Neighbourhoods, Watch! - Leith Festival Vs West End Festival

Neighbourhoods, Watch! - Leith Festival Vs West End Festival

In the East corner, Edinburgh’s Leith Festival! In the West corner, Glasgow’s West End Festival! Kirstin Innes adjudicates the battle of the community fests.

If we’re starting off with sizes, it’s probably worth pointing out that the West End Festival, which has been running for 15 years, technically covers a far bigger catchment area and is ten days longer than the Leith Festival, so has more room to pack in its whacking 430 events this year. That said, there has been a Leith Festival in some form or another since 1907, so each of its almost 100 events is steeped in history. Winner:West End Festival is the heavyweight here.

Local heroes represented
Leith, of course, has its very own Bard in the inflexible, slightly intimidating shape of Irvine Welsh. He’s not actually here in person this year, but there’s a great cinema strand based out of Sofi’s Bar paying tribute to his works: the fabulously foul Wedding Belles alongside, of course, Trainspotting. Over in the West, there’s Lobey Dosser Day: a day of events dedicated to cartoonist Bud Neill, meeting at the statue of his titular cartoon sheriff (on Woodlands Road opposite Uisge Beatha). Winner: The Ultimate Leither takes this round. We’re too scared to object.

Weird and wonderful Both festivals traditionally throw up a number of, ah, oddball events alongside yer more traditional gigs ‘n’ markets. This year, we’ll be rolling our eyes (but totally charmed) at the West End Festival’s Curses! Ancient Egyptian Magic in Half An Hour! workshop, the cooking class How To Become An Italian Mama (taught by a Welsh Frenchman...) and braving Brel’s gin tasting sessions. In Leith, we’ll be stocking up resources for the Strangers In A Strange Land ‘14 hour literary mash-up’ (no, us neither), before taking a Trainspotting tour around Renton and Begbie’s final haunts, then settling down for Whores and Sons, Susan Morrison’s storytelling session about the sleazier side of the Port. Winner: A brain-boggling draw.

Big names
Nah, you’re barking up the wrong tree here. Although there are a fair few high profile events on at both festivals, both programmes tend to be far more concerned with celebrating the talent that already exists in the community. So, sure, you can catch Eddi Reader at Oran Mor as part of the WEF, or Vladimir McTavish bringing the lulz at Cruz in Leith, but it’s sweeter because both of them are locals. Other good local names to catch: Rick Redbeard from the Phantom Band and sweet WEndy indiefolkers Maple Leaves, both at Brel, Zoey Van Goey and Endor at Oran Mor, and children’s author Maggi Gibson at Gilmorehill G12 (all WEF); Kim Edgar at Iso Bar, Chris Bradley from Aberfeldy’s solo project,
Winner: Listen. At the end of the day, the winners are the respective communities, amirite? Aaah …

Leith Festival, Fri 11–Sun 20 Jun, full listings; West End Festival until Sun 27 Jun, full listings

Open Mic Night

All comers welcome. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Arts & Crafts Exhibition

An exhibition featuring everything from beadcraft to model railways. Part of Leith Festival.

Sunshine Delay

Melodic country-influenced Americana.

Trainspotting Tour

The story behind Leith's own famous fictional version of the 1980s drug scene, and a chance to see where Mark Renton, Begbie, Sickboy and the gang used to hang.

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.


Indie acoustica. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The Big Sing Comes to Leith

Lively singing workshop for 9-14 year-olds, teaching body percussion, gumboot dancing, games, and of course singing. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Rosie Nimmo and Martin Lennon

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


Experimental female duo mixing pop, folk, jazz, rock and everything in between.

The Kays Lavelle, The Void and Gallus Fever

Dark and beautiful local band. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Sunshine on Leith

Dundee Rep's hugely acclaimed Proclaimers musical returns for another warm 'n' fuzzy run.

The Stantons

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

Leith Festival CommunityTattoo

Annual Leithers' answer to that big noisy thing up at the castle – expect massed pipes and drums, appearances from Leith Community Concert Band, highland dancers and guests.


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.

Leith Time Travellers

Learn about Leith's history from medieval to modern times. 'Part of Leith Festival'


Night of Springsteen, Pixie Lott and Phil Collins covers and more.

