Hidden Door Festival in Edinburgh

Updated: Sep 21

Like Alice, Julia Mason finds a portal into a wonderland

Entrance to Hidden Door festival in Edinburgh

When Mark E. Smith wrote in Shift Work's magnificent Edinburgh Man:


Keep me away from the Festival

And just give me a warm quarter-gill


he was alluding to the Edinburgh International and Fringe festivals which see the city suffocated with the kind of arty and/or corporate types he found insufferable. Even he may have enjoyed the relatively new Hidden Door festival, especially because, as our correspondent Julia Mason notes, it was possible to order at the bar without missing the bands. Here's her review.


What a joy the Hidden Door festival in Edinburgh is. Its mission statement is to utilise abandoned and derelict sites in the city and transform them into art spaces. A registered charity, it is run on a shoestring by volunteers – and the ambition and scale of this year's festival is truly staggering. The first Festival was held in 2014 and it has steadily grown since then, when abandoned vaults were cleared and a nine day festival showcasing local talent was established. A hidden courtyard and a derelict theatre have been previous venues. With a break due to the pandemic, it's back and this year located in the shadow of Granton Gasworks.


Main warehouse space at Hidden Door festival

The main visual arts space is a huge abandoned warehouse. And I am talking huge! This vast area holds the first Hidden Door Visual Arts Graduate Exhibition, an opportunity for graduates who missed out on their graduate shows last year to exhibit their work.


It is full of funky, quirky, striking contemporary art installations. It’s a photographer's dream and the imagination on show would put a smile on anyone’s face.




Across the road is the second space. Two stages have been built in the shadow of Granton Gasworks. This derelict site also houses art installations in its nooks and crannies. These gems are worth hunting out. The bands are organised in such a way so as not to miss any music. The two stages alternate with festival goers simply strolling from one to the next. No clashes and no rushing to make sure you don’t miss anything. The highlights of my visit included Bikini Body, Hamish Hawk (whose LP is currently Radio 6 album of the week), Midnight Ambulance, Katy J Pearson, The Orielles and swim school.


And how wonderful to see the bands hanging out. I spotted the guitarists from swim school watching Midnight Ambulance, and even had a quick chat with Vicky the lead singer from Bikini Body. The intimacy of this festival is one of the joys, yet there was no compromise on the quality of the bands performing. For Katy J. Pearson it was her first time in Edinburgh, and Hamish Hawk's show was of an astounding quality for such a small event. And to be able to queue for the bar without missing the bands is hugely appreciated!


So Hidden Door festival I applaud you and I thank you. Crowdfunding makes this festival possible along with sponsorship and volunteers, and in a city where its summer festivals have been hijacked by large organisations, such grassroots events are so important in the cultural landscape. I cannot wait to see what 2022 will bring.....


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