‘Tonight, Stonehaven is the rock capital of the world:’ Jim Kerr

Searching for Donkeys won the right to play at Open air in the Square
Searching for Donkeys won the right to play at Open air in the Square

Stoney’s spectacular Hogmanay party featuring Simple Minds was so good that the organisers are already planning their next huge event.

Over 5000 fans packed and enjoyed Open Air in the Square which saw a message flash up on a big screen reading: “You ain’t seen nothing yet...watch this space!”

The Dangleberries warmed up the crowd before Simple Minds

The Dangleberries warmed up the crowd before Simple Minds

It is understood a number of big name acts have already contacted the organising committee to say they are interested in topping this year’s New Year bill.

One thousand “earlybird” tickets for Hogmanay 2014 will go on sale shortly through the web site www.oaits.org.

A spokesman for the delighted volunteers, who pulled off this year’s show against all the odds, said they would be looking to sign a crowd-pulling act as soon as possible.

Chairman David Lawman added: “A lot of blood, sweat and tears and a lot of time and effort was given voluntarily by our small group of everyday people to make this work.

The 11 piece band played a mixture of covers and their own work

The 11 piece band played a mixture of covers and their own work

“Several times we thought we would have to throw in the towel because of the obstacles we faced and the massive financial burden of organising an event on this scale.

“But now we are encouraged to do it all again by the success of this year’s party and the amazing support we have had from the entire community.”

VIP guests on Tuesday night included catering worker Eileen Johnson, 51, from Aberdeen’s Ferryhill area, who bid £2000 at an auction on Original 106 FM radio for the amazing chance to welcome Simple Minds to the stage.

Eileen, who admitted she only had one Simple Minds album, said: “I have always liked their music - but mostly hear them on the radio which I listen to all day.

“I have never seen them live and I have never been to Stonehaven on Hogmanay so this was just fantastic. I did not put my bid in until the last minute and I was delighted when it came out tops”.

Eileen, who shared her VIP prize with friend Colin Wishar,t from Shetland, added: “I have not been on holiday for 12 years and I like to support charities, so I thought ‘Whynot?’”

Another VIP guest was “superfan” Neil Howell, 44, from Harwich, who supported the committee in their battle to have the event approved by Aberdeenshire Council area committee in the face of major concerns by police over crowd safety problems.

Neil and his partner, Karen Privett, attended a VIP reception and dinner in the town’s Carron Restaurant before seeing in the New Year to a string of Simple Minds hits.

Frontman Jim Kerr told a roaring crowd: ‘‘Tonight, Stonehaven is the rock capital of the world!’’

The show marked the 45th time Neil had seen the Minds on stage since 1989. He has followed them to France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain as well as a host of UK venues, including Edinburgh.

Neil, who constantly posts messages of support for the organisers of the Hogmanay show, said: “At first, I had no idea just how big a task this event was for the organising team but felt it was only right, since I was coming to Stonehaven for this historic concert, that I support Open Air In The Square in any way I could as a token of my appreciation towards them.

“The dedication of the volunteers has to be applauded. This wasn’t just a concert that they organised against all the odds, it was a huge celebration to see in the New Year and they have all work tirelessly to make it work. I salute each and every one of them.”

The crowd was also entertained by a few warm-up acts including Searching for Donkeys from Inverness, who won their slot after beating 14 other contestants at a Battle of the Bands in Aberdeen’s Blue Lamp pub organised by Your Event Scotland.com.

The Dangleberries and Trail West also had slots at Open Air in the Square with the former celebrating 10 years of gigging all over the UK.

The band’s rousing performances delivered a mixture of their own material, both songs and instrumentals in addition to well known and, at times, unexpected covers with one by Snow Patrol being particularly pleasing to the crowd in the square.

Alexander Sanger played the town into 2014 with Auld Lang Syne at the bells. Alexander is an award-winning talented teenage piper who is pipe major of Lathallan School pipe band, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Last November, he was invited to Belgium to perform as a soloist at the Menin Gate, Ypres, on Armistice Day where he played in front of HRH Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Laurent of Belgium and a number of other dignitaries. His performance was televised live on 92 TV channels around the world.

n A four-page spread of pictures from Open Air in the Square and the Fireballs event run in tandem starts on page 18.

Pictures on this page courtesy of Leader reader Brian Doyle.