From one derelict Leith landmark…


Posted by in September's Magazine

This is film Leith style, with a thousand mates and a bevvy,” declares Neu! Reekie!’s Kevin Williamson, kicking off the 21st birthday bash for Trainspotting, the movie.

Fine mates they are too, with Irvine Welsh and Ewen ‘Spud’ Bremner among the party guests, along with The Fire Engines, indisputably Scotland’s greatest post punk band, and veteran hip-hop and New Order producer Arthur Baker on decks.

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Trainspotting takes its name from one derelict Leith landmark and tonight’s a fundraiser for another, the sadly neglected Leith Theatre which also serves as our venue. Closed since 1988, it’s previously hosted festival events, as well as Kraftwerk, Mott the Hoople and AC/DC, and tonight’s proceeds go to the ongoing campaign to resurrect it as a venue and turn it into the city’s answer to the Barras.

The theatre’s faded art deco grandeur is the atmospheric backdrop for an evening of entertainment Leith style, assembled by everyone’s favourite artistic agitators, Michael Pederson and Kevin Williamson of Neu! Reekie! It’s one of their most ambitious events so far, following on from a foray across the border to fire up cultural disruption in Hull earlier this year.

Trainspotting on the big screen is first up, a giant Renton tearing down Calton Road with Iggy booming out behind him, and everyone geared up to recite lines that 20-odd years on are imprinted on the national consciousness. A thousand people roaring “It’s shite being Scottish!” probably wasn’t what the good burghers of Edinburgh had in mind when they gifted the theatre to Leith in 1932 but it does create a palpable sense of community born out of injustice.

Next comes Irvine Welsh, first published by Williamson’s Rebel Inc imprint in the 80s. Entertaining as ever, he proclaims this huge gig is “the wildest night I’ve had in Leith since Hibs v Partick Thistle last week” before going on to read from his next book DMT, in an extract that reintroduces us to Sick Boy.

Ewen Bremner takes the stage to wild applause, sharp suited in contrast to his customary dishevelled appearance as Spud, Trainspotting’s most beloved character. His reading has a desperate Spud accepting a commission to smuggle a package from Istanbul to Berlin from Mikey Forrester, played by Welsh in the film. You probably don’t have to read the book to know that won’t end well.

As the mighty Fire Engines take the stage there’s a collective intake of breath at Davy Henderson’s unusual sartorial choice of a high vis vest and shorts and drummer Russell Burn’s headgear, which appears to be an umbrella.

“I’d like to introduce the band,” deadpans Davy. “They’re in the Fire Engines and so am I.” Quite.

Their first show in over a decade, and maybe the last ever, is an exhilarating charge through the back catalogue, with Get Up and Use Me a highlight. If this is indeed The Fire Engines’ last stand it’s a memorable way to leave the building.

Before that there’s been a beautiful, bittersweet film tribute to the late Paul Reekie, the poet, philosopher and musician who gave Neu! Reekie! its name, his words and pictures filling the hall, closing with his own voice on The Thursday’s Dock of the Bay.

The evening ends with Arthur Baker, imperial in the centre of the stage, exploding bangers all over Leith, with the crowd going nuts to Underworld.

Barry, as Spud would say.

Info: Join Neu! Reekie!, Ewen Bremner, Rod Stewart, The Proclaimers and that Irvine Welsh in backing the reopening of Leith Theatre as a vibrant creative hub for Leith. Visit www.leiththeatretrust.org to donate and find out more about plans to refurbish the main auditorium and reopen it to host arts and events.

Twitter: @caroline_binnie

Picture: Trevor Pake

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