Review: Hidden Door Festival

HidDoorHidden Door started in Edinburgh as a mini-festival at the Roxy in 2010, providing a platform for various local artists to interact, collaborate and showcase their work. Now, the no-profit festival allows the public into hidden and abandoned locations in Edinburgh before they become lost forever. There’s an abundance of different art forms at the festival: theatre, music, visual arts and cinema. It would be impossible to capture all these aspects in one review so here I’ll just focus on my experiences at the daytime events of the first days.

This year Hidden Door can be found at an old street lighting depot on King’s Stables Road, with an entrance just off the Grassmarket and in full view of Edinburgh Castle. When I first visited the festival, it was still being set up and the courtyard was filled with the hustle and bustle of pre-festival panic. The rush of the volunteers working on light installation and wall-mounting juxtaposed with the tranquillity of artists who were found peacefully decorating and installing in abandoned rooms, paint peeling from the ceiling. It is truly amazing to learn that the space and installations were put together in less than three weeks.

HidDoor3Artists Paula Petroll and Olivia Turner two days before opening

During the daytime events this weekend, the festival welcomed all types: art and music lovers, families and their dogs. The courtyard felt diverse and inclusive, however disability access to the labyrinth of rooms on the upper floors seems lacking. Soon, the space was filled to the brink, and I found myself waiting in line to get my portrait done (for free) by the very lovely James Jimbo, while enjoying one of the many types of booze offered (not for free). You can also be part of the artwork displayed by having your back photographed for Amy Mae’s kind of eerie installation and zine Hard Back.

HidDoor2An uncanny portrayal of my partner and I

At first glance the festival seems to have achieved a gender balance in its installations, featuring lots of women artists and intriguing performers like Stealing Sheep among the headlines (I’m not sure if the same can be said for the lesser known acts). Also definitely worth mentioning is Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng, the artist behind the wonderful posters you’ve been seeing around town. The works exhibited here cover such a variety of topics that it is impossible to mention them all, but I particularly liked Alice Bett’s Roadworks, and how some artists actively used the existing building structures to develop their work. Hidden Door at King’s Stables Road invites exploration, but I would recommend having a plan for what performances you’d like to check out before going, as you might need some time to find your way to the different rooms.


The festival runs for nine days from Friday 22nd to Saturday 30th and is free before 6pm, then ticketed at between £13-£20, depending on the day. I will report more about what Hidden Door looks like when the sun goes down after attending both the King’s Stables events and the parallel Bongo Lives! Monday’s line up includes seven (!) theatre acts, gigs from Scotland-based Black Lantern label as well as films from animation collective Twelfth House. I can’t wait.

In the meantime I recommend you get yourself a ticket for one of the days, as the partly crowd-funded festival is dependent on the success in ticket sales to be able to do it all again next year, and also because they are selling out fast! And what better way to support the local talent by than having a drink and a burger in a unique location. I would stay away from the Hidden Door IPA though – some beers really should stay hidden.

Selma Augestad