The Leith Festival

The Leith Festival

A new Leith of life

As the Leith Festival enters its eighth year, Anna Docherty profiles the best events of 2009 and takes a look at what makes the festival such a continuing success.

Leith is in its own little world. It has its own port, a bevy of cool new bars and restaurants, numerous little galleries and a royal yacht permanently moored on its shores. Since its recent regeneration it has become a culturally independent and community-focused area of Edinburgh; transport it anywhere and it could exist in its own right, like a little portable bubble land.

So it comes as little surprise that in 2002 Leith set up its very own festival, the Leith Festival, to celebrate the unique culture of this pocket of the city. The festival has continued each year since and, as one of the first to take place during the summer months (at the beginning of June), it has proved to be a bright beacon on the festival horizon. 

This year will be bigger than ever, with a mega 150 events scheduled over 10 days - and all within a one mile radius. Rowan Campbell, the festival manager, believes that it is the tight proximity and knitted nature of the festival that has made it such a success: ‘We use local venues and our line-up is made up of mainly local performers and artists,’ she explains.

Few festivals have such strong roots in a community and Campbell believes that this is what makes it so unique. Unlike the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe, where acts come from across the globe, the Leith Festival is minutely concentrated and, as a result, there is a more personal feel to proceedings. 

It is refreshing to have a festival that is so inclusive and hands-on, because - as sensory beings - it is in our nature to enjoy getting up close with art. Like when you were at school and you couldn’t help but run your fingers across the thick, dried paint or sniff the gloopy PVA glue (heck, you probably had a wee nibble on your dried pasta collage as well). The Leith Festival is a bit like a cultural petting zoo; where you can see, talk and get up close with the artists involved.

Campbell believes the event is ‘fully accessible’ and explains that ‘We differ from other festivals in that we are a non-profit, community led organisation that is accessible both financially and in terms of participation opportunities.’ They seek to include anyone and everyone in the celebrations and there are also chances for individuals to gain skills within the sector through volunteering.

This year the team have lined up the usual packed schedule of comedy, photography, theatre, literature and dance (see box of highlights). But it is the music side of things that has been cranked up to the max for 2009; ‘music seems to be our big thing this year and we have over 100 different bands playing.’

As is now tradition, the swansong of the event will be the Gala Day and Parade, held on Leith Links. There will be live music, stalls, pony rides - and even a tug-of-war competition. So, pack a sunhat and a decent picnic and we’ll see you there. Meet us by the ponies at noon: codeword ‘Midgie’. Over and out.

Leith Sessions: The Fusiliers

Local band The Fusiliers are currently causing a bit of a stir in the city with their jack-the-lad brand of pop. Here they play live as part of the ‘Leith Sessions’ new music showcase.
Fri 5 Jun, 8.30pm, The Granary, 32-34 The Shore, Edinburgh, £7. 

Storytelling Club

A selection of Leith’s best storytellers recite myths, fables and tall tales. Sit back, curl up and enjoy - or alternatively bring along your own story to share.
Fri 5-Sun 14 Jun, 8pm-10pm, The Victoria, Leith Walk, Edinburgh, free. 

Giant Tank Presents

Experimental Edinburgh music label Giant Tank present their finest Leith-based musicians; from the distorted beats of Wounded Knee to the punkish clatterings of Muscletusk. It’ll be a noisy one.
Tue 9 Jun, 7.30pm-11pm, Queen Charlotte Rooms, Queen Charlotte Street, £tbc.  

Leithal Images

An exhibition of photographs taken by local Leith residents (aka ‘Leithers’) designed to give the viewer a more intimate portrait of the area.
Wed 10-Fri 12 Jun, 7pm-9pm, The Leith Agency, Mary of Guise Barge, Edinburgh, free. 

The Leith Festival runs from 5-14 June, for a full listing of events and venues visit Gala Day is Sat 13 Jun, Leith Links, 12pm and the parade starts at 12.30pm.

Leith Festival

The vibrant community of Leith shows off its festival skills with a fun-packed programme of events including exhibitions, concerts, walks, talks and films. Festival Gala Day, Sat 9 Jun, and Leith Festival Tattoo, Sun 17 Jun.

Various venues: Edinburgh

Sat 8 Jun 2019

Times & prices vary / 0131 629 1214

Sun 9 Jun 2019

Times & prices vary / 0131 629 1214

Mon 10 Jun 2019

Times & prices vary / 0131 629 1214

…and 6 more dates until 16 Jun 2019

Lee Paterson

Rock, blues and pop covers and originals.

Tam White's Shoestring Band and Rab Noakes

Modern jazz-blues from legendary vocalist Tam White, backed by ace harp player Fraser Spiers and Neil Warden on guitar. 'Part of the Biggar Little Festival'.

