The Hidden Door Festival will take place at the former Scottish Widows building at 15 Dalkeith Road from 31 May to 4 June, and today organisers have revealed their full programme.

Headline music acts include Indie rock band Porridge Radio, Grammy winners Hot 8 Brass Band, techno producer Max Cooper, pop collective NiNE8 and Irish Rock band Pillow Queens.

The focus will be on creating separate spaces called environments for each type of entertainment. The festival will have a diverse poetry and spoken word programme, as well as a collection of visual art from some of Scotland’s best.

Environments runs over all five nights with a journey for audiences to take exploring the office building while admiring the art set in the huge bare disused spaces. There will be live music, dance, film, set design and a little opera. The way the work has been brought together is as a collaborative project by a variety of artists.

The post-nuclear wasteland will start audiences off on their journey, created by choreographer Róisín O’Brien and composer Rowan McIlvride where a dance piece will take place.

The mountain environment takes inspiration from the extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat outside with work by recent Duncan of Jordanstone art graduate Zoe Gibson. Working with dancer Kai Tomioka exploring the impact of conflict.

In the next Environment, opera singer Stephanie Lamprea is working with musician Tom Green and visual artist Oana Stanciu to create an Anthropocenic Garden, exploring themes of extinction.

Meanwhile, in a forest of moveable trees, Beijing Dance Academy graduate Yuxi Jiang will bring her contemporary take on Chinese folk dance to create a piece meditating on The Last Leaf on Earth.

As the audience explore deeper into the venue, they will encounter the Sea Bed, courtesy of artist Alliyah Enyo.

Finally, they will end up deep in the geological depths of the earth and its distant past, curated by Edinburgh electronic music producer Exterior

The audience will experience a surprise element, guided on their journey with performance created by dance theatre maker Tess Letham and costumed by Cleo Rose McCabe.

Music

With more bands yet to be confirmed and announced there is already an impressive line up.

Also performing in the former canteen will be post-punk outfit Pozi, doom jazz trio AKU!, jazz collective Corto.alto, alt-pop singer Berta Kennedy, Edinburgh band Dinosaur 94, and post-punk electronica Sweaty Palms.

The space will end each night with a party hosted by brass band Blue Giant Orkestar, sax and drums duo O., and utopian synth duo Free Love, with more to be confirmed.

Down in the Loading Bay stage, indie band DEADLETTER, rap artist Bemz and alt musician Rozi Plain will entertain audiences. Over the five days, they’ll be joined by indie band Wombo, American rock band Flasher, hip hop artist Billy Got Waves, rapper and singer Jelani Blackman and outsider pop outfit The Microband.

The space will also host six bands selected through an open call, who will perform for audiences during the day on Saturday and Sunday before the event becomes ticketed. They are Goodnight Louisa, Peplo, Blush Club, Josephine Sillars, Rhona Macfarlane and Blair Coron.

In the Club Space, music label Paradise Palms, Afro-Latin club night Samedia Shebeen and women and non-binary DJ collectives Sisu and EPiKA will each host residencies showcasing their roster of talent.

Visual art

Inside there are actually not too many walls in the former largest open plan office in the UK. But there will be art exploring much the same issues as those being considered by the Environments.

A series of interactive installation pieces from Becky Hunter, Chell Young, Elvey Stedman, Evie Rose Thornton, Kirsten Millar, Scott Hunter, and Soorin Shin will explore ideas of climate change and industry.

Also on display will be photography from Emily Nicholl, abstract art from Iain H Williams, industrial art from James Sinfield, an installation from Jo Fleming Smith, object art from Joan Smith, textile art from Laura Lees, etchings from Madeline Mackay, found billboards from Martin Elden, ice-inspired hangings from Mary Walters, ink drawings from Natasha Russell, sculpture from Ross Andrew Spencer, paintings from Ryan Cairns, and sculpture from Tim Taylor.

Work from recent art school graduates Aimee Finlay, Alice Sherlock, Amy Kim Grogan, Ben Caro and Kat Culter-MacKenzie, Ciaran Cannon, Coire Simpson, Dhira Chakraborty, Irene Aldazabal, Leah Wood, Sarah Phelan and Shae Myles will also be on display.

Spoken word

This year’s poetry and spoken word programme will showcase a diverse group of new and developing performers from across Scotland and beyond.

On the first day of the festival, writer, poet and researcher Caitlin Stobie will share her writing, and Clare O’Brien will present her work inspired by the natural world and the creatures that wander through it. Queer writer and spoken word poet Gray Crosbie makes their return to Hidden Door, as does Sean Wai Keung presenting his reflections on identity and migration.

Thursday 1 June sees poet and performance maker Bibi June present post-apocalyptic stories on climate change, while actor and poet Rupert Smith takes inspiration from Shakespeare into his work. Jay Whittaker will perform her irreverent, unsentimental poems looking at mortality, illness and loss.

On Friday 2 June, Irish poet Éadaoín Lynch will perform from their debut poetry pamphlet, and Genevieve Carver will present her work in response to dolphins, porpoises and seals. British-Sudanese lyricist and performance poet Zaki El-Salahi will take to the stage, and Sal will perform her work entangling trans and chronically ill experiences with organic processes of decay and birth.

On Saturday queer Latinx writer Andrés N Ordorica shares his writing on the diasporic experience, and Ross McCleary performs his piece advocating for refilling of the Nor Loch. Edinburgh-based US poet Allie Kerper will also perform.

The last day of Hidden Door will include performances from Scottish-Canadian poet Patrick James Errington, and Glasgow’s Oliver Robertson. Janette Ayachi will share her musings on searching landscapes and human connection, and Elspeth Wilson will celebrate joy from a marginalised perspective.

Dance theatre maker Tess Letham from Hidden Door team said: “This year Hidden Door is commissioning and producing unique Environments to take the audience on a journey round our vast, maze-like venue. As they explore, they will encounter music, dance, visual art, video projections, and performances that represent different terrestrial habitats.

“I am excited to be playing a key role in the audience’s journey through the Environments, helping them explore the immersive experience.

“This year’s full Hidden Door programme further explores the idea of Environment, inviting poets, spoken word artists, and visual artists to share their understanding of climate change, the world, and our impact on it.

“I hope audiences will take the opportunity to come and explore our wonderful, atmospheric venue and the programme of talent we’re filling it with.”

Tickets are available via hiddendoorarts.org/tickets or from Citizen Ticket.

Hidden Door 2023 Venue – former Scottish Widows on Dalkeith Road Photo: © 2023, Martin P. McAdam www.martinmcadam.com
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Founding Editor of The Edinburgh Reporter.
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