Leith’s Citadel Theatre set for rebirth after nearly 30 years

The former Citadel Theatre in Leith was closed down in 1988 after falling into disrepair.
The former Citadel Theatre in Leith was closed down in 1988 after falling into disrepair.
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A neglected historic venue where AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Frankie Miller, Slade and Kraftwerk once performed is it be brought back to life almost three decades after it hosted its last show.

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

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 rethink.

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 builing have been left by an independent community trust, which has been granted a five-year lease by the city council, and the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust. They want to open it year-round for drama, dance, music and visual arts events.

The annual Hidden Door Festical, 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.

The 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.

The Hidden Door Festival has won acclaim in recent years for its efforts to stage 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 26 May-4 June, said: “Hidden Door will transform the long-abandoned Citadel 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.”