Andrew Bain Quintet and The Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra 20th Anniversary Concert

Edinburgh born, New York-based drummer Andrew Bain is joined by saxophonist Jon Irabagon for high energy original compositions and fiery improvising. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.


Bluegrass band led by John Sheldon.

Sunshine Delay

Melodic country-influenced Americana.

Delta Mainline

Psych-blues rock from Edinburgh band Delta Mainline.

Kim Edgar

Acoustic pop, jazz and original compositions on piano, guitar and voice from Kim Edgar who has performed at Cambridge Folk Festival, on Later… with Jools Holland and at the opening of the Scottish Parliament's fourth session.

Chris Bradley, Austen George and Lee Paterson

Melodic pop from singer-songwriter Bradley. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Rosie Nimmo and Martin Lennon

Jazz, blues and folk-infused vocals from Nimmo. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Little Doses and The Temperance Movement

Ex-Snow Patrol bassist Mark McLelland's band, blending pop, punk and electronica.


Euphoric Scotpoppers who know their way round a charming tune.

Jakil, Sidelock and Fate of A Stranger

Funk rock crossover from the charismatic Jakil.

The Stantons

Country vibes, but not necessarily country songs from The Stantons.


Contemporary folk group.

Simon Kempston

Singer-songwriter with lyrics inspired by travel, social commentary and the everyday.

Sparrow & the Workshop

Alt.folk and rockier interludes from this Glasgow-based trio touting percussion, violin, guitar and Jill O'Sullivan's intoxicating voice.


It's not about your Vorsprung durch Technik, or you joggers, who go round and round and round … It is, however, about community planting, art workshops, poetry sessions, sporting events and music in the park. Part of the Leith Festival.


Rock indie and pop covers and originals. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Stretch Dawrson

Western Swing.

Sounds Like Silhouettes, I Hear Echoes and Super Civilian

Indie and rock. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Lights Out By Nine

The ever-popular stomping blues powerhouse perform.

Transgression Sessions: Battle of the Bands

Live music battle at Transgression Skate Park. Email if you think you've got what it takes. Final on Sun 14 Jun. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Earthing Our Prayer - Gerard W Hughes

Fr Gerard W Hughes SJ talks about finding God in everyday things. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Fair Trade Talk & Sampling

Learn about fair trade in a Q&A with Jim Baird of the Just World Shop, Portobello. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Farmer's Market

Pick up fresh produce, crafts and gifts from 20+ local producers. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Hermitage Park Centenary Display

Find out about the past and present of this Leith Primary school as it celebrates its 100th year. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

India's Festive Cuisine

Dishes from India's festivals provided by Suruchi Too. 'Part of Leith Festival'.


Walk a replica of the medieval Chartres Labyrinth for contemplation or prayer. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Leith Festival Tattoo 2009

A family-friendly show with massed pipes and drums, a concert band, buglers, Highland dancers and the Mons Meg Rappers. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Leith Roll of Honour

A display of the Leith 1914-1918 Roll of Honour featuring photographic images of casualties and other wartime photos. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Lunch Time Organ Recital

A lunchtime recital of contemporary and classical organ music. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Pooches in the Park

A sponsored dog walk in aid of ACCORD hospice.

Primary Pot - Pourri

Art work produced during the school year by local primary schoolchildren. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

The Secret Garden

A new sculpture by local artist Graciela Ainsworth commissioned as part of South Leith Parish Church's 400th anniversary. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Festival United Church Service

Morning worship with music, readings and reflection, followed by refreshments for all. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Bollywood Taster Workshops

Learn basic Bollywood steps. Wear comfortable clothing. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Ceroc Modern Jive Partner Dancing

A demo and beginners class, free on presentation of your Leith Festival programme. Part of Leith Festival.

Ceroc Dance Class

A beginners class, a short freestyle session, the intermediate class and more freestyle until 10.30pm. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Super Jam Tea Dance

Jam, tea and music from The Fantasy Band. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Comfort Zone

Futuristic drama about a new development in the Harbourstone area SpaZe Inc in 2030. 'Part of Leith Festival'.


Alistair Rutherford's play about the changing face of Leith that was commissioned by Leith Festival in 2008. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

The 'PLACE' Performs . . .

