Leith Theatre Memories

Feb 27 2017 | By More

Memories of Leith Theatre wanted for new book

If you remember the Wombles, the Rollers, a baby elephant on stage in Aida or any other act on the Leith Theatre stage, then you can help a new project started in 2017 to collect memories and stories of the theatre.

Commissioned as a gift to the people of Leith from Edinburgh City Council in the 1920s, at the time of the merger with Edinburgh, the theatre is still structurally sound but currently in a state of disrepair inside. The Leith Theatre Trust is raising funds to refurbish it and recently got Irvine Welsh to be their Patron.

Leith Theatre Entry Hall Photo: Thom Dibdin.

The Trust is working with the Citadel Arts Group to collect memories of all aspects of the theatre’s life from those who worked there, performed there or were part of the audiences. They are planning a book of the stories as well as a digital archive and a display of memories and photos.

The theatre and adjoining Thomas Morton Hall were initially known as Leith Town Hall. Together with the library next door they opened their doors on July 20, 1932 with a big concert, speeches, pomp and plenty of circumstance.

In 1941, the Ferry Road site suffered minor damage from a German parachute bomb. The theatre was eventually renovated and officially reopened by the Provost in 1961. Since then Leith Town Hall has been used for a huge variety of purposes including fund-raising events, dancing classes, boxing, cooking demos and weddings

Everyone came

Liz Hare from Citadel Arts Group told Æ that the theatre has been home to Gilbert & Sullivan operas and Edinburgh International shows – including, in 1986, an Aida complete with real life baby elephant and Rikki Fulton’s Molière adaptation, A Wee Touch o’ Class, which proved a popular hit for Joan Knight’s Perth Theatre company.

Leith Theatre Auditorium in 1932.

She added: “Frankie Vaughan, the Wombles, Barbara Castle, the Bay City Rollers and the Queen Mother – everyone came to Leith Town Hall/ Leith Theatre”.

The last show in the theatre was in 1990 with Theatre Workshop’s The Lightning Plebiscite, which used mime and dance by local performers to recreate the 1920s and the unpopular decision for Leith to merge with Edinburgh.

Hare added: “Citadel Arts Group would love to collect stories of any of these events from people who performed, worked back stage, or were in the audience. We’re looking for stories and photographs, theatre programmes and posters, any evidence of the contribution Leith Theatre made to the cultural life of Leith and Edinburgh.”

Open meeting

Citadel Arts has already held one open meeting, in the Thomas Morton Hall on 16 February, 2017. “The anecdotes started to flood in,” says Hare, “memories of a splendid Strasbourg percussion band who arranged themselves round the stage and audience; Rikki Fulton’s Scots Moliere, A Wee Touch of Class and a variety show with Joe Gordon and Sally Logan top of the bill.

Leith Theatre auditorium in 2016. Looking from the circle down to the stage. Photo: Chris Scott Photography

“There were two wee Leith boys taking their country cousin from Galashiels to see the panto there and being amused when he shouted at the pantomime horse, ‘Oh look at the cuddie!’ and the time when the elephant escaped from the Christmas Circus and went into Leith Library, leaving its mark.”

Anyone with a story to share about the theatre can contact Liz Hare by email: lizhare@blueyonder.co.uk.


Citadel Arts Group website: www.citadelartsgroup.co.uk
Leith Theatre Trust website: www.leiththeatretrust.org
Leith TT on Facebook: LeithTheatre
Leith TT on Twitter: @LeithTheatre

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Comments (8)

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  1. Jack Milligan says:

    When I was 10 or so around 1969, I was in the Edinburgh 64th life boys from Granton Congregational church, The Lifeboys and I think the BB’s from all over the city took part in the stage performance of the “South Pacific” at the Leith town hall. It was my first and last time under the bright stage lights…

    • Liz Hare says:

      That’s really interesting, Jack.Can we quote this memory in the illustrated booklet of stories and memories of Leith Theatre which Citadel Arts Group’s compiling. If you have any photos of BB events in Leith Town Hall/Leith Theatre, we’d like to include them too. Many thanks, Liz

      • Jack Milligan says:

        Liz – absolutely you can use my memory of the theater, I would consider it a previlage


  2. Jackie Hall says:

    In the mid 1960’s I was dressed as a candy striped ball sweetie in a black and white striped bodice with plumped out lower part of the outfit,the mums were given patterns to make the dresses, we were all dressed as different popular ‘sweeties’ of the time.
    I led our troupe on to the stage to the song doing a sort of jazz hands kind of thing to the words…’nothing can be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning…that’s how I remember it( not sure which year – mid 1960’s) with a ballet group from Marjorie Middleton’s School of Dance based at Coates Crescent. ( I was in the younger age group but quickly moved up to an older group and didn’t like it then, refused to go back )That performance was Saturday and my school friends were going to the parade in Princes st. Must have been the festival cavalcade of its day and I was very upset I didn’t get to go .

    • Liz Hare says:

      It seems Leith Theatre was a popular venue for dance troupes to practise and perform. I loved your story of being dressed up as a striped sweetie! Can we include this is a book of memories Citadel Arts Group is compiling of memories of Leith Theatre/Leith Town Hall? All contributors get a free copy of course! Many thanks for sharing this, Liz

    • Liz Hare says:

      Many thanks, Jack. I’ll let you know when we launch the book. Cheers

    • Liz Hare says:

      Hi Jackie
      We’re now finalsing our book of memories of the old Leith Theatre. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume you’re happy for your lovely memory to be quoted. You get a copy of the final illustrated book! Cheers Liz (Citadel Arts Group)

  3. Thom Dibdin says:

    Article amended May 2018. It appears that Ninagawa’s samurai Macbeth was staged at the Lyceum in 1985, not Leith theatre.