Festival review: Leith Late, various venues, Leith

A low-key opening night marked the return of a much-missed bastion of artistic community spirit, writes David Pollock

Hailey Beavis PIC: Greg Ryan
Hailey Beavis PIC: Greg Ryan

Leith Late, various venues, Leith ***

Returning to its full, multi-venue festival form for the first time since before the pandemic, LeithLate is an extremely welcome re-addition to Edinburgh’s cultural calendar. Friday’s opening night reprised the same kind of arrangements which previously made the low-key DIY festival a hit, particularly among artists and students in the area.

It began with a short dance performance in Leith Arches, a former industrial space under the area’s long-gone commuter railway, as Edinburgh-based Chilean dancer Andrea Torres Viedma led four community dancers in Common Ground, an atmospheric piece which grew from yoga-like positions into a busy flurry of movement, the dancers shifting into position around one another but never colliding. The themes, appropriately, were “community, diversity, integration”, and the performers reflected the interconnected motion of people through the world.

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    There were exhibitions along Leith Walk, including the mystical group show Marseille Morning and the Little Living Room collective’s showcase at Out of the Blue, and the Pride-themed You Belong Here by LGBT Youth Scotland at the storefront Griffen Fitness studio, plus a show at the new Sett Studio’s Pride Gallery.

    The evening ended with music at the Hibs Supporters Club on Sunnyside, an acoustic showcase of Edinburgh and Glasgow-based OK Pal Records.It wasn’t one of the noisy, main bar affairs which LL has previously held, but a relaxed, all-seated acoustic affair upstairs.

    The label’s co-founder Hailey Beavis went first with a delicate set of guitar ballads, simply played but with a profound lyrical edge, singing of childhood dreams set against a backdrop of war. She was followed by Hank Tree, the new trio formed by Fergus MacDonald, formerly of the band State Broadcasters, but reduced to a duo due to drummer illness.

    MacDonald played sparse, Nick Drake-style acoustic ballads, while Bart Owl added electric guitar atmosphere in the background. Next came Blue Tiger, the similarly minimal solo DIY project of Mario Cruzado, formerly of Glass Animals. It was a low-key opening, but a very welcome return for a bastion of artistic community spirit.