Hidden Door returns to Leith for 2018 festival

Multi-arts festival will be split over two sites: Leith Theatre on Ferry Road and the State Cinema on Great Junction Street

Edinburgh's Hidden Door festival has revealed that it will return to Leith Theatre in 2018, as well as potentially doubling the event's size by taking over the derelict State Cinema nearby on Great Junction Street.

Since re-opening for Hidden Door this spring, Leith Theatre has enjoyed a new lease of life. Opened in 1932, the art deco building hosted gigs and was an Edinburgh International Festival venue, before it was closed in 1988. Used as a council works storage depot for part of the interim, this year's ten-day Hidden Door festival of music, art, film and theatre revealed a stunningly fit-for-purpose but tragically underused 1400-capacity arts space.

'When we initially agreed to use Leith Theatre in 2017, we had no idea how it was going to work or how Leith Theatre might benefit from what we do,' says David Martin, founder and creative director of Hidden Door, which has previously occupied similarly derelict spaces at Market Street vaults (now the Waverley Arches) and on Kings Stables Road. 'I think in the end we knew we'd done as much as we could to show the potential of the place, but we also realised that we'd only just helped to start the campaign to launch Leith Theatre as a significant venue. We know we can use it even more, and we can make an even bigger impact on the public in terms of campaigning for this building.'

While artistic proposals for the next Hidden Door are invited throughout this month, Martin says he intends to bring more music to Leith Theatre next year and to be more innovative in terms of how the space is used. 'This year it was like going to see a gig in a great space,' he says, 'whereas next year we want it to be more about things happening in the space; cross-art collaborative events, pop-up pieces, and so on. With the split site, we'll have more space to be ambitious.' Despite the continuing campaign to raise awareness, Martin feels there's much more momentum behind Leith Theatre's restoration than at this time last year, and that 'it's inevitable' that something will happen with the building soon.

Hidden Door returns to Leith for 2018 festival

Hidden Door's second venue, The State Cinema, dates from 1938 and has a 1600-capacity main room, as well as other space which the festival intends to fill with exhibitions and events. Recently known as the home of Sketchy Beats café, the State was bought over by developer Glencairn Properties in 2017. 'We're delighted to help play our part in supporting the Hidden Door festival and look forward to seeing the space transformed once again,' says Glencairn's director Daryl Teague.

While the State Cinema is unlikely to have a long-term future as an arts venue, it fulfils Hidden Door's agenda for using buildings that are midway between dereliction and development. 'It's not called the State Cinema for nothing,' jokes Martin, 'because it's a complete state inside. It's going to be quite a spectacle, though. When you walk in it's more surprising than Leith Theatre; it's bigger in terms of total space. It's also much more dilapidated, but that appeals to us. There are a lot of remnants from when it was the Babylon nightclub, so you can really feel that history – its previous uses are all readily visible, which makes it a very interesting building to us. We'll need a lot of public support and crowdfunding to get it ready, and we'll be launching these campaigns soon.'

Hidden Door 2018 will take place at Leith Theatre and the State Cinema, Edinburgh, Fri 25 May–Sun 3 Jun. Artist proposals are being accepted throughout Nov 2017. Find out more at hiddendoorblog.org

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