Gala Day or the Proclaimers Live?
A bit of background around the history of Leith Festival is needed, as I discovered at Dock Place Market in April when our volunteers took part in celebrating all things Leith.
Zoe sold one of our special T shirts to a visiting couple from Georgia, USA who understandably hadn’t heard of us. An engaging chat about their favourite American football team whose colours were similar to our red and black Leith Festival T shirts, also had me thinking about the Tartan Army followers but I digress.
Recognising the need for explanation, we spoke to other market visitors who were newcomers to Leith. Those who have maybe moved here since lockdown and felt the consequent drought of live entertainment and no Gala Day.
Those who haven’t experienced the psychological effects of an outdoor summer event in Scotland, either it’s euphoric sunshine on Leith or it’s raining stair rods and windy, but here in the old port we will persevere till the end… and then the pub beckons.
Gala Day attracts upwards of 5,000 people, depending on the weather. It’s been around since the 1980s in many different guises always on the second Saturday of June, in similar tradition to the Scottish Common Ridings, where Selkirk common riding always takes place on the second Friday in June.
The Pageant, or street parade to non Leithers, started in 1907 as a way of raising funds for the local hospital. In the early days until the 1990s, there were “Floats” involved, consisting of flat- bed HGV trucks which were decorated to a theme and carried the people in costume who supported each particular organisation. Photographs of some of these floats can be seen at the Living Memory Association space at Ocean Terminal.
The Pageant still attracts many community groups, schools and individuals who dress in costume to an annual theme, this year being the United Colours of Leith, to celebrate the diversity in this community and give a special welcome to our Ukrainian refugees, two of whom were featured in last month’s edition of The Leither.
Entry to Gala Day is, of course, free of charge. This offers family friendly access to live entertainment across 3 stages, many market stalls both community and commercial, hot food traders and various activities including a fun Dog Show from Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home, a local charity, in dire need of donations what with the rising heating and food bills required for our furry friends.
Leith Links is a large mainly flat park area, easily accessible on foot or bicycle but the new tram link may also be operational, fingers crossed. All of this on our doorsteps
Leith Festival facilitates other Leith based collaborators to advertise events over a 15-day period under the Festival Venue banner and all are listed in our festival programme which has a distribution of 5,000 around Leith, organised by volunteers including our ambassador, Amanda.
It culminates on its’ 8th day with our very own Leith Tattoo. Hosted this year by Malmaison on the Shore with marching bands and dancers to entertain, maybe in sunshine. Finishing just before The Proclaimers Gig on the links…. So once again you can do both.
Our festival would not happen year on year without the contribution of our many volunteers, one in particular, Sara, who has been our robust traffic manager on site from 6.30am prompt on Gala Day for a number of years. The goodwill and in-kind contributions from businesses is much appreciated. Special thanks also go to Taylor’s Fun Fair for their many years of support for our children with special needs. ■
Info: Gala Day Saturday 10th June, Leith Links (A few stall pitches available at the time of writing). The Proclaimers 17th and 18th June, Leith Links (sold out) The Tattoo at Malmaison on the Shore, afternoon of 18th June Festival VENUE events around Leith from 3rd to 18th June
Festival Programmes are available at many Leith locations from the end of May, contact email@example.com for more info
The Pageant on Leith Walk in the days of Eastman color