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March 26, 2008

Sun is shining on Leith Festival

This community led arts organisation has experienced dramatic growth in recent years and now attracts thousands from all over Edinburgh and beyond to its eclectic programme


The roots of the Leith Festival go back 100 years – in 1907, the ‘Leith Pageant’ parade was held to raise funds for a new hospital in Leith. But it took until 1970s before the parade became a festival. Since the millennium, Leith Festival has grown spectacularly, now boasting 150 events operating out of 60 venues across the community and drawing in an audience of over 30,000. The Gala Day and Pageant remain the traditional heart of the Festival but in recent years the programme has developed and diversified to the point where it now includes separate strands for comedy , music, film, photography, visual arts, literature and drama, dance.
Leith Festival is an independent registered charity. It takes the form of a Company limited by guarantee and has a board of directors that are drawn from the local community. The Festival engages on a freelance basis an Artictic Director and a Festival Manager and offers internships to students from the city’s universities who assist on areas of marketing, programming and event management.

The main Festival programme runs over a 10 day period in June but also manages to coordinate community celebrations at other times of the year such as St Andrews Day, Christmas Celebrations and a Burns Supper.
The strategic objectives of Leith Festival are :

• As an organisation, to be the lead catalyst and pace-setter for festival, arts and celebration activities in Leith with a strong reputation in Edinburgh, Scotland and beyond
• To have a permanent all year round professional presence in our own premises in the heart of Leith
• To establish the Leith Festival in June as a major arts and celebration event in the Scottish calendar with a growing international reputation – progressing in 2009 to a full fortnight in June
• To progressively organise festival, celebration and arts events at many other holiday and celebration times throughout the year
• To establish a Leith presence in the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe in collaboration with other partner organisations and businesses in Leith and beyond
• To develop street and open air art and celebration events in Leith and build the Gala Day and Pageant into a major street carnival event
• To develop the activities of the organisation into work experience, training and volunteering opportunities for the residents of Leith of all generations and backgrounds
• To actively develop and seek funding for our own arts and festival projects that will nurture, develop and encourage Leith talent and expression
• To support the development of original arts in Leith and make Leith into a renowned centre for original arts
• To build strong relationships with the Leith business community and promote the activities of the festival as a strong brand to commerce and business well beyond the Port
• To establish the Association as a financial secure organisation with an asset base and a variety of entrepreneurial income generating activities
• To champion the identity of Leith and build on our multi-cultural and international identities in the tradition of the Port