Former biscuit factory reborn as year-round food, drink, arts and festival destination in Leith

A former biscuit factory built after the Second World War has been reborn as a new food, drink, arts and festivals destination in Edinburgh after the easing of restrictions in the city.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 11:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th May 2021, 1:47 pm

An outdoor bar and cafe has been unveiled at the former Crawfords plant in Leith, where regular live music gigs, food and drink events, and festivals are envisaged under a major refurbishment and expansion of the site.

The Biscuit Factory - which has been available to hire for private functions, weddings and filming since 2015 – plans to create its own programme of in-house events to maximise the potential of the building, which date back to 1947.

More than £100,000 has been spent to overhaul the existing building, which has survived despite lying empty for more than 40 years after the departure of Crawfords, while future plans include bringing a neighbouring old soapworks into use as well.

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Now being promoted as “Edinburgh’s creative arts and events hub,” The Biscuit Factory has also become home to 32 local businesses, including a hair and beauty salon, a fitness coach, a magician, a pole dancing studio and a biscuit-making company.

The Biscuit Factory’s in-house distillery Old Poison and resident local firms Santu Coffee and The Bearded Baker will be selling their wares in the new outdoor cafe and bar spaces.

The Lane Bar will initially open from Thursday-Sunday outdoors, while The Biscuit Box cafe will run seven days a week.

It is hoped The Biscuit Factory will be able to emulate the success of Summer, the former vet school overlooking the Meadows. It was opened to the public as a Fringe venue in 2011 and has since become a year-round venue and home to food and drink businesses and cultural organisations.

Once Covid restrictions are eased, the main event space at The Biscuit Factory will have a capacity of around 450, while the upstairs space will be able to accommodate 150.

Fiona Hamilton, managing director of The Biscuit Factory, said: “We do still want to keep doing ‘blank canvas’ hires of the building, but we do really want to do a lot of in-house events as well.

"We want do a real variety of things and have a nice split between other people’s events and our own events.

“Our longer-term vision is to develop the old soap factory building on the other side of the lane outside as well to have events there.

Fiona Hamilton is managing director of the Biscuit Factory in Leith. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

"There is new housing being built in the area, but The Biscuit Factory is very much here to stay. We have a 20-year lease with our landlords and have built up a good relationship with Platform, the developers of the flats that are planned, to work together on any issues that might arise.

"The closest thing in Edinburgh to what we are trying to do is probably Summerhall, but a lot people say to us that have to go to Glasgow to find anywhere like The Biscuit Factory. We eventually see ourselves as being on a par with somewhere like SWG3 in Glasgow eventually.

"The building has occasionally been used for music and food and drink festival events in the past. We do very much want to become an official Fringe venue in future. We want to get to the point where we are open every day for events of some kind.”

A message from the Editor:

Managing director Fiona Hamilton will be overseeing the opening of the new-look Biscuit Factory today. Picture: Lisa Ferguson MD Fiona Hamilton A former biscuit factory in Leith which dates back nearly 75 years will be reborn this week as a new year-round destination food, drink and events space for the city. More than 30 creative businesses have also moved into the building and a neighbouring former soap and chemical factory over the last year. The Biscuit Factory, which will be available for the city's year-round festivals, will be promoted as "Edinburgh's creative arts and event hub" when it reopens. I've listed this story for tomorrow's papers. I'm getting early access today for a chat with MD Fiona Hamilton ahead of an official launch and photocall tomorrow

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Neil McIntosh

Editor

The main events space at the Biscuit Factory will have a capacity of around 450 when Covid restrictions are eased.
The Biscuit Factory in Leith has already been used for film and TV productions.
It is hoped the Biscuit Factory will become a year-round destination for festivals and events in Leith.
Fiona Hamilton has been running The Biscuit Factory since May 2019. Picture: Lisa Ferguson