Leith Late Festival

If you find yourself in Edinburgh in June then do yourself a favour and get doon tae Leith. For June is the Patron Sainted month of local festivals in this neck o’ Auld Reekie. The best of them by far is Leith Late which in my opinion is the most exciting arts festival you could hope to have, literally, on your doorstep. (Ok well, my doorstep, but visitors are always welcome.) It’s a long weekend of events choc-fu o’ (filled with) installation, multi-media art, spoken word, dance, poetry and music.

Art Bus at Leith Late Festival 2017

Like their younger sibling Hidden Door festival, Leith Late is all about utilising quirky and unusual spaces for their projects. To give you a flavour, this year’s programme has included the local launderette, an old police box, a Punjabi cafe, the vaults underneath a Georgian, ex-mariners welfare HQ and Leith Cricket Club! In addition to their varied line-up, the festival’s calling card is their guided, mural tours around the neighbourhood. Here’s me casually swaggerin’ past the braw Eduardo Paolozzi mural on Henderson Street.

Eduacrdo Paolozzi mural, Leith by Russell Ian Dempster

This year, I was delighted to see that a Public Poetry Trail had been added to the mix. So, (in the style of a news presenter), I went along to find out more about it …

Leith Late Festival Poetry Trail

Leith Late Poetry Trail poem

Our rendezvous point for the tour was just outside the beautiful, Leith Custom House on Commercial Street. Standing, awaiting our arrival were the Leith Late staff, our guide from Edinburgh City of Literature and Christine de Luca whose poem, Leith Swing formed the basis of the adventure. After some chatter and dug-clapping (of a lovely, wee floof called Bonnie), off we ventured …

Bonnie, the dug Leith Late 2017

The tour stopped at key points in and around Leith Shore where we were able to admire Bethany Thompson’s beautiful stencils of Christine’s poem. It’s a cracking route which takes in stunning architecture, historical hotspots and many a braw cafe and pub. I would recommend that you trace it yourself here map. Get in there quick though, before the stencils start to fade!

Leith Swing poem by Christine de Luca, The Shore, Leith.

My personal highlight of the tour was undoubtedly, getting a sneaky peak into Leith Corn Exchange. I had been curious about this gorgeous building for years and wondered what went on inside. Thanks to Jemma, owner of Bonnie the dug and employee at the Creative Exchange, we were allowed a peek inside!  Legend. Jemma told us that although it’s now used as a work space for numerous, creative organisations it was formerly a marketing hall for the grain trade of which, Leith was a main player.

Most noteworthy are the gorgeous, wooden beams supporting the roof of the building. These have been painted copper, in imitation of the style of the original market.

Beautiful, wooden beams in Leith Creative Exchange.

The stairwell on the south side of the building is a stunner too with a set of very sexy set of marble steps …

Marble stairs in Leith Creative Exchange.

… and these charming lighthouses (a nod to Leith’s maritime heritage) atop the posts.

Once outside again, we were able look up and admire the icing on the cake of the building – it’s marvellous frieze. Sculpted by John Rhind, it depicts cherubs (the Leith bairns) engaged in various agricultural activities associated with the goods o’ the market.

Our tour then progressed up the busy thoroughfare of Constitution Street, before we hung a right through South Leith Parish Church grounds and onto Trinity House. Here, Leith Late have commandeered the vaults where Clara Hastrup’s playfully surreal multimedia art installation, Junk Ecology was showing.

Multimedia art in the vaults of Trinity House, Leith Late

Our tour culminated in a gathering at the Foot o’ Leith Walk for a rendition of Leith Swing by the author herself, Christine de Luca.

Christine de Luca reciting her poem, Leith Swing at Leith Late 2017

I really hope that this Poetry Trail becomes a regular fixture for Leith Late. Being able to discover aspects of history through poetry and art whilst having a dander, is as informative as it is uplifting. Community spirited, art therapy in a nutshell.

Leith Late runs for 4 days, Thursday to Sunday during mid-June. Keep up to date with their projects at http://www.leithlate.co.uk/ and find them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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