LeithLate is 'a gift and a labour of love'
- David Pollock
- 11 April 2019
Organiser Morvern Cunningham tells us more about the return of the popular festival
When it was announced that the LeithLate festival wouldn't be taking place in 2018, there was disappointment among many at the perceived closure of an event which celebrated the growing cultural feel of the area while respecting the history and variety of Leith. It wasn't over, however; organiser Morvern Cunningham simply had to take time out for a family bereavement, and sadly the structure of the festival meant it couldn't carry on without her organisational input.
'Lack of regular funding was a significant factor,' she says. 'The 2017 festival nearly didn't happen, because funding we had applied for – and were greatly reliant on – came back with a no. A month before the festival we were lucky to secure a bit of funding elsewhere, half of what was needed, but it meant we could pay everyone involved something. Burnout isn't just felt by individuals, it's felt by whole organisations. Working to an annual calendar which promotes a cyclical model of project-to-project funding, as it's known, doesn't work when you're trying to build sustainability and longevity into an event that takes place on an annual basis.'
This year, however, LeithLate has raised core funding from the City of Edinburgh Council and Baillie Gifford, and will hopefully be able to continue on a more sustainable footing over the next five years. This year's events start soon; on Sat 28 Apr there's a night of short films and tapas-style pintxos from the Basque Country in three Leith Walk bars and Henderson Halls, as part of Cinemaattic's Basque Spring retrospective; then on the weekend of 8 and 9 Jun, LeithLate programmes a bill of female-identifying artists at Leith Gala Day, before after-gigs at the Happiness Hotel and Leith Franklin Cricket Club, with tours of the area's murals on Sunday.
'LeithLate is a gift and a labour of love,' says Cunningham. 'The people behind the event are all involved in Leith, most of them local residents who care deeply about the local area. The majority of our events are free to attend and a celebration of Leith's heritage, its creative community and its identity. We're delighted to have been awarded core funding, and we now have a foundation to build upon for the next five years, so we're taking the opportunity to formalise as a charity this year, something we never had the resources to pursue in the past. We're also taking on a producer this year for the very first time.
'LeithLate has regularly changed its format since its genesis as a one-night-only art crawl back in 2011,' she continues. 'This year we're focusing on partnering with other organisations doing art stuff in Leith, in order to enhance and promote what's already going on in the area, which was always our intention from day one back in 2011. It's a way of bringing the different communities of Leith together – since we started, over 60% of our audience has lived or worked in Leith – alongside a wider audience from Edinburgh and Scotland.'
LeithLate and Cinemaattic presents Pintxos: Basque Film & Food Crawl, various venues, Edinburgh, Sun 28 Apr. LateLate19, various venues, Edinburgh, Sat 8 and Sun 9 Jun.