Art, Music, Theatre and Dancing at Edinburgh’s Hidden Door Festival 2018

Hidden Door always makes it onto my summer festival schedule; I’ve been going to this fabulous event every year since its debut at the abandoned Market Street Vaults in 2014. My first year I made it to a handful of evening gigs, fuelled by gin and questionable dancing. This year I’ve been a wee Hidden Door gremlin, wandering around the festival almost every single night since it opened its doors last Friday.

For 2018 they’re back in the majestic Leith Theatre (and additional State Cinema venue across the road), originally a gift to Leith from the City of Edinburgh in 1920. Gorgeous architecture offset by the intoxicating scents of crumbling antique plaster and a history intrinsically linked to both Leith and Edinburgh, these two buildings alone has so many stories to tell. 

The Festival

On Friday I got a wee tour of the two sites with Travel Massive; we were given a history of the venues, checked out some fabulous artwork, and even had a chance to chat to some of the artists involved in this year’s installations. Some of my favourites were Jill Martin Boualaxai’s ‘Ghost Lines’, based on antique maps of Leith; Clara Rider’s hanging installation creating an interplay between light and colour; Nils McDairmid’s stylised linear portraits; and Jenna Corcoran’s piñatas.

Saturday I made it to the late night show, a set by Daniel Avery. I actually only made it back to Edinburgh from Glasgow by the skin of my teeth, just in time for his set to start. It was immense.

Sunday I was a bit worse for wear, with a slight post-techno, post-rum hangover from the night before. I made my way back down to Leith to see Jenna Corcoran’s performance, in which she smashed those piñatas at her ‘Let’s Smash the Patriarchy Party’.

By Monday night, volunteers and bar staff were starting to recognise me. My ginger bae Emily met me after work, so I gave her a whirlwind tour of both venues, alongside a running commentary and the appropriate amount of time allowed for our standard team selfies. I ate some vegetable gyoza from Harajuku Kitchen, which really helped ready me for gin. I even managed to get a cute pic with my new flamingo pal!

Tuesday was all about music; I made it down for a wee drink with Ruth and her partner Jack, caught up with the fabulous Nem, and then made our way into the main theatre for the album launch of Vox Liminis’s Distant Voices projectNot Known At This Address.  The collaboration brings together some of Scotland’s best and brightest songwriters with people who had firsthand experience of the criminal justice system, from prisoners to prison staff, researchers, probation officers, and social workers. Not Known At This Address is a uniquely human portrait of criminal justice in Scotland, featuring the musical talents and voices of Kris Drever, C. Duncan, Admiral Fallow, Emma Pollock, Rachel Sermanni,  Pronto Mama, Bdy_Prts, Fiskur, and Donna Maciocia. It was an incredible performance from everybody involved.

The Art

One of my favourite aspects of Hidden Door is the art; collaborations between the space and local artists. It’s rare to find such an interactive interplay between the exhibition space and the artwork. Room after room of incredible installations, in every medium you could possibly think of in 2D and 3D. I’ve been back almost every day to check out the art, and to see new perspectives of some of my favourites.

Tess Glen’s ‘One Room Living’ is inspired by the theatrical history of the venue; she built a fictional interior to create a setting ingrained with stories and characters.

Jill Martin Boualaxai’s ‘Ghost Lines’ references an antique map of Leith from 1870 in weathered and patinated metal sheets. Her work appears both on the rooftop of Leith Theatre and in the foyer of the State Cinema.

Clara Rider’s installation uses the interplay between light and colour; visitors are invited to playfully interact with the ever-changing shadows and reflections.

Nils McDairmid’s linear portraits are a collection of some of his favourite style icons such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Lady Gaga. The work is illustrative, bold, and stylised in black on white.

Jenna Corcoran’s piñatas represent elements of a toxic patriarchal society, culminating in a ‘Let’s Smash the Patriarchy Party’ with party games, piñatas, politics, and a ‘mouthy woman’ for a host, The installation is a reaction to our current political and social climate, showing an amusing approach to dismantling power structures through hitting papier mâché effigies with a cricket bat.

Stephanie Mann’s ‘Membrane Offerings’ is comprised of two works;  a framed print with a nod to the traditional still life representing the membrane between the subconscious and the conscious mind through mounds of salt-like crystals, and a floor peppered with stoneware ‘wiggles’.

The Food

Is it even a real blog post if I don’t mention food? Usually festivals are pretty hit or miss with vegan food options; I remember going to an event once that had zero vegan food, but discovered this only after I’d spent the afternoon drinking neat gin. Let me tell you, trying to line your stomach after the fact and then having to go hungry leads to some very drunken results.

This year’s Hidden Door has a total of 4 food trucks: Harajuku Kitchen (Japanese noodles and gyoza), Alplings (Austrian dumplings), Fire & Dough (pizza), and Ròst (local Scottish). 3 of them have delicious vegan options, from cheeseless pizza to vegetable udon and gyoza, and of course Tyrolean dumplings with goulash.

Remember folks, don’t drink on an empty stomach!

Hidden Door Festival 2018is on from 24 May-3 June at Leith Theatre AND State Cinema.

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