You can’t go anywhere without hearing about the much anticipated return of Spud, Renton, Sick Boy and Begbie, the title characters of cult film Trainspotting. 20 years on, its sequel, T2: Trainspotting, is back. As well as the city of Edinburgh offering the prime location to follow in the footsteps of our favourite characters – many of the scenes you’ll see on the big screen were filmed right here in Edinburgh.
Of course, the two films would never have come to pass it hadn’t been for the incredible books written by novelist, playwright and short story writer, Irvine Welsh. The author has often talked about his deep connection with Leith and Edinburgh, but in 2017 he is doing more for his favourite district by leading a public appeal to restore the Leith Theatre – a venue that has become rundown over the last two decades.
Leith Theatre was built in 1932 as a gift for the people of Leith from the city of Edinburgh after the areas were merged. It suffered serious damage in an aerial bomb attack during World War II, requiring substantial work to return it to full working order. Over the years it attracted many big name bands as the venue became synonymous with good music. Welsh, who was born and raised in Leith, himself visited the theatre to watch music legends AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Slade and Kraftwerk take to the stage at its height. Sadly, the theatre fell into disrepair over the years and, more recently, it has been in the headlines after being almost sold by the city council to foot the bill for the refurbishment of another venue, King’s Theatre.
Public intervention saved Leith Theatre back in 2004, and now Welsh is campaigning for £250,000 to be raised to get the theatre back to a functional state. However, beyond this it is anticipated that a more ambitious £10 million capital will be required restore the venue to its former glory.
The theatre will be opening its doors as a pop-up venue for the renowned Hidden Door Festival – a showcase for emerging art talent and an event known for breathing new life into derelict spaces – in May this year. The campaign to raise funds has been started to pay for the theatre’s clean-up and refurbishment in the months leading up to this. If the funds can be raised, Leith Theatre is also expected to be used for other major events operating across the city, including the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
To add further weight to the campaign, Welsh will soon become a patron of The Leith Theatre Trust, a body that took control of the theatre from the city council in 2016.
Based just a short drive from Quartermile, it’s not just music and art fans in the city that will benefit from the restoration of this much-loved venue. The Trust’s long term ambition is to overhaul the theatre completely, reinstating its once renowned 1,500-capacity auditorium and making it a suitable performance space for both professional and amateur talents, contributing to Edinburgh’s thriving arts and festival scene.
Of course, the last 10 years has seen a dramatic change in Leith, as it has become a fashionable, gentrified area that boasts cafes, bars and even Michelin-starred restaurants. And these changes make it the perfect moment to bring the Leith Theatre back to life. As Irvine Welsh says:
“The loss of city centre venues and the gentrification of Leith, making it no longer a no-go area for tourists, ensure its development as a city-wide resource essential. And it is, and will remain, a hub for the local community.”
Passionate about being within easy reach of Edinburgh’s best venues? Find out more about life at Quartermile today.