Sunshine on Leith

A musical from Dundee Rep Ensemble, packed with songs from The Proclaimers, that follows the highs and lows of two soldiers returning home from the army. Glaswegian actor Billy Boyd, famous for his turn as Pippin the mischievous hobbit in the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy, stars.

Lost in Audio, The Fusiliers and The Last Nights

Hard edged indie packed with guitar hooks from LiA. 'Part of the 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'.

Primary Pot - Pourri

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

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.

Historical Church Tours of South Leith Parish Church

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

Scottish Mineral & Lapidary Club Open Day

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

The Siege of Leith Show

Leith, 1560, and everyone's at war. History comes to life through drama and music in this comic production from the Citadel Arts Group. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

The New Times, Imperial Racing Club, Toutettes and Curly Heroes

Including blistering power pop from Scottish indie types IRC. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

A Sense of Place

Readings of poetry from Edinburgh and Leith. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Literary Speed-Dating

Three minutes to chat with fellow book lovers about your favourite read, and you never know what might happen. Age range 24-35. Email for further details. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Strangers In A Strange Land: An Evening With Peter Kerr

Scotland's best-selling travel writer's tales of the trials and rewards of running an orange farm in Mallorca have been international bestsellers. Join him for a Spanish-style dinner and readings from his books, followed by a signing. Tickets include Sangria, dinner, coffee and chocolates. Limited to 30 places so book…

Victorian Recollections: 500 Years Of The Pentland Family

Joyce Wallace discusses her latest book, which details the history of the Pentland family from the early 16th century. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Dae Yae Ken Yer Leith?

Testing your knowledge of Leith is this special edition of the regular pub quiz. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Transitions at Transgressions

Local artists work on creating on-site pieces which depict Leith's transition from past, to present, to future. 'Part of Leith Festival'.


That's Lunch Productions presents a story about a cleaning business and working for the minimum wage. 'Part of the Leith Festival'

The Legacy

Politically engaged Leith theatre group ACTive Inquiry presents a play about change and how to effect it. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

We Are SpartaKi!

Monologues and sketches ranging from the touching to the uproarious by Cecelia Grainger, performed by Karen Douglas and other actors. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

450 Years of Education in Leith

An illustrated talk about education in Leith schools past and present. 'Part of Leith Festival'

Building a Community - Question Time

A Question Time style of conference with some of the leading lights of the Leith community. 'Part of Leith Festival'

The Siege of Leith Tour

Tour of the sites connected to the 1560 Siege of Leith. 'Part of Leith Festival'

Trinity House Guided Tour

Leith's maritime museum offers hourly guided tours of its impressive collection.

Digimation HND 2010

Work by Stevenson College HND Digital Design students. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Aileen Keith: Default/Delete

An exhibition of new work by Aileen Keith. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Magic Garden

Photographer Liz Tainsh and painter Sarah Roberts explore the idea that beauty isn't skin deep. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

The Reality of My Leith

Eco-friendly artwork by Tsz Kwan CHan representing people's impressions of Leith. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

ABC- Artists Open Studios

An opportunity to see the artists at work and buy direct from the makers and shakers. 'Part of Leith Festival'.


An exhibition of recent work by Leith-based photographer Susie Lowe. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Auld Leith Town

An exhibition by Leith artists, drawing inspiration from Leith's history. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Daniel Dabrowski @ The Compass

Photographs of Edinburgh with a strong focus on Leith. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Discovering Hidden Talent Exhibition

Exhibition of arts and crafts by local makers and artists. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Duncan Robertson: Remembrance

Exhibition by of new work by this Leith-based sculptor. 'Part of Leith Festival'.

Flower Power

Exhibition of flower-inspired motifs by Sarah Roberts, Liz Tainsh and other invited artists. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Lauren Fox, Driftwood

Artwork that aims to harness the freedom and beauty of driftwood. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Leith Festival Art Expo

2nd Expo featuring a large, varied selection of work. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.


Photography exhibition featuring work by Keith de Lorey and Kamila Kowalczyk. Opening times vary please telephone 0131 553 0639 to check. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Made in Leith!

Exhibition of work by local artisans. Opening times vary please telephone 07828 489042 to check. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.


Arran Ross hosts a live chainsaw sculpture and wood carving exhibition and demo. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Surfaced - A Collection of New Paintings by Adam Wallace and CP Campbell

Abstract and representational paintings. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.


