Leith Festival back from brink with full ten-day programme

Tradition: The pageant is set to return to Leith Walk. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Tradition: The pageant is set to return to Leith Walk. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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LEITH Festival has beaten off funding fears to return, against the odds, with a full ten-day programme of events this summer.

Leith Festival has beaten off funding fears to return, against the odds, with a full ten-day programme of events this summer.

Event organisers called an emergency general meeting in December to try to save the Festival after it lost thousands of pounds in funding. Board member Rowan Campbell told the Evening News at the time that the 2012 festival may have to be restricted to its traditional Gala Day, but now organisers have unveiled a jam-packed programme of activities.

Last year’s festival attracted 25,000 visitors from across Scotland and beyond and organisers pointed out this year’s programme was as big as before, despite harder times.

Karen Toscani, festival manager said: “We have something for everyone, but the real highlight is that it’s actually happening! We’re working on no budget. We’re all volunteers here.”

The programme, which runs from June 8-17, will feature 170 free or low-cost events around Leith, including art, music, local theatre and dance groups. The Gala Day will take place on Saturday, June 9. And due to popular demand the Pageant will return to its traditional route down Leith Walk. It is expected to draw a crowd of up to 10,000.

Other highlights of the Festival include free breakdance lessons for youngsters, tours of Easter Road stadium and Who Killed the Pop Star?, a 1980s murder mystery with “big hair”.

Despite losing funding from Forth Ports, Leith Neighbourhood Partnership and Big Lottery Fund in recent years, the Festival has survived thanks partly to donations from within the community itself.

Festival chair Councillor Gordon Munro said: “We put a call out to the community, and the community answered that call. As well as local people, we had the Queen’s former yacht itself sailing in to save us.”

Ms Toscani said “We’re grateful for the support of The Royal Yacht Britannia, Scotmid, and 98.8 Castle FM. The passion from people to keep this thing alive has been amazing.

“That’s the true spirit of Leith. All we are praying for is a bit of sunshine.”

Festival Highlights

Art

Sea Songs: A collection of original artwork by Richie Collins and Ronnie Fulton inspired by Leith’s seafaring past. Free. Ritchie Collins Gallery, Henderson street

Film

Edinburgh Short Film Festival: Horror, comedy, drama, animation & documentary short films from around the world. £4/£3. The Granary, Shore. June 9, 12 and 17, 7.30pm

Theatre

The Retreat: Drama exploring the effects that time and economic decisions have on people’s lives. £5. Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Dalmeny Street. June 15-16, 7.30pm

Music

Sing In The City charity concert: New takes on classic songs. All profits to the Friends of Goboti Eastern Cape. £8/£6. South Leith Parish Church, Henderson Street. June 16, 7.30pm

Kids

Scotch Broth: Scottish family songs, including Ye Cannae Shove Yer Granny Aff A Bus, and Wee Willie Winkie. £4/£2. South Leith Parish Church. June 16, 2.30pm