Hidden Door: Festival transforms former industrial sites on Edinburgh waterfront

A gap site in the shadow of Edinburgh’s iconic former gasholder and an empty warehouse have been transformed for a new waterfront festival in the city.

Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 4:27 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 11:03 pm

Music, dance, theatre, spoken word and visual art are all being showcased at the former industrial site in Granton, which is expected to play a key role in the long-term culture-led transformation of the area.

The transformation of a warehouse on West Shore Road for the five-day Hidden Door festival is set to pave the way for the building to become a new long-term hub for the arts and creative industries.

On the opposite side of the road, a “desolate” yard owned by Edinburgh College will host music performances on two pop-up stages.

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The festival, which runs until 11pm each day, features a pop-up theatre, a dedicated dance performance space, temporary exhibition galleries and a beach bar.

Ticket sales for the “Covid-safe” event, which runs until Sunday, have been capped at just 750 to help spread audiences out.

Hebridean folk-rock maverick Pictish Trail, electronic maestro Rival Consoles, electro-pop star Hannah Diamond, afro-funk supergroug Ibibio Sound Machine and indie band The Orielles top the music bill.

Other programme highlights include punk-inspired all-girl dance outfit The Yonis, Scottish-based Canadian choreographer Gwynne Bilki’s piece inspired by the Outer Hebrides, theatre-maker Jen McGregor’s one-to-one spoken word experience combining tarot cards and storytelling, and Delighters’ cabaret showing emerging circus talent.

Hidden Door will be running until Sunday.

Spoken word performer Annie Lord’s audio experience will take audiences on a solo journey inspired by the history of the old gasworks, while Bridie Gane’s dance films will explore human responses to the climate crisis and theatre company Tortoise in a Nutshell’s show Feral will combine puppetry, video and live sound.

Creative director David Martin said: “Hidden Door is all about transforming sites from a disused state into something pretty spectacular.

“We try to create an immersive experience so that it feels as if you’re surrounded by music, art and performances.

"We’ve completely cleared an old industrial yard, which was in a pretty desolate state, and built back-to-back music stages facing in opposite directions.

A performance of Esther Swift's music and song project The Call opened the Hidden Door festival at its new home in Granton.

"Across the road, we’ve cleaned up a huge warehouse, which has been sitting empty for the last ten years, put lots of beautiful lights in it and filled it with art.

"Its now become not just one of Edinburgh’s biggest cultural spaces for the next five days, it’s also one of the best."

Hidden Door, which previously reopened the old Leith Theatre building, announced plans to return in May, when strict two metre physical distancing restrictions were still in place.

Mr Martin added: "We tried to plan a really resilient event that could be adapted to whatever was thrown at us.

Pictish Trail played at the opening night of Edinburgh's Hidden Door festival.

"We chose to do the festival in Granton because the warehouse was so big. It has allowed us to do things indoors, but also make sure everyone feels safe.

"We’re definitely in a transition phase at the moment where people are trying to figure out what they’re comfortable with and what they want to do. We’re trying to accommodate that.

"We've got quite a low capacity for these really big sites, which will mean there will be plenty room for people to see everything that’s going on.

“We want to bring people together and create a shared experience that works for these times.”

An empty warehouse on Granton's West Shore Road has been transformed for the Hidden Door festival. Picture: Chris Scott
A pop-up theatre has been created at the warehouse transformed for the Hidden Door festival in Granton.
The Hidden Door festival is being staged across two sites in Granton.
The Hidden Door festival will be staged in the shadow of the historic former gasholder in Granton. Picture: Chris Scott
The main stage at the Hidden Door festival site. Picture: Chris Scott
Two music stages will be running as part of this year's Hidden Door festival in Granton. Picture: Chris Scott