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May 1, 2019

The passing years

Some would argue that social enterprise has been around ever since a group of weavers from Fenwick in East Ayrshire came together to form the world’s first cooperative. Others point to the community business movement that grew up in Strathclyde in the 1980’s as the forerunner of what have today. For the past twenty years or so, Senscot has planted the social enterprise flag on the policy landscape and many of these early pioneers are now reaching important milestone birthdays. One of Edinburgh’s most acclaimed social enterprises celebrates this week.


Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Springing from nowhere (hence the name!) into a small gallery space in the centre of Edinburgh in 1994, Out of the Blue has since grown many branches and now enliven and animate five buildings in Edinburgh.  This includes the legendary Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith and the iconic Bongo Club in the city centre. Since 1994, over two million people have come through our doors to work, create, exhibit, perform, eat, drink, dance, teach and learn. 

Each Out of the Blue building has a creative purpose in its own right, but collectively they drive the growth of the Creative Industries in Edinburgh and Scotland by providing opportunities for employment, education and enterprise. The buildings provide spaces for studios, workshops, classes, exhibitions, music practice, recording, performance, rehearsal, events, meetings, theatre, music, visual arts, architecture, designers, screen printers, social enterprises, jewellery makers, and more.

Rob Hoon, Out of the Blue Manager said:

 “Out of the Blue’s spaces resist classification. Our buildings are not simply artists’ studios, or ‘creative hubs’. Our spaces are unique, reflecting a model that has developed over 25 years, and reflect a hybrid of arts, participatory education, enterprise, creativity, and community development. There is cross fertilisation between these areas which support individuals and collective initiatives. This in turn has economic, health and educational benefits for individuals and their communities.”

Phil Denning, Chair of Out of the Blue Board of Directors said: 

“As we look ahead to the next 25 years, we want to embed this creative ambition across the communities we work in, to continue to make spaces where everyone can flourish, and to harness the magic that Out of the Blue has already captured for so many people across the city.” 

Ally Hill, Manager of The Bongo Club said:

“The Bongo Club has been pushing the boundaries of the Edinburgh scene since 1996 as a nightclub, live venue and all-round artistic hub with a street-level-headed attitude and an international reputation.  Through the loyal support of the community (and the Council), it’s overcome threats to its existence and is currently in its third incarnation, occupying the cavernous spaces below the Central Library, on Cowgate.  World class international talent perform throughout much of the year and the roll call of high profile names lining up to lend their support during the last ‘Save the Bongo’ campaign bears testament to this enduring international status.” 

Throughout our 25-year history we have seen many success stories from those using our spaces to bring their creative vision to life; from Young Fathers first meeting at the Bongo Club and now creating music at Out of the Blue’s Music Studios, to young people training in our cafe and now planning to run an urban cook school at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall.

We take on spaces and turn them into centres of imagination and enterprise, such as the Abbeymount Studios for craft and design in the old school at the top of Easter Road. We start enterprises such as Out of the Blueprint and run them with young people to offer income generating opportunities for them to create comics and exhibitions.

Out of the Blue is an organisation that has made a significant impact on the city of Edinburgh and the communities it thrives in, as well as contributing to the wider arts sector in Scotland.

For an organisation to have started from a mission to find and develop creative space, to evolve as a sustained social enterprise with multiple branches is something to celebrate.

Out of the Blue provide studio and production space for Edinburgh’s cultural community.

We generate opportunities for everyone to participate in the arts by fostering innovative and accessible creative projects.