Editor at Large


Posted by in May's Magazine

With a toot! And a parp! And a bosh! My first Leith Festival was under way. I worked then in the King’s Wark and was called from the sweltering kitchen – the festival is always blessed with good weather – to witness the Gala Day Parade. At front a spry old fellow, every inch the Drum Major, twirled a baton high in the air and caught it with immaculate timing. He still does. (Hello Bill.)

Behind him a colourful raggle taggle of floats, flappers and jazzers wended its way along Bernard Street. It took the whole shebang about three minutes to pass us, five years later it would take about half an hour…later still it would be diverted due to impending tram works (oh come on, trams…promises…you remember?)

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A grand introduction to the old port then, for an erstwhile New Towner and, as I get older, the festival – Dorian Gray like – remains miraculously young and sprightly. In recent years it has suffered financial constraints, (last year the admirable Mela Festival got £100,000 worth of funding from Edinburgh council, Leith got £420…Forth Ports funding too has dried up), but a bonnie bunch of volunteers and head honcho Adele Conn have still managed to put together a substantial programme this year. Ranging from music through dance, photography, theatre, comedy, poetry and art, to the jewel in the crown…Leith Gala Day. When the sun always shines (well, mostly) and throngs of people get heat stroke, (next day) hangovers and time-lapse paranoia from wondering whether Chair of Leith Festival Gordon Munro has really been making the same announcement from the stage for the last seven hours.

Look, I haven’t done the research, you’ll have to bear with me here, but I’m guessing this festival has been going decades longer than me. I’m also guessing (apocryphal stories?) that sometime in the 90s, the redoubtable Mary Moriarty and a motley crew of like-minded individuals set sail for the Doldrums to rescue Leith Festival from its becalmed state. To stormier waters? Why yes, but success – twenty-five thousand visitors last year – settles any doubts. This year we lucky denizens (and visitors, HELLO!) inherit 150 events over 50 venues. Many, okay a few, worth going miles to see – even by Edinburgh tram. Cover Illustration: Bernie Reid

Web-editor’s note: Here’s a gallery of Leith Festival Photographs from the last few years, enjoy.

6 responses to “Editor at Large”

  1. Macuistean says:

    some nice photos there editor….. who gave leith festival only £420 funding. why isn't the mella and the leith fest combined? they both cater to the community of leith (apparently).

  2. The Editor says:

    Edinburgh Council gave Leith Festival the grand total of £420 in funding whereas the Mela recieved £100,000. The argument seems to be that the Mela attracts more outside interest, which I understand…but imagine what Leith Festival could do with even one twentieth of that money? And I don't believe anybody with a budget of £100,000 would sorely miss £5,000. As to amalgamating, I rather think both Festivals would rather keep their own, distinctive, identities.

    • jonathan says:

      crazy absolutely mad and it shows in the programme- there's no one single big show at leith festival this year its a real shame

      with 5k that show could have been locally developed and produced creating an interest in forthcoming events

    • nodrog says:

      Good point well made.

  3. Ralph Mac says:

    Love the photos.

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