Unhidden: It’s the Old Royal High

Jan 17 2022 | By More

Hidden Door Festival to take over former Royal High School

The former Royal High School, on Calton Hill, is to be taken over by Edinburgh’s innovative pop-up festival Hidden Door, for a ten day event running from Thursday 9 to Saturday 18 June 2022.

It is the first time the venue has been used since 2017, when the Attic Collective staged War in America in the central debating chamber. Now the same chamber will host specially commissioned in-the-round performances and “spectacular events that respond to the unique space”.

Royal High School exterior. Pic: David Martin

The venue has been lying largely empty since the school relocated in 1968 and in recent years has been the subject of a bitter tussle between wannabe developers of a destination hotel and the St Mary’s Music School which successfully bid to transform it into Scotland’s new National Centre for Music.

David Martin, Creative Director of Hidden Door, said: “This is such an incredible site for Hidden Door! It is such a privilege to be able to bring one of Edinburgh’s most iconic buildings back to life.

“It feels really exciting, in what is still a very challenging period for the arts, to invite Scotland’s newest, most daring artists, dancers, theatre-makers, poets and musicians to take over such a prestigious building that has been dark for so long and flood it with creative energy.


“It feels important to bring Scotland’s young creatives right into the centre of the city this time to celebrate what they do.”

Parts of the venue were used in 2014 for the Edinburgh Art Festival and in the 1990s Richard Demarco used it as an Edinburgh Fringe venue. The debating chamber was refurbished in the 1970s with the intention of housing the proposed devolved Scottish Assembly.

The Debating chamber of the Old Royal High was refurbished in the 1970s with the intention of housing the proposed devolved Scottish Assembly. Pic Dan Mosley

Hidden Door intends to take over every nook and cranny of the entire complex. Long-forgotten rooms will be transformed into performance spaces or given over to artists to fill with installations.

The audience will be encouraged to explore the myriad passageways, corridors, nooks and crannies that make up the building. Outside, a stage will be built for large music performances and a bar will take over the front terrace, giving festival goers a unique view on the city.

Martin adds: “We know that the public will enjoy exploring this unique building too. The place is full of surprises, and it lends itself to Hidden Door’s ethos of creating an environment that the public can explore and discover new things.

breadth and diversity

“We have been inside quite a few times now, with maps and plans, and we still get lost! I can’t wait for everyone to get a chance to wander around and get lost too.”

Full details of the festival programme will be announced in February and Hidden Door is working with St Mary’s Music School to get the best out the building ahead of the restoration, which is due to commence later this year.

St Mary’s Headteacher Kenneth Taylor said: “It is great to be involved in this celebration of the breadth and diversity of artistic and creative practice alive in Scotland, and a real opportunity for our young musicians to share their contribution to this vibrant and engaging scene.

“The setting of the Old Royal High School is a perfect canvas for the imagination – opening doors to memories of its past and excitement about its future – especially as it will become the home for our pupils.”

Entry into the building will be free from opening at 1pm until 5pm. Entry will be ticketed from 5pm to 1am, with Early Bird tickets already on sale allowing entry to one day of the festival of your choosing. All times are subject to licence.

Listing & Links

Hidden Door 2022
Former Royal High School, 5-7 Regent Road, EH7 5BL
Thursday 9 – Saturday 18 June 2022
Daily: 1pm-1am
(Ticketed from 5pm)

Earlybird tickets are available via hiddendoorarts.org/tickets or from Citizen Ticket. Once the full programme is announced in February, ticket holders will be able to select which days they would like to attend.

Hidden Door website: www.hiddendoorarts.org
Twitter: @hiddendoorarts
Facebook: @hiddendoor
Instagram: @hiddendoorarts

Copyright Dan Mosley for Hidden Door. All Rights Reserved. https://hiddendoorarts.org/ https://www.facebook.com/hiddendoor

Old Royal High School terrace and skyline. Pic: Dan Mosley

Doors within Doors – looking through the Debate chamber entrance – credit Dan Mosley copy


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