About Hidden Door

We open up forgotten urban spaces for the public to explore and discover incredible music, art, theatre, film, dance, spoken word and more.

Through our festivals we reveal hidden parts of the city and showcase new and emerging artists, musicians, theatre and film makers.

Hidden Door is a volunteer-run charity, with our work funded through ticket sales, sponsorship and fundraising. All money goes straight back into the festival and ensuring all of our creative contributors are fairly paid.

Hidden Door Charitable Company Ltd (known as Hidden Door) is a Scottish Charity, SC050108, regulated by the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).

Hidden Door 2024

This year we’re opening more doors, celebrating a decade since the first week-long Hidden Door Festival at the Market Street Vaults in 2014.

In May we threw a special birthday event at a unique underground location. We’re also making plans for a bigger festival later in 2024, with more details on that to follow soon – stay tuned for updates.

Our supporters

The Hidden Door 10th Birthday Party was kindly supported by Creative Scotland, Edinburgh Airport Community Fund, the Mickel Fund, the Sylvia Waddilove Foundation and the Friends of Hidden Door. Our 2023 partners include Microsteria, EHFM, Paradise Palms Records, St James Quarter, Bellfield Brewery, Jack Daniels and Artisan Roast.

A brief history of Hidden Door…

Hidden Door was originally founded in 2009 by a group of creatives seeking to make something interesting happen in the city. Their mission was to create events where audiences could experience art away from the traditional “white cube” gallery format.

The collective curated two events at the Roxy Art House in 2010, bringing together visual art, performance, film and music. The closure of the Roxy left the group with no venue and over the subsequent years they explored options for running a multi-arts event in derelict spaces. 

The idea grew as the volunteer team expanded, and in 2014 the first full Hidden Door Festival happened, when the team cleared out the disused Market Street vaults to run a 9-day celebration of the arts focused on showcasing local creative talent.

In 2015 the festival moved to a hidden courtyard behind Kings’ Stables Road, and returned to the same site in 2016, attracting over 12,000 visitors to experience a wealth of art, poetry, theatre, cinema, dance and music.

In 2017 the festival breathed new life into the old Leith Theatre, attracting rave reviews and critical praise for its role in resurrecting “Scotland’s best new live music venue”.

In 2018, the festival returned to Leith Theatre for 10 more days and nights of music, theatre, visual art, film, dance, spoken word, late-night DJs and special events – finishing what was started to transform the building into the major arts venue the city needs. Continuing the festival’s tradition of discovering forgotten spaces, the festival also took up residency in Leith’s empty and derelict former State Cinema building, just around the corner. We returned to Leith Theatre a final time in 2019 for a special weekender event.

Following an online-only series of shows in 2020 due to the pandemic, we opened up the epic Granton Gasworks in north Edinburgh in 2021, set in the shadow of the iconic gas holder. We also transformed a nearby disused warehouse into a vast exhibition and performance space as part of the festival. The additional venue doubled the footprint of the festival, allowing us to exhibit the work of recent art graduates whose degree shows were cancelled due to COVID-19.

In 2022, we brought the old Royal High School on Calton Hill to life for a ten day festival of live music, visual art, dance, theatre and spoken word.

The building, mostly silent since the school closed in the 1960s, was used to celebrate Scotland’s exciting new and emerging creative talent before work begins to transform it into Scotland’s new National Centre for Music.

In 2023, we transformed the former Scottish Widows office complex on Dalkeith Road for a five-day spectacular event. Our unique “Environments” invited audiences to explore our venue in an immersive and atmospheric experience that attracted 5-star reviews and won Creative Edinburgh’s City Award.

In 2024 we celebrated ten years of festivals by holding a special birthday event in the underground Basement 3 carpark at St James Quarter, with two days of music, visual art and performance.

We hope to return later in the year with a full festival.

Hidden Door is a registered charity, under the name Hidden Door Charitable Company Ltd, registered charity number SC050108.

Our core team are all volunteers, working hard throughout the year to make Hidden Door a reality.

Press mentions and reviews

2023 reviews

As Hidden Door has shown so magnificently, a little creative vision can make for an artistically seismic experience – ★★★★★” – Neil Cooper, The Herald

The Hidden Door team haven’t made life easy for themselves but everyone in attendance is glad that they’re pushing at the limits of what a city festival can be – ★★★★” – Max Sefton, The Skinny

Most unique of all was The Environments, a promenade tour (following a performance-based workplace “induction” ceremony) of a large, open-plan upstairs hall fitted with bespoke lighting, with simulated foliage growing throughout and timed performances of discordant brass-and-electronic jazz and eclectic dance. It turned the commonplace surroundings into something exciting – ★★★★” – David Pollock, The Scotsman

An extraordinary achievement – Trees sprouted from floor to ceiling. Neon sprites jabbered incomprehensibly. Weird, wonderful performances popped up unexpectedly in the half-light. It was a delightful, disorienting experience – ★★★★” – Fergus Morgan, The Stage

Past reviews

A ”riot of noise and colour” – Mike Wade, The Times

“treasure trove of multi-platform arts delights” – Vic Galloway, BBC 6Music

“Wildly atmospheric and stimulating. Like a dream festival.” – Mark Cousins, Film Director & Critic

“Edinburgh’s most free-flowing festival, a happy blend of grassroots artists and headline acts.” – Mark Fisher, The Guardian

“Utterly breathtaking… Edinburgh’s most exciting and innovative festival.” – Ruth MacGilp, Urbanity

“Hidden Door have quietly resuscitated what surely is – even in its current rough ‘n’ ready state – the best live music venue in the country.” – Barry Gordon, The Herald

