Archie Shepp playing live at Summerhall last night


Tonight’s the night. Its the grand opening of the new Summerhall arts complex‘s festival programme, in conjunction with The List magazine’s annual festival shenanigans. This will be the first time most of the 1,500 guests will have seen what is happening within Summerhall and anyone who hasn’t been there yet should prepare to be absolutely gobsmacked.  A revolution is about to unfold.

In over 30 years immersed in Edinburgh’s arts and cultural scene I’ve never seen anything like it.  Tonight – and the arts complex is still far from complete – no less than 9 bars will open (including the magnificent Royal Dick bar which I’ll say nothing about here in case it spoils the surprise) with 5 fixed performing spaces in operation.  Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg of what Summerhall will eventually have to offer.

Summerhall is the old Dick Vet building at the east end of Edinburgh’s Meadows.  It has so many buildings and floors and open spaces within it that to describe the interior would spoil the experience.  The Neu! Reekie! HQ is now located within the labyrinth of Summerhall and for last few months we’ve had the eye-opening experience of watching a chaotic but inspired plan come together.  From the grassroots artists to the ownership of the complex there is an anarchic sense of adventure.  As a cultural vagrant of long standing I feel very much at home here and intend to contribute to what’s going on.

The ambition and vision behind this complex is mind-blowing.  Summerhall is already a major player within Scotland’s arts and cultural scene.  When the centre is complete it will be the largest bespoke arts complex in Europe.  The scale and anarchic energy behind Summerhall will eventually dwarf everything London has to offer.  I’d say the British arts scene is about to feel the tectonic plates shift beneath its feet and maybe even see the centre of gravity shift north.

Summerhall main entrance

If you have a ticket for tonight one of the 5 performance spaces is located within the Summerhall Cafe (search around and you might find it within the labyrinth!). If you do that’s where you’ll find the Neu! Reekie! crew of Michael Pederson, Viv Gee, Kevin Cadwallender and myself perform our poetry between 10-11pm.

The Summerhall fetsival progamme is like nothing else, even for Edinburgh in August.  Last night jazz legend Archie Shepp performed live in the Dissection Rooms with Tom McClung on piano. On Saturday there will be a screening of an Ozu silent classic, I WAS BORN BUT..  accompanied by a live pianist.  There is an art exhibition for women only (sorry guys, ha).  There are screenings of 9 films from the Karama Human Rights Festival.  Edinburgh Dancebase present Ian Smith’s William Blake – Ghost dancer.  And MUCH more.

Have a look through the Summerhall festival brochure below. It really is something else; a work of vision, wonder and creative passion put together by people who care, who want to take risks, and basically up the creative ante.  Do explore:

Read the Summerhall Festival Brochure (PDF) here.

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