Sketches, short films and live music (supported by Off The Rails) by local youth clubs. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Cricket Coaching

Cricket coaching session open to the public. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Leith Victoria AAC Boxing Show

The Leith Dockers Club shows off it's prowess in the ring across amateur, youth and novice categories. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Leith Then and Now

An illustrated presentation of Leith from the late 19th century to the present day. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Gala Day & Pageant

The pièce de résistance of the festival is a fun-packed day with a parade from Lochend Park to Leith Links (12.30pm), opening ceremony with 'mock' Lord Provost of Leith, MSP Margo McDonald (1.30pm), Taylor's Fun Fair, golf, ponies, tug o'war, country dancing and music from Streetcar. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

The Big Chill

A laid back afternoon of tunes, Indian head massage, tarot readings, candles, jewellery and crystals. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Swingin' the Docks

Re-create the swinging 40s with music and performances by Caledonian Swing Cats and a free swing dance taster lesson at 7.30pm. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Four Days

Four days, 12 stories and 33 characters written by Neil Mackay and presented by Strange Town Youth Theatre. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Charity Football Matches & Sponsored Walk

Ex-Hibs players take on Leith Athletic, and two teams of Leith Athletic veterans also play a friendly, plus there's a sponsored walk for local children and their families, and fundraising events in the evening. Money raised goes to local Primary Schools, Leith Festival itself, a charity of Paul Kane’s choosing and the…

The Edinburgh Quartet

The leading ensemble performs Haydn's 'Quartet in G minor op 64' and Mendelssohn's 'Quartet in F minor op 80' along with works by Puccini, Wolf and Dvórak. Refreshments will be served. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Under Junction Bridge

Bring a bottle and a blanket as the Heritage Ensemble returns to perform a sunset concert of classical music and classic film soundtracks under Junction Bridge. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Leith Community Concert Band

The group returns for its annual concert with a programme of popular favourites and the not so well known.

Capital Concert Band Gala Charity Concert

Popular music for the whole family, with special guests. In aid of Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Freaky Family and The Chans

A night of funk and hip hop breaks. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Bollywood Unlimited

Vibrant music, rhythms and dance from India. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Fanattica and The Nailed Civil Service

Quirky Balkan sounds. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Muscletusk, Wounded Knee, Scrim, Dora Doll and Ali Robertson

Giant Tank night of experimental music. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Sanna

A blend of bluegrass, Irish and Scottish traditional styles, featuring 2011’s BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, fiddle player, Kristan Harvey.

The Wee Baby Jesuses

Alternative indie. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Tucker & The Scattered Family, Gordon McIntyre, Casino, Roy Henderson, Spangleshifters and Stuart McKay

Indie and singer-songwriter action with a folky edge to raise funds for the Leith Theatre Trust.

Aye'n'Aye, Ruby & The Emeralds and The Dull Fudds

Ska, funk and reggae. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Sylvain Ayite

Senegal singer, songwriter and guitarist. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Rock Around the Shop

Live music from local talent as well and musical masterclasses. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Shellsuit Massacre and The Ex-Men

Spoken word duo Rodney Relax and Nick E Melville combine razorsharp techno with spoken word. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Bum-Clocks, Sellotape and The Tango Rhums

Folk-punk from Tam Dean Burns, Russell Burn (Fire Engines) and Malcolm Ross (Josef K/Orange Juice) aka The Bum-Clocks. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Macs

Contemporary blues duo. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Chilli Dogs

Country, blues and Americana with a hint of Western swing.

The Decades Retro and The EO

Retro hits from The Decades and funky trumpet tunes from The EO. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Edinburgh Originals and Rantum Scantum

Traditional tunes and Americana. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Explore Leith's Past & Present

A walking tour of Leith's turbulent past starting from Cruz on The Shore. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Historical Church Tours of South Leith Parish Church

Find out about this 400-year-old place of worship. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

New Living Leith Tour

Find out about the key stories in Leith's history - plague, golf, Cromwell and graverobbers. Leith Links tour at 1.30pm; South Leith Parish Church tour at 3pm. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Open Day At Hindu Mandir & Cultural Centre

Learn all about the Hindu faith. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Scottish Mineral & Lapidary Club Open Day

See the club's collection of Scottish agates, rocks and minerals.

Sikh Open Day

Learn all about the history and practices of Sikhism. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Viking Trail

A walking quiz about the Leith connection to the Vikings with plenty of stops at bars along the way for creative challenges and Viking outfit-making. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

'You Are History, You Are Legend' - La Pasionaria, Barcelona, 1938

A talk by local author Daniel Gray on the Scots who fought to save Spain from fascism, called 'Homage to Caledonia', and a Q&A chaired by Leith Councillor Gordon Munro. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

After the Fire By Karen Campbell

Scottish crime fiction writer Karen Campbell talks about her new novel featuring Sgt Anna Cameron. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Big Book Swap

The 2nd Annual Big Book Swap where you can swap one reader's trash for another reader's treasure. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts

Local children's author Lari Don reads from her book 'First Aid for Fairies and Other Fabled Beasts'. Ages 7+. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Millie Gray

Leith writer Millie Gray reads from her new novel, 'In A Class Of Their Own', which is set in the 1930s. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Kilmarnock Edition Live: An Evening With John Cairney

The man who played Robert Burns on TV and on stage illustrates Burns in verse, prose and song, through the paintings in the 'Inspired' exhibition.

