple of years, we’re confident that our 2023 offering provides a packed calendar of traditional, free festive entertainment for everyone to enjoy.”

December 4

Winterfest remains absent from Dundee city centre.

M&N Events – which is busy running the Winterfest events in Glasgow – has failed to respond to numerous calls and messages from The Courier.