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Leith’s Citadel Theatre given fresh life after 30 years

Leith Theatre. Photo: Chris Scott
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A 1,400-seat theatre in Leith – which has been dark for almost 30 years – has been given a new lifeline thanks to a pop-up arts festival.

The Hidden Door Festival, which takes over disused urban spaces in Edinburgh and makes them available to artists and other creatives, will run from May 26 to June 4, 2017 in the Citadel Theatre.

David Martin, Hidden Door’s creative director, told The Stage the plan was to use “every inch” of the building. Besides the stage, auditorium and balcony, the venue has old dressing rooms, passages, a projector room and an orchestra pit.

The theatre has been dark since 1988. Despite Leith Theatre Trust taking over the lease from City of Edinburgh Council this year, it is currently on the Theatres Trust’s Theatre Buildings at Risk register.

The Citadel Theatre is part of the Leith Theatre Complex, which includes the Morton Halls, currently used for weddings, and an art deco crush hall.

Martin told The Stage: “Our intention is to use Hidden Door as a lever to get the whole Leith Theatre project moving, and get people excited and involved in it. Although much of what we do will be a temporary solution, it will be a way to get people into the venue and able to enjoy it.”

“Hidden Door is all about creative solutions to get something to happen where things aren’t happening. Our job is not to build a permanent theatre venue, but to use the shell to get people excited about it, and then the work can begin to make it a permanent fixture,” he added.

According to John Paul McGroarty, artistic director of the Leith Theatre Trust, “the building itself is structurally sound”.

“Most of the damage to the building is surface deterioration, which has been caused by weathering. We think that can be tidied up so it is good and fit for purpose,” he said.

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