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Giant letters arrive to light up the Castlegate

Creating cool social media content will be easy as A-B-Z for visitors and locals alike, after Aberdeen’s new landmark giant letters popped up overnight at the city’s Castlegate.

The letters, which spell out ABERDEEN, stand around 2m tall and are illuminated by 98,000 light bulbs, 750m of cables and 69,850 microchips.

Manufactured here in Aberdeen, the letters have in-built interactive technology to allow them to feature animated digital displays and change colour to celebrate holidays and events.

The project has been funded and led by city centre BID Aberdeen Inspired, which will manage the letters, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, VisitAberdeenshire and the Scottish Government’s Scotland Loves Local fund, administered through Scotland’s Towns Partnerships.

The idea was drawn up by city business leaders to help encourage visitors to the city centre, as well as positively promoting the city on social media platforms such as Instagram.

Aberdeen joins other cities around the globe which have a similar focal point, including Edinburgh, Toronto and the iconic Amsterdam letters.

The Aberdeen Letters project has been developed from an idea that emerged through Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce’s Vanguard initiative, to encourage creative suggestions for the future of the region.

The giant letters unveiling comes after the launch of the Our Union Street taskforce, set up to generate ideas and action to reserve the decline of the city’s main street.

The letters will be located at the Castlegate with Union Street as its backdrop, but have been designed to be detachable and able to be moved to different locations around the city.

Created by local design and fabrication firm, Luxous Group, it is hoped the letters will become a must-have feature to welcome visitors and delegates to conferences, festivals, graduations and other events.

Adrian Watson, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said the letters would broaden Aberdeen’s offering and enhance the city centre as a destination for cruise passengers and national and international tourists, including visitors to the European Pipe Band Championships this June and the Tall Ships in 2025, as well as locals keen to show off their home.

He said: “We are delighted to see the Aberdeen Letters project reach fruition and be unveiled to the public and we hope to see lots of people visiting the letters to snap a photo for their social media channels while they are spending time in the shops, bars, restaurants and taking in a show or exhibition,” he said.

“Many cities around the world already have similar schemes and they have become a ‘must-do’ for visitors but we hope that different animations being displayed from the letters, as well as being moveable, takes the concept a step further and will ensure the letters remain a unique focal point for that perfect Instagram picture.

“As part of our ongoing efforts to support the regeneration of Union Street and the Our Union Street initiative, we are keen to create new reasons to visit the city centre and encourage footfall.”

David Edgar, from the Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce Volunteer Group, said: “All of the Vanguard team, who helped to shape the plans, are delighted to see that the Aberdeen Letters have become reality on the streets of our city.

“We want these signs to be a bright symbol of the new Aberdeen, helping define our international identity. We’ve seen from other cities, such as Toronto, Gdansk, Amsterdam and Brisbane, that these signs often become a top tourist attraction, because visitors and locals alike want to share a ‘selfie’ in front of them. This will help Aberdeen reach places it otherwise wouldn’t on the feeds of the thousands of people visiting our city centre every year.

“The choice of materials for the sign tie very nicely in with the heritage of Aberdeen while the displays on the letters will help promote the cool, modern and vibrant city that we are.”

Chris Foy, CEO of VisitAberdeenshire added: “The giant letters literally spell out the city’s bold approach to creating memorable experiences for its visitors and locals to enjoy. Photo-friendly installations have already proven to be a hit with visitors in cities around the world and I look forward to seeing the positive impact of the letters in the city centre.”

Allan Smith, managing director of Aberdeen-based Luxuous Group, said his team was very proud of the finished product.

“The whole team at Luxous Group and I were fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to be part of this project. We live in a city that has so many different professionals from a broad range of trades. I firmly believe that if we want the city to come alive again, then we – the locals – need to all chip in and do our bit to bring the energy back.

“We know that there are plenty of cities around the world that have letters similar to these, although there is nothing even close to the Aberdeen letters with the display and animated capabilities. We knew they had to stand out, after all it’s our time to shine – quite literally!

“The lettering can be programmed to create a light show for any occasion and the design ideas are endless. They can be enjoyed by people of any age and are changing constantly so that they are never the same each time you visit the various sites around the city.”

The letter were part-funded by the Scottish Government’s Scotland Loves Local Fund, administered by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), which spearheads the wider Scotland Loves Local campaign.

Kimberley Guthrie, STP’s Interim Chief Officer, said: “The letters will, literally, shine a light on some of the best that Aberdeen has to offer, attracting locals and visitors alike. We’re delighted that support from the Scotland Loves Local Fund has made it possible.

“It’s a fantastic idea that we are sure will draw people into the city to enjoy its many brilliant shops, venues and attractions, boosting the local economy.”

Share your photos and selfies of the Aberdeen Letters by using the official hashtag #ABZletters