The story so far...
Betrayal, forgiveness, love, war, neglect, despair, hope, healing ... a new beginning.
Our humble theatre has definitely had its ups and downs, but let's start at the beginning, shall we?
The theatre complex was a gift from the people of Edinburgh to the people of Leith following the decision on 10th October 1920 to incorporate the Burgh of Leith into Edinburgh. Works commenced in 1929 and the Leith Town Hall complex opened in 1932. Huge success! The entire complex, including the Large Hall, Small Hall and the Library, was gorgeous and well loved. BUT all is (un)fair in love and war, and now the war came.
In 1941 the Main Auditorium suffered bomb damage and remained dormant for the following two decades.
In 1961 the theatre was finally ready to make its glorious re-emergence. The main hall was used by amateur opera groups, local schools, for political rallies and was the weight lifting venue during in the 1972 Commonwealth Games, among other things. The Edinburgh International Festival returned every August, allowing legendary theatre directors Yukio Ninawagea and Yuri Lyubimov to grace the stage.
The 70s rolled in and brought with them a whole new type of life for Leith Town Hall - and confusing changes of name. For a short period it was called the Citadel Theatre, but eventually became known as Leith Theatre. A wide variety of famous artists and bands, including AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Dr Feelgood and Kraftwerk played the venue. And The Wombles. There is more information about the gigs performed at the Edinburgh Gig Archive.
In 1983, the theatre was essentially closed, although it continued to host the Edinburgh International Festival every August. But, alas, in 1988 the curtain was finally drawn and the beautiful venue was neglected and fell into disrepair.
Just kidding... In 2004, a plucky community group, known as the Leith Theatre Action Group, stopped the sale of the theatre for residential development. In 2008 the Leith Theatre Action Group became the Leith Theatre Trust and was registered as a limited company with Companies House. The Trust became a registered charity in 2011.
Through sheer grit and determination the Trust petitioned for years until finally in 2016 the City of Edinburgh Council granted us a 5 year lease with an agreement in principle for a further 30 years. The council still owns the building.
Since then we have been working our socks off to get this place back up and running. And the good news is that the patience, resilience, determination and know-how of Leith community members is beginning to pay off!
The first Hidden Door Festival in 2017 opened the theatre for performance for the first time in almost 30 years. Innovative lighting effects disguised the water damage and flaking paint and demonstrated the theatre’s great potential as a music venue. Hidden Door returned in May/June 2018, followed by the much anticipated return of the Edinburgh International Festival in August of that year for a series showcasing Scottish musicians. We’ve also had Fly Club Nights, Neu! Reekie!, EH6 Festival, B2 Productions, MGA Dance Academy, Comedy Fundraisers and produced an anti-war satire the Last Days of Mankind, a collaboration between several European countries marking the anniversary of WWI. There is no sign of slowing down.
Dare we say it...