Princes Street Gardens to play host to new open-air theatre festival in Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s historic bandstand in Princes Street Gardens is to host a weekend of open-air plays at a new theatre festival for the city.

The Ross Bandstand will play host to Edinburgh's new theatre festival in May. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Ross Bandstand will play host to Edinburgh's new theatre festival in May. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Edinburgh-based theatre companies will be joining forces to create two days of al-fresco drama at the 2500-capacity Ross Bandstand.

Free shows will be staged throughout the day at the venue, which was built in 1935 on a site where live entertainment has been staged since 1877.

Events currently staged at the bandstand include the Summer Sessions concerts, the Fly Open Air dance music festiva and Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.

A previous production of The Ladykillers by the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group. Picture: Lindsay Snedden

Entry will be free to the new theatre festival, StagEHd, which is aimed at showcasing leading artists and performers from the city’s grassroots and amateur scenes.

The festival, which was partly created in response to the pandemic, is also said to have been born out of the debates over the “commercialisation” of events and public spaces in the city, including Princes Street Gardens.

The city council has backed the inaugural year of the festival, which is due to be held on 28 and 29 May.

Organisers say they plan to make the theatre festival an annual fixture which will move around different locations in the city.

The Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group, seen here performing The Lark, is leading the organising of the new theatre festival. Picture: Jon Davey

Planning for the festival is being led by the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group.

The event, which is open to all independent, grassroot and community theatre companies based in Edinburgh and the Lothians. is expected to feature a mix of old and new plays, with the line-up of shows due to be revealed in March.

The Edinburgh Makars, Edinburgh People’s Theatre, East Lothian Youth Theatre, Leitheatre and Theatre Sans Accents are involved in organising the new event, which has encouraged submissions "from all realms of the performing arts.”

An official announcement on the festival said: “StagEHd hopes to establish itself as an annual fixture in Edinburgh’s festival programme, giving space and opportunity to performing artists to experiment and showcase their work to their local audience."

StagEHd founder Hannah Bradley Croall, a board member of the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group, said: “Edinburgh is world renowned as a festival city, but its local theatre companies and performers can often be overlooked during these large international events.

“Thanks to the support from the council’s community fund, we can put together a community-led event that champions the talented artists that live, work and make theatre in Edinburgh all year round and put them in front of a local audience.

“StagEHd will show that art and performance can be woven into the fabric of the city without disrupting it.

“It will be an open-air, free access event with social and environmental considerations at its heart.”

Claire Wood, founder of grassroot theatre company Production Lines, said: “It's been a really tough nearly two years for all arts organisations.

"Community and grassroots groups have suffered in less well-publicised ways – not having the budgets to support riskier productions, not being able to access community spaces for rehearsals, and not having deep enough pockets to sustain performances with trepidatious audiences.

"I'm thrilled StagEHd will give us this chance to celebrate everything that's brilliant about community theatre with groups from across the city, to show old audiences that we're back with bells on and hopefully attract some new enthusiasts along the way."

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