An “inspiring and successful festival” which “perfectly demonstrated the capabilities of the gorgeous old Leith Theatre as a living, breathing concert venue”. “Ad-hoc but ingeniously curated art and performance” – David Pollock, The Scotsman

“In just five years, what the team behind Hidden Door Festival has achieved is quite remarkable. The festival has left an immovable, and much needed, creative footprint on the city” – Miranda Heggie, The Arts Desk

“The festival is acquiring a reputation for providing a platform for a mix of artists, some recent graduates, others well established, to show new work in interesting spaces and reach new audiences.” – Susan Mansfield, The Scotsman

A “minor miracle […] a long-neglected building has undergone a remarkable renaissance” – Brian Ferguson, The Scotsman

“With each step further into the depths of this abandoned masterpiece, the building grows wilder. Each corner, every space reveals something new” – Amy Taylor, The Skinny

A “nomadic cauldron of creativity which is unlikely to sit still for long […] a sprawling village of alternative culture” – Neil Cooper, The Herald

“One of the highlights of Edinburgh’s cultural calendar.” – Yasmin Sulaiman, The List

“A smorgasbord of cultural delicacies that’ll keep you well and truly entertained. Re-entering the real world may be a struggle, but it’ll have been worth it.” – Euro Hostels

“Get along to Hidden Door as often and as soon as you can.” – Just For Culture

“A fascinating and well-thought-out programme” – The John Byrne Award

“The best cultural event in Edinburgh and the Lothians” – Thistle Awards

“The scale, ambition, and reputation of the festival have grown, yet it remains volunteer-run and led” – Creative Lives Award

“A revelation… a community arts festival that actually revolutionises and invigorates the community it takes place in.” – Miss Fogg Travels

“I can’t help but be totally awestruck by it all – eclectic, ramshackle, ambitious joys on offer.” – Exeunt Magazine

Social media comments

An absolute triumph of art, music, poetry, performance – in an incredible space.

Loved Hidden Door this year. Environments were wonderful. Well worth the ticket price just for that.

Outstanding cultural offer and transformation of spaces. Felt as if I’d visited several other countries, the ocean floor, space, and a hopeful, joyous future!

I can’t tell you what good it all did to my heart!

A visual and sensory feast!

It’s like the best wee nightclub ever!

Edinburgh is so lucky to have this brilliant festival on its doorstep. The people behind HD work tirelessly for months and months to bring one of the most diverse, eclectic and creative festivals to life.

Consistently different, always surprising, mesmerisingly inspiring… wide open creativity draped around every nook of any space.

Hidden Door is such a gift to Edinburgh. What a wonderful job you have done! Thank you!

It is with that warm, fuzzy feeling of positivity that I was really pleased to see the going ahead of Hidden Door Festival…. this is live music as it once was, and will be again. I welcome it both as a musician and as a fan.

Brilliant event- great line up, well organised, wonderful atmosphere and lovely volunteers.

Loved the venue, the vibe and the variety, stage was full of great energy and cracking innovation .

Great opportunity to meet others, fellow artists and enjoy a nice bit of Electric Culture…

Amazing festival with a variety of music and arts – a great experience overall!

This is such a special event…. if you are interested in arts or architecture, you shall definitely come see it!

Great to see Hidden Door supporting local artists – lots of amazing works in such a great venue!

Edinburgh and Leith, through Hidden Door, finally being the Berlin it always could have been.

With Hidden Door and Imaginate in full swing, Edinburgh is leading innovation in festival programming at a time of year many don’t appreciate.

I had such a great time yesterday making a psychedelic art scroll/mural at Hidden Door with Sketchy Beats. Inspiring music, people & incredible setting.

A belter of a weekend of art, incredible music at the best festival, in the best bit of Edinburgh & with the best programme! Hidden Door you smashed it, once again.

Feeling spoilt by Hidden Door’s offerings this year with some real highlights across the dance and music programme. Well done all!

Had an amazing time at Hidden Door! Festivals in abandoned buildings are my absolute fave…all the AV and the visual arts was seeriously goood – fantastic installations

Huge respect to all the Hidden Door volunteers, supporters, artists – especially its tireless key players – for delivering such an impressive 10-day multi-arts extravaganza

Well done to all the artists, volunteers, musicians, crew, theatre makers and everyone involved in Hidden Door infusing an old corner of Leith with light and magic.

I’ve had THE BEST few weeks volunteering with Hidden Door, thanks so much Big Team for all your patience and bloody hard work! Everyone who made it happen deserves a high ten, HEART SINGING experience.

Really enjoyed volunteering for Hidden Door. Amazing to see how a completely volunteer-run arts festival can transform abandoned spaces.

Local band in a local venue reborn.. volunteering with amazing people…emotion of a conversation with a Leither who saw last movie at state cinema and who volunteered to help Leith theatre coming back to life…this is the sheer joy of Hidden Door.

Wow…this festival just gets better and damn better!

Amazing gig, amazing festival, amazing venue. We’re lucky to have it Leith.

One of my favourite aspects of Hidden Door is the art; collaborations between the space and local artists. It’s rare to find such an interactive interplay between the exhibition space and the artwork.

The thing I love about Hidden Door Festival’s poetry program is that you get new, experimental work that pushes boundaries. They take chances. You won’t be bored.

We are so lucky to have this initiative in Edinburgh. Let’s hope it keeps growing!

Biggest fun in a million years. Love this festival. It’s brings incredible, forgotten spaces back to life. Don’t miss it!