A £2.4m investment in Perth city centre has enhanced the city’s event offering and secured a prestigious national award.
In 2013, Perth and Kinross Council adopted an Events & Festivals strategy that cited ambitious plans to propel the area to the forefront of Scottish tourism. Set against a backdrop of restored city status, the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, and the emergence of the national themed years for Scotland, the aspiration was to grow the economic contribution large-scale events made to the area.
One year later, in 2014, leaders signed off on a new cultural quarter for Mill Street, which would connect the remodelled Perth Theatre, Perth Concert Hall, Horsecross Plaza and the Museum and Art Gallery. The vision was to create a flexible space that was safe for pedestrians, and that would revitalise the city centre by better facilitating business and events.
Mill Street was originally a back lane inside, and adjacent to, medieval Perth’s city walls. Before its redevelopment it had become a back door for the High Street, used primarily for deliveries and refuge.
The £2.4 million investment, which was completed in October 2017, has reinvented this once forgotten and underutilised space, with a new road-plazapavement infrastructure, ever-evolving art installations, and improved vennel connections to the High Street.
In the five years since then, Mill Street and the connected Horsecross Plaza have hosted numerous outdoor festivals and concerts, including the award-winning Southern Fried Festival and, more recently, an illuminated installation by renowned Scottish artist Nathan Colley. (See page 12.)
provided a star-studded line-up for the occasion, as well as providing a platform for local artists, community and youth groups to perform to thousands of visitors to the city.
Alan Graham, Business & Place Development Team Leader at PKC, commented, “In the context of tourism, events are acknowledged drivers of visits to a destination and have the added value of creating vibrancy for residents and portraying a positive image for the purposes of attracting investment and talent.
The hard work has paid off. In November 2022, the Mill Street regeneration project won the Great Street Award in the 2022 Urbanism Awards. Other locations nominated included Barnes High Street in London and Solar Avenue in Leeds. Organised by the Academy of Urbanism, the awards recognise “the best, most enduring or most improved urban environments”.
Fittingly, the award was presented just one week after the return of Perth’s Christmas Lights Switch On extravaganza, the first large-scale, multi-location offering since 2019. Heralded by many as the country’s leading event of this nature, organisers
“The diversity of the area lends itself particularly well to event tourism with well-maintained estates, and landowners willing and able to seize the opportunities and as a team, we will continue to court business in this area.”
A Return of Large Scale Tourism Events
Scone Palace, one of Scotland’s leading 5-star visitor attractions, is an excellent example of how traditional estates can be shaped to support the infrastructure required to become a large-scale event venue. Festivals such as the Otherlands Festival (new in 2022) have national interest, with visitors travelling from across the country, and many opting to stay and spend in the area. Scone Estate’s recent acquisition of Perth Racecourse (see page 22) can only further enhance their offer.
2021: Perth and Kinross records 3.3 million visitor days and nights, and generated £377 million of spend within the local economy.source: Scottish Tourism Economic Activity Monitor (STEAM) Trend Report 2021
In addition to this, Perthshire has multiple long-standing, highquality events including the Enchanted Forest, Perth Festival of the Arts, Blair Castle International Horse Trials, and large annual fixtures such as the Etape Caledonia cycle event and Rewind Festival, which have laid down roots in the area.
Encouragingly, all of the area’s major events returned in 2022 following the three-year hiatus and, alongside these established tourism generators, Perth also played host to the Royal National Mòd 2022, which took place in Perth from 14–22 October.
This prestigious event generated a £2.5 million uplift to the area’s economy, with 98% of spending taking place city-wide over the cultural festival’s nine days. The 2022 event saw a 130% increase in in-person attendees since 2021 when some Covid-19 restrictions were in place, welcoming more than 7,500 visitors and providing an economic uplift that helped support around 30 FTE jobs.
Councillor Andrew Parrott, convener of Perth & Kinross Council’s Environment, Infrastructure and Economic Development Committee, said:
“The return of the Mòd to Perth was a huge success both as a competition, and for the economic impact it delivered. Not only did it deliver a significant boost to local businesses it also showcased Perth as a great host city, with fantastic venues and a warm welcome for visitors.”
This reflects early anecdotal evidence from businesses and attractions overall, and leaders are confident that 2022 will show an upturn on the 2021 season which struggled to reach pre-pandemic figures (See stats above.)
Alan Graham continued, “Global tourism has faced unprecedented challenges over the past three years, and the current economic instability suggests there is more yet to come. However, a decade on from the inception of the Events & Festivals strategy, the central themes of acquisition and growth remain even more relevant.
“By securing new, large-scale events, and working internally to develop our own opportunities and ideas, Perth and Kinross can build on its experience, and nurture the partnerships forged, to support the industry, the city and wider region moving forward.”
Hold Your Event in Perth and Kinross
As an area, we are keen to develop our strengths in relation to the great outdoors, culture, heritage and food and drink, and would be interested in discussing opportunities available to event organisers.
Culture And Events. A Winning Combination
In addition to events, the area’s cultural offering has benefitted from the £2.5 million refurbishment of Pitlochry Festival Theatre which reopened in summer 2022 with a new studio theatre and increased capacity, part of its larger capital development programme.
Looking towards 2025 and the opening of Perth Museum, this landmark venue will tell the story of Perth and Kinross’s ancient roots through social and natural history with the iconic Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, at its heart.
This £26 million investment is expected to attract in the region of 162K visits per year, contributing £2.5 million to the local economy.