Edinburgh’s DIY festival of multi-arts returns, bringing with it a new lease of life to the abandoned Leith Theatre. Music comes from Anna Meredith and Bossy Love, there's site-specific theatre by Grid Iron and artwork from over 30 artists
Returning to Edinburgh for its fourth edition, the non-profit, volunteer run Hidden Door festival's mission is to breathe life into one of the city’s abandoned spaces, and turn it, for ten days at least, into a multi-arts melting pot of music, theatre, art, film and spoken word.
“People may think that Edinburgh doesn't have a lot of disused buildings, but they would be amazed at the secrets that are still there to be discovered,” says Hidden Door’s creative director David Martin. This year’s pop-up venue will take place in one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets: the old Leith Theatre. “Many people think they have been to the Leith Theatre, but have in fact only been to the adjoining hall,” says Martin. “The actual theatre is breathtaking, and we will fill every nook and cranny, backstage room, under the stage and even the roof space with exciting art installations, theatre shows and film from some of Scotland's most promising new artists.”
One of Leith’s most famous sons – Irvine Welsh – is delighted at the prospect. “It’s terrific to see a pop-up counter culture event like Hidden Door collaborating with Leith Theatre to open up the whole of the building, not just the main auditorium but also all the corridors and dressing rooms, bars and secret nooks that make it such a charming and exciting place,” says the Trainspotting author, who’s also patron of the Leith Theatre Trust. “Hidden Door gives audiences the chance to glimpse what the future of the theatre could be and show others how versatile and interesting it can be in the meantime through its programme and use of space.”
Music at Hidden Door
And it’s quite a programme. Let’s start with music. Hidden Door’s opening night on Fri 26 May looks unmissable, with a mouthwatering bill comprising of SAY Award-winner Anna Meredith, dance duo Bossy Love, alt-pop duo Bdy_Prts and Marnie (of Ladytron).
On the following night, Leith Theatre’s main auditorium is taken over by indie legends Idlewild, with support from indie-poppers Hamish Hawk and alt-rock trio Dama Scout.
The music for the closing weekend is similarly lively and eclectic. On Friday 2 June, Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival presents Gnabgnab, renowned rapper/saxophonist Soweto Jazz and nine-piece Riot Jazz headlining with their twisted mix of funk, soul, hip-hop and aggressive jazz.
Expect multi-instrumentalist mayhem on the following night with Hidden Orchestra headlining, while things come to a close on Sunday 4 June with a unique collaboration between Tinderbox Orchestra and another much-loved SAY Award-winner, Kathryn Joseph.
Theatre at Hidden Door
Site-specific theatre come from Grid Iron, who premiere a brand new work in progress while Ludens Ensemble return with new performance Love based on Shakespeare's Sonnets. We’re told Andrew Simpson’s Party Shrimp will “frighten, seduce and delight” – some of you may remember him from the Spot the Difference competition in January's magazine – and if you’re after something a bit more irreverent, Jamie and Lewis Wardrop’s Glasgow v Edinburgh promises to "utilise playful multimedia to rip up the postcard view of their cities".
Visual Arts at Hidden Door
The old Leith Theatre will be alive with visual art throughout the festival. Every corner of the building will be transformed by over 30 artists of all stripes working in myriad mediums, including sculpture, sound, performance art and video.
Many of the artists will be responding to the venue. Using the Japanese method of kintsugi, Valerie Reed will gild some of the damaged parts of the theatre by filling in the cracks with gold, and David House will present a sonic document marking the Leith Theatre’s melancholy-yet-beautiful state of disrepair, while hinting at the heritage and future of the building.
Liam J. McLaughlin continues his preoccupation with ideas of abandonment in society with a video work that explores the influence of religion and isolation on rural communities. Mo Kearsley and Martin Elden, meanwhile, will present an unnerving commentary on social media’s pervasiveness by projecting images of eyes glued to the technology on the theatre’s floor.
Spoken Word at Hidden Door
Interrobang will draw upon the theatre for storytelling inspiration for their Phantom of the Opera-themed Ghosts of the Citadel. New Writers Award-winner Rachel Plummer joins Matt Hulse, Matt Rogers and the Scottish Clarinet Quartet to present an electronica-inspired, cabaret-style Parlour Guide To Exo-Politics, and Annie Rutherford and Rebecca DeWald will curate an event showcasing a range of writers and translators who use the act of translation innovatively in their writing and performance work.
We're particularly intrigued by Andrew Blair’s ode to Robert Pattinson, The R Patz Facts, which we imagine will be wildly popular, as will Sonnet Youth’s spoken word house party/rave.
Film at Hidden Door
A crack team of guest curators, including Edinburgh Short Film Festival, Africa in Motion, Scottish Queer International Film Festival and Kino Klub, will be providing an eclectic mix of cinema throughout the festival.
All in all, it's a festival with something for everyone. “This will be our most ambitious festival yet,” says Martin, “and will reflect a dynamic emerging cultural scene in Scotland.” Most excitingly, by taking place in a space that's lay derelict for 28 years, Hidden Door hope to "provide the initial spark to get this art deco gem back up and running as a major Edinburgh arts venue and transform its empty spaces with the help of some of the best creative talent from Scotland and beyond."
Hidden Door takes place at Leith Theatre, 26 May - 4 June; free entry daily until 6pm, with paid ticketing in place for the evening programme.
For full programme details, go to www.hiddendoorblog.org