Leith on The Fringe

Posted by in August's Magazine

From a geographical point of view, some might argue that Leith spends the whole year on the fringe of the city, and perhaps never more so than during August, when the eyes of the world are scanning the Royal Mile for a famous face.

But Leith has had some pretty big Fringe hits in recent years. Last year, No Fit State Circus once again took up residence at Shrubhill, selling out their dark and daring display of acrobatics en promenade. And in 2007, Argentinean company Fuerzabruta arrived at Ocean Terminal with a breathtaking and imaginative performance that (partly thanks to the £25 ticket price) proved to be the highest grossing Fringe show of all time.


These successes prove that if the show is right, the trip down the Walk is not a barrier to bringing in an audience. And, with this year’s Assembly joining the glut of venues on the Southside and a Fringe programme that comprises over 2500 events a journey out of the fray and into the calmer, more ‘business-as-usual’ streets of Leith could prove more attractive than ever.

So hope the organisers of Leith on the Fringe who for the first time this year are promoting Leith as a fully fledged and integral part of the Fringe programme. Organised by a team of Edinburgh and Leith –based creative and theatre producers, along with Leith FM co-founder and former Artistic Director of the Leith Festival John Paul McGroarty, 2011 marks the first stage of a festival strategy that they believe could see continued growth in years to come.

A twisted tale
By creating an umbrella organisation for Leith’s festival activity both from local and international artists, Leith on the Fringe seeks to bring our once disparate August artistic endeavours under one recognisable brand, uniting a programme that can hold its own against some of the more established big boys in town both with international audiences and those of “the many artistic companies and individuals who call Leith home.”

The current trendy word for a venue with more than one performance space and a bar is ‘hub’ and in the Out of the Blue Drill Hall, Leith on the Fringe has found just that very thing. With an established Edinburgh-wide reputation for housing a whole host of creativity, Leith on the Fringe should be able to use that credibility to its advantage. Not only that, the Drill Hall offers the perfect flexible space to accommodate the wealth of performances the programme offers, from music, theatre and film to trickier-to-house disciplines such as aerial and circus skills.

And it is this which Leith on the Fringe hopes will become its niche. A study by Edinburgh-based audience research company The Audience Business following last year’s Fringe found that the diversity and density of the Fringe programme can make it hard for venues and the individual artists they house to reach their target markets. It recommended a narrower and more focused approach to programming, specialising in just a few performance genres and by doing so increasing their prominence amongst the audiences they want to attract.

In the future, Leith on the Fringe clearly states that it aims to become ‘Edinburgh’s main hub for showcasing UK and international circus, aerial and street art of the highest quality’ and this year’s programme makes a very good start, welcoming two international companies who will demonstrate their acrobatic abilities in two very different productions.

This Twisted Tale, the aerial contribution from San Francisco company The Paper Doll Militia tells a dark emotional tale of a little girl’s encounter with the devil, fusing airborne acrobatics with animation and puppetry. The original score has been composed by David Paul Jones who has worked with the National Theatre of Scotland, Catherine Wheels and Theatre Cryptic among others and the production is co-directed by Grid Iron’s Ben Harrison.

Fly like Peter Pan
German company ANGELS Aerials will perform their unique and adventurous adaptation of Peter Pan, with all the action taking place above your head as they swoop, fly and scale the walls of the Drill Hall. This is the company’s first visit to Edinburgh, coming directly from a sell-out tour of Germany.

On paper, both these productions seem to provide the foundations for a circus showcase which could build in years to come. In addition, both companies will offer aerial workshops on selected dates during the festival period. Giving adults and kids from 6+ the chance to fly just like Peter Pan, while aerial acrobats with some experience can take the opportunity to learn new skills on silks, ropes and trapeze with members of The Paper Doll Militia.

These form part of a workshop programme encompassing fencing, dance, wicker sculpture and singing with the under fives, highlighting the diversity that also underpins the Leith on the Fringe programme as they seek to establish themselves. While circus may be the vision for the future there is also much on offer from local and international performers in the form of theatre, dance, music, comedy and cabaret. Leith is most definitely on the Fringe.

Info: Leith on the Fringe, 3-28 August 2011, daily except Mondays. Out of the Blue Drill Hall, 0131 554 8092, leithonthefringe.com

One response to “Leith on The Fringe”

  1. ValS says:

    Edinburgh People's Theatre our 54th year on the Fringe, are presenting Ne'er the Twain by Alan Cochrane – a Scots comedy set in 1919 when Leith joined Edinburgh and Leith had its very own trams at Venue 17, St Peters at Lutton Place, EH8 9PE, from 4th August 7:30pm until 17th August – plus Saturday 11th & 18th August at 2:30pm (not Sundays and Mondays)

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