Leith Children's African Storytelling Competition 2009

The first storytelling competition for children in Scotland with teams from Fort and Victoria Primaries competing. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Leith Festival Children's Writing

Hear stories written by P5 Leithers. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Leith Festival Storytelling Club

Myths, fables and tall tales from Leith's best young storytellers and guests from all over Scotland. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Luath Literature in Leith: Islay Whisky Legends With Robin Laing

Singer-songwriter Robin Laing dishes out some songs and stories with a whisky theme. Free dram upon arrival. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Luath Literature in Leith: Burns in Leith With Donald Smith

Donald Smith talks about his novel, 'Between Ourselves', which fleshes out Robert Burns' misadventures in Edinburgh. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Luath Literature in Leith: Death of a Chief With Douglas Watt

Douglas Watt talks about his pre-Enlightenment crime novel featuring investigative advocate John MacKenzie. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Robert Burns & The Dying Art of Poetic Dissent

Kevin Williamson dissects some of Burns' more subversive poetry and questions radical dissent in Scottish poetry today. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Word Birds

Hear from a whole flock of women poets: Jean Harrison, Lyn Muir, Sue Vickerman and Jennifer Copley. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Ted Brack

Ted Brack reads from his latest book about Hibs, 'There is a Bonny Fitba Team - 50 Years on the Hibee Highway'. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Tony Black

Author Tony Black, creator of anti-hero Gus Day, talks about his work. Refreshments provided.


An exhibition of mixed media art by Mary Mulvaney. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Art in the Mall

Large varied show of work featuring paintings, sculptures, photography and demonstrations. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Suzanne Gibson: Bright Perspective

Bold nature prints. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.


John Need and Colin Usher present a series of photographs based on the songs of Robert Burns.'Part of the Leith Festival'.

David Smart Art Exhibition

Smart presents 'Paintings of Leith and It's Shituations'.'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Dress Down

An exhibition of sculpture and photography by locally based artist Duncan Robertson.'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops Open Day

As well as providing an opportunity to visit artists in their studios and take part in creative workshops for all the family, this year's Open Day will feature a cuttlefish casting event led by artist Roddy Mathieson. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Every Picture Tells A Story

Landscape paintings by Sarah Carncross. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Leith Festival Art Expo

Leith and Edinburgh based artists exhibit. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Moorings - Paintings by CP Campbell

Showcasing recent port-inspired works. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Sunshine on Leith

John Cannavan's famous Edinburgh painting 'Sunshine on Leith' will be exhibited alongside mixed media works.'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Reckoning

Exhibition featuring sculpture, film and performance by eight artists from Scotland and Melbourne in one of Edinburgh's most interesting new venues. The exhibition will then tour to Australia in autumn 2009. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Secret Garden

Local artist Graciela Ainsworth has been commissioned to create a sculpture which would be a memorial for all those buried in Leith, especially those buried in unmarked graves.'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Bruce Morton

One night only from this legend of the Scottish comedy scene, ready and waiting to show how it's done. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Keara Murphy

A show in the company of comedian and actress Keara Murphy, as well as her many character creations in 'Lyre Burd - One Burd, Many Voices'. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

The Heresy Project: Kill Your God

Rick Molland and Sully O'Sullivan pull no punches in their quest to rid the world of religion, while having some damn good jokes on the way. In case you haven't guessed, not really for the easily offended or papally inclined. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

The Best of Irish Comedy

Top comedians, complete with wee funny accents and that, head over from the Emerald Isle to show why everyone loves an Irish comedian. Positive discrimination and all that. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

The Sugaring-Off Cabin

The new Stand sketch show heads towards the water to introduce Leith to its weird, weird world.. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Improv with Stu & Garry

Lightening fast reactions and whippet speed gags from improv dudes Stu Murphy and Garry Dobson, them of The Stand fame. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Ding Dong Comedy

Davey See, Chris Foote and guests present a selection of hand-picked fine young talent. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Tom Stade

Stade strolls to the Shore to charm his people, in a show written by a man who owns the best joke about a wall EVER. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Phil Buckley's Stupid World Tour

Join Phil as he explains about realising he's an idiot. Well, we've all been there. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Stand up Sisters

Ladies are being funny this evening. If you don't believe us, go to Cruz and watch Susan Morrison, JoJo Sutherland, Elaine Malcolmson and Siân Bevan prove us right. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Fit O'The Giggles Finest

In its homes at the Mercat and the Grassmarket, Fit O'The Giggles has seen some bloomin' good acts pass through its doors. Here are some of the best. With Keara Murphy. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Vladimir McTavish

The much-loved McTavish performs his comedy countdown of 'The 50 Greatest Scots of All Time... Ever!'. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

Leith Festival Primary Schools' Poster Competition

Annual competition for primary school kids to enter a poster.

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