Hidden Door Festival reveals line-up for reborn Leith Theatre

Leith Theatre is about to stage its first events since 1988.

Leith Theatre is about to stage its first events since 1988.

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It was built for the people of Leith after it controversial amalgamation into Edinburgh, nearly destroyed by a war-time bomb blast and played host to the likes of AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Kraftwerk and Mott the Hoople in its heyday.

But the art deco building has lain empty for the best part of three decades after falling into disrepair, despite hosting flagship events for the Edinburgh International Festival.

Ten days of events will be staged at Leith Theatre during the Hidden Door Festival.

Ten days of events will be staged at Leith Theatre during the Hidden Door Festival.

Now the historic Leith Theatre building is about to burst back into life - with a 10-day festival featuring everything from rock, jazz, rap and pop acts to theatre, visual arts, film screenings and spoken word performances.

It is hoped the Hidden Door Festival, which will run between 26 May and 4 June, will be the launchpad for a long-term drive to turn the building into a year-round cultural hub.

The Ferry Road venue will be opened to the public every day until 6pm, with all-ticket events being staged each evening. Long-neglected nooks and crannies of the building will be taken over by 31 artists.

Indie outfit Idlewild, Scottish Album of the Year winners Kathryn Joseph and Anna Meredith, site-specific theatre company Grid Iron, rapper and saxophonist Soweto Kinch, actor Tam Dean Burn and poet Jenny Lindsay will be among those performing.

The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, the Africa in Motion film festival and The List magazine are also programming special events.

The line-up for the Hidden Door Festival, which is funded by arts agency Creative Scotland, has been announced two months after it emerged Leith-born author Irvine Welsh had agreed to spearhead efforts to secure a long-term future for the building.

Around £250,000 is expecte to be needed to allow year-round performances to be staged in the building, which will need around £10 million worth of improvements to bring its 1500-capacity auditorium up to modern-day standards.

However a team of volunteers will be transforming the building to allow it to host the Hidden Door Festival, which has previously been staged in unused spaces in the Old Town.

David Martin, creative director of the Hidden Door Festival, said: “Edinburgh is a city busy with festivals but Hidden Door opens up new spaces for artists and creative talent to bring something new to the mix, celebrating innovation and experimentation in the arts.

“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.

“This year we have access to 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.

"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.

“This will be our most ambitious festival yet, and will reflect a dynamic emerging cultural scene in Scotland.”

Welsh said: “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.

"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.

"I’m excited to see a like-minded organisation coming together with us and bringing Leith Theatre new life.”

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