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