Leith should receive new arts centre - study

A NEW multi-purpose arts centre should be created in Leith to capitalise on a growing culture boom in the historic port area and help address a desperate shortage of space for artists, a new study has found.

Authorities have been urged to capitalise on the recent regeneration of the Leith Shore. Picture: Neil Hanna

The lack of a dedicated venue for music, theatre and exhibitions is said to be holding back ambitions to use the arts to transform the fortunes of Leith, which is already said to be home to 1148 different artists, companies or organisations.

The problems over studio, rehearsal and performance space, as well fears that existing hubs may be forced to close due to rising costs or redevelopment of their buildings, have emerged from a project to create a “cultural map” of Leith.

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The study, published to coincide with the launch of a new Leith Creative network, warns that artists based in the area may be forced out of the city completely unless more studio space can be found. It also calls for more to be done to help the cultural sector take over empty buildings.

The research found that although there are nine distinctive culture hubs in the area, only a third have security over their premises. The report calls for “strategic investment to be made to secure the future of Leith’s creative landscape”.

Instigated by arts organisations Leith Late and Citizen Curator, the 24-page study has emerged from several months of consultation with organisations like Coburg House Studios, the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Leith School of Art and Out of the Blue, as well as events like the Leith Jazz Festival and the Edinburgh Mela.

It states: “There is demonstrable need for a mid-sized venue in Leith for exhibitions, performance and live music. The sheer amount of creatives operating in the area and the high cultural consumption clearly supports this.

“Leith’s growing reputation as a burgeoning cultural centre is undermined by the fact that there is not a dedicated multi-arts space in the area. The introduction of a venue would provide a much-needed focus for cultural activity in Leith.”

The recommendation for a new venue has been made despite plans progressing for three new cultural projects different sites in recent months.

A new creative industry hub has opened inside a biscuit factory in Anderson Place, Edinburgh City Council has agreed to rent out the historic Customs House building to allow artists to move in within months and a trust is hoping to reopen Leith Theatre later this year after a decade-long struggle.

A spokeswoman for the city council said: “Every city needs a thriving creative scene and we recognise that Leith is certainly one of the most diverse parts of the city when it comes to arts and culture.

“We’ve committed to supporting the creative sector by looking at additional, affordable and flexible spaces for work, performance and exhibitions. These findings indicate that this collaborative approach between local people, businesses, and arts organisations is working but that there is always more that can be done.”