Council reject Hidden Door Fest request for reduced fees

The former State Cinema in Leith is set to host this year's Hidden Door Festival.
The former State Cinema in Leith is set to host this year's Hidden Door Festival.
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FESTIVAL organisers have been told to “plan your business better” as councillors rejected a plea for a discounted licence fee.

The Hidden Door Festival will return to Leith for its fifth annual event later this month. This year’s festival will be held at two separate venues for the first time – the former Leith Theatre and the old State Cinema.

The festival will take place from May 23 until June 3 and will include music, theatre, visual art, film, dance, spoken word and special events.

Musicians on this year’s bill include Leith’s own Young Fathers, Grammy award-nominated duo Sylvan Esso, Gwenno and Emma Pollock.

Organisers are liable to pay public entertainment licences for each of the two venues – but appeared before the city council’s sub-licensing committee on Tuesday to ask for a discount.

Speaking at the meeting, David Martin, creative director of Hidden Door, said: “We understand the necessity of paying licences but this year we are extending into two venues next door to each other. Hidden Door is a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers and it puts substantial pressure on our fundraising.

“Hidden Door was started because we wanted to provide something extra special for Edinburgh. Everything we do we have to fundraise and we do our absolute best. We try and keep our ticket costs low and it runs for ten days.”

Historically, the council has only agreed to fee reductions or refunds if the organiser is a charity or a community group. Hidden Door is a community-based company, but not a charity.

In 2015, Hidden Door was granted a reduced application fee by the council – but refused an additional discount in 2016.

Organisers have already paid both fees in full but were appealing for a refund. The company was charged £3,104 for events at Leith Theatre and £1,548 for the former State Cinema.

Events at the two venues are free of charge until 6pm every day – with tickets on sale for evening events. Mr Martin added: “We want to keep that free entry part of the festival. I appeal to you out of your good will if you could consider allowing us to run Hidden Door with the cost of one licence.”

Cllr Gavin Barrie pointed out to organisers that festival-goers are charged for tickets during the evening performances at Hidden Door.

Chairwoman of the committee, Cllr Cathy Fullerton, led calls for the discount to be rejected and told organisers to plan for the future. She said: “Public entertainment licences must be payable. Perhaps you have expanded too quickly. We cannot expect tax-payers to pay public entertainment licences.

“I really do think you need to plan your business better and price your tickets accordingly.”