Edinburgh’s Hidden Door Festival to be staged across city in future

Edinburgh’s award-winning Hidden Door festival, which was credited with reopening a neglected theatre building after 30 years, is set to be staged across the city in future.

Saturday, 1st June 2019, 8:09 am
Launch of Hidden Doors 2018 Festival

Organisers have revealed plans to relocate the event away from Leith Theatre after three years and take over up to four empty and derelict alternatives in 2020.

And they have revealed ambitions to take Hidden Door to Princes Street,as part of a drive to “increase the adventure potential of Hidden Door.”

Creative director David Martin believes audiences want “somewhere new to explore” and locations with a “wow factor” for the festival, which stages live music, theatre, dance, spoken word and visual arts shows.

A complete rethink of the event, which has brought acts like Idlewild, Young Fathers and Anna Meredith, to Leith Theatre, is being planned after the festival ran into financial trouble in 2018 and almost had to be cancelled this year.

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This weekend’s four-day event was scaled back from 10 days after £50,000 worth of debts were run up in 2018.

A former gasworks, an old department store, empty schools and former council depots have already been explored for their potential use next year for the event, with Dalry and the Southside among the locations in the running.

Mr Martin compared the growth of Hidden Door since it was first staged in empty arches on Market Street in 2014 to “chasing a snowball down a hill” and said there was a need to move away from relying on ticket sales for gigs in the 1,300-capacity Leith Theatre building.

He added: “We felt we had really hit our stride last year...but we went quite big-scale quite quickly. We’ve had to pull back a bit to steady the ship and catch our breath.

“As we’ve grown with Leith Theatre we’ve become very much associated with it, to the point where some people think we are running it.

“Putting on Hidden Door in Leith Theatre is expensive. It’s not a normal venue by any standards.

“A lot of stuff has to be brought in. We’re the ones that have had to foot the bill.

“Hidden Door has always relied on generating its own revenue. But if we put on 10 nights and people don’t come to one of them we can lose up to £10,000 in one night. It’s a really vulnerable model if you’re trying to be self-sufficient. We found that out last year. We came pretty close to not doing an event this year.

“We have been trying to get the wheels in motion for 2020 well in advance. We’re quite aware that our audience want somewhere new to explore. Our vision to is increase the adventure potential of Hidden Door.

“We’re not looking for another big venue like Leith Theatre.

“We hope people will be able to go to different venues around the city. One of the things that makes Hidden Door work really well is if people can move from space to space.

“We’d ideally like somewhere with an outdoor space, like a garden or courtyard, with others spaces that we could put exhibitions or theatre in.”