Enigmatic photography exhibition based on Joyce's great literary work. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Forward Play

Live electronica from Alex Tronic Records. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Leith Community Big Band

New Orleans and big band sounds. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

7 Different Shades of Wrong

A chance to be part of a live comedy podcast, with Rick 'Heresy' Molland and Billy 'Sidesplitters' Kirkwood. 'Part of Leith Festival'

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Scottish Parliament

Bruce Fummey chucks together history, patriotism and a whole heap of deep-fried comedy. 'Part of Leith Festival'

Fit O' the Giggles Finest

The finest comedians to swish through the Fit O' the Giggles doors of new talent: these could be the faces to watch. 'Part of Leith Festival'

Keara Murphy's Travellin' Circus

The Grande Dame of the Fit O' The Giggles brand presents 'The Greatest Show on Earth', packed full of new characters and tales. 'Part of Leith Festival'

Phil Buckley

A new hour of stand-up, based on real-life stories and no gags in 'Jokes Not Included'. 'Part of Leith Festival'

Vladimir McTavish

Local hero Vladimir McTavish takes a look at Scotland's national drink in:' Whisky: An Eejit's Guide'. 'Part of Leith Festival'

Sospiro Baroque

The Edinburgh-based group of musicians explores the baroque repertoire of the 17th and 18th centuries, under the direction of Roderick Bryce.

Any Color Black, Cazium and Dead Boy Robotics

Danceable electro and hip hop beats. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Burnsong Winners Showcase

A mixed line-up as winners of the prestigious contest - Andy Tucker, Roberto Cassini, Nuala Kennedy, Fiona J Mackenzie, Marie Clare Lee, Lisa Rigby and Alex Hodgson - perform folk, indie, jazz and more. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Open Mic vs Open Floor Night

A night for artists and dancers to show what they've got. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

R17 Collective

Hip hop night featuring Fly Boys, LAD, Young Fleet and Loose Endz. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Svengali, Tams Railway, Remnant Kins and Scrap Brain

Mixed indie night. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Enter The Banjo Lounge & Guests

Lounge versions of pop tunes (from Tom Jones to Nirvana) played in redneck jazz style on the five-string banjo. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Jewel & Esk Open Mic

Mixed line-up of bands and performers from the respected music course. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Great Junction Street Music Studios Open Day

The studios throw open their doors for the day. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Hip Hop Showcase

Pedro Solenoid presents this showcase featuring Madhat, Catchlick Emceez, Fountain Bridge Collective (reunion gig) and Perfect Practice. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Leith Records: Batter of the Bands

Local acts including Futuristic Retro Champions, Jakil and The Fusiliers 'batter' it out for supremacy. With edible prizes for the audience judges. Now, with this being a batter-themed event, we wonder what those could be... 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Fireproof Match

Tight melodic rock three-piece.

The Jammy Devils

Rock and pop covers playing hits from the likes of The Beatles, The KIllers, Maroon 5, The Rolling Stones and many more.

Renny Field & Amy Lee

First UK tour from this independent Australian musical duo. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Pose Victorious, Stanley Odd, Natures and Ok Social Club

Rock and hip hop as The Fix presents 'Riot in Leith'. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Dirty Modern Hero, A Day Overdue, Donnie Willow and The Industry

Under 18s 'School of Rock' gig. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Colossal Sessions

House party with Plus/Minus, Stevie Carnie, Brad Drew and Ross Hammond. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

General Malaise

Eclectic mix to keep Leith grooving. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Salsa Night

Hot salsa action from DJ Nano, with classes from 7pm-9pm. 'Part of the Leith Festival'.

Leith Festival

The vibrant community of Leith shows off its abundant festival skills with a fun-packed programme of events including exhibitions, concerts, walks, talks and films. Have a special look out for the Festival Gala Day and the Leith Festival Tattoo.

Nova Scotia Jazz Band

Expert traditional jazz featuring some of Scotland's top players on reeds, bass, banjo and cornet.

Leith Festival Primary Schools' Poster Competition

Annual competition for primary school kids to enter a poster.

Leith Jazz & Blues Festival

Three days of jazz in Leith. The 2017 line-up featured over 40 performances across three days.

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