Forgotten Festival to return after 28 years

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A NEGLECTED historic venue where AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Frankie Miller, Slade and Kraftwerk once performed is to be brought back to life almost three decades after its last show.

Drama, music, visual art, film screenings and poetry readings are all expected to be staged in the former Citadel Theatre, in Leith, which dates back to 1932.

AC/DC guitarist Angus Young during concert. Pic: Rex Features

AC/DC guitarist Angus Young during concert. Pic: Rex Features

The Ferry Road building, which staged Edinburgh International Festival shows from 1961 until it closed in 1988, was nearly sold off by the city council a decade ago before an outcry forced a reprieve.

It was originally built for the people of Leith after its controversial amalgamation into the city of Edinburgh in 1920, but was closed from 1941 till 1961 after suffering bomb damage in the First World War.

Its 1500-capacity auditorium gradually fell into disrepair in the 1980s and a sell-off was considered after the turn of the century to help pay for a revamp of the King’s Theatre in the city centre.

Efforts to re-open the building have been led by an independent trust, which has been granted a five-year lease by the council, and the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust.

Thin Lizzy Pic: Steve Joester

Thin Lizzy Pic: Steve Joester

They want to open it year-round for drama, dance, music and visual art events.

The annual Hidden Door Festival, which specialises in transforming run-down sites into temporary venues, has announced plans to join forces with a trust which wants to secure the long-term future of the Ferry Road building.

Repair work on the building for the Hidden Door Festival is expected to pave the ways for it to be used again for the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe in time for their 70th anniversary in 2017.

It was previously considered for the National Theatre of Scotland for the historical trilogy The James Plays, which went on to be staged at the Festival Theatre during the 2014 because so much work was required at the Leith site.

The Hidden Door Festival has won acclaim for its efforts to stage annual events at old disused vaults on Market Street and a former street lighting depot on King’s Stables Road.

A spokesman for the festival, which will run from May 26 until June 4, said: “Hidden Door is dedicated to opening up disused spaces in Edinburgh, making them available to artists and emerging creative talent for new ideas and groundbreaking projects.

“Hidden Door will transform the long-abandoned theatre into an area where the public can explore and discover live music venues, theatre spaces, bars, a cinema, and a multitude of art exhibition, installation spaces and some of Scotland’s best emerging creative talent.

“The stunning derelict art deco theatre has been standing empty and gradually falling into disrepair for 28 years. There is a huge amount of work needing done to the venue, but Hidden Door has never shied away from a challenging site, and this one is truly inspirational.

“The venue comprises of a huge auditorium and balcony, with a labyrinth of old dressing rooms, passages, a projector room and an orchestra pit.”

brian.ferguson@jpress.co.uk