Edinburgh is not short of festivals but the multi-arts event organised by Morvern Cunningham with The Skinny as media partners is something different. Celebrating creative life in what is now surely the capital’s most interesting street, LeithLate returns for a second year on Thursday 28 June when a night of quirky invention will spread along Leith Walk.
Through galleries, pubs and cafes into new, unexpected places – barbers salon, fitness studio, tailors shop – and on to a white van. And at the end, the afterparty in Henderson Halls at the Foot of the Walk aims to raise money to pay for running the event with the help of up and coming bands such as Scottish Album of the Year shortlisted Remember Remember.
So, Walking Heads asks Morvern, how and why did this come about? Like all the best ideas it seems it began in a pub – a Leith pub of course.
Walking Heads: what (or where) gave you the idea?
Morvern Cunningham: LeithLate came out of a conversation in a pub in Leith about the upsurge of different art spaces in Leith. I made a joke about doing a Leith-based version of the Edinburgh Art Festival’s ArtLate, where folk visit a number of art spaces in one evening. Everyone loved the idea and told me I should do it. So I did.
Luckily, I knew a lot of the folk running various Leith art spaces, and when I mentioned the idea to them, they were all up for it. I got a lot of support from Dave at Elvis Shakespeare, who was also keen to get involved. That paved the way for opening up the event, not just to art spaces, but to local businesses who provide a service to Leith’s creative community, whether it be putting on free gigs, or selling beer!
WH: it sounds a fantastic feat of organisation, how long did it take you to pull together the first event?
MC: The first event took 2 months to bring together: going round and speaking to people to get them on board; getting a designer to share my vision of the event and run with it; organising a media partnership with The Skinny who were also really supportive. Then printing and distributing (myself) flyers and posters, managing a fb event page, plus putting together an afterparty venue and line-up, the proceeds of which would (hopefully!) pay for all previously mentioned.
Happily, everyone was really behind the idea and the event was a great success. I had envisioned a couple of hundred folk attending; in the end we got somewhere more in the region of 600, partly thanks to a bit of broadsheet press interest in advance of the event. Since then, LeithLate has hosted a number of smaller events in Leith throughout the year, including an album launch in the Leith Docker’s Club, a vintage film screening in Out of the Blue Drill Hall, and an exhibition of talented Leith artists in the Old Ambulance Depot.
WH: how would you describe yourself?
MC: I describe myself as ‘Event Organiser’ as that’s what I do: pull together many different strands and make an event happen. I’m not keen on the terms ‘curator’ or ‘promoter’ as I don’t want to be prescriptive and encourage each venue to set up their own LeithLate event and subsequently let me know what they’re doing.
Of course, it sometimes happens that I can help match up artists or performers with spaces that I think suit each other, but that’s all part of the course really. I’ve done this with our site-specific exhibitions this year: Katie Orton in Oscar’s Alterations, Ross Fraser McLean in Leith Walk Barber’s Salon and Eoin Carey in Griffen Fitness Studios, which I’m quite proud about, and look forward to seeing the final product.
I also run the LeithLate afterparty, personally approaching bands that I think fit the LeithLate vibe. I’m proud to have a great selection of bands performing this year, in a line-up that includes Zed Penguin in a newly formed 3-piece, ones-to-watch Mars 2030, the outstanding Paul Vickers and The Leg – and recently shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year, Remember Remember. So get your tickets while you can!
WH: and can you tell us why are you doing it?
MC: It’s just great to be having an event like this in Leith, and if I wasn’t running it, I’d definitely be attending…I’ve been a Leither for just over five years now, and really love the place. I feel very much at home here and want to show the place off really. Leith’s great and more people need to know that. Hopefully, by attending LeithLate, they’ll start to love Leith as much as I do.
Book your tickets for LeithLate Afterparty by clicking here.