At the tail end of last year, we were very pleased to hear that Edinburgh not-for-profit arts festival, Hidden Door, is not only returning for 2016, but returning to the ramshackle buildings of the King’s Stables Road courtyard it so successfully transformed last year. It’s a fantastic spot for a festival, and although it’s not until May, we didn’t want to wait that long to find out what’s in store. So we cornered the Creative Director, David Martin, with some questions…

We’re still early in the New Year – a time for reflecting on the year gone and looking forward to the year ahead. So first of all, what are your reflections on last year’s Hidden Door? Transforming that courtyard at King’s Stables Road was an ambitious undertaking…

It was a remarkable project from beginning to end. I remember feeling a mixture of emotions when we were first granted access to the site – excitement at the possibilities, disbelief that such a large site in such a fantastic location had been forgotten and was so unknown – and a feeling of being daunted by the scale of the project. I am pleased with what we managed to do with so few resources, and with so many figures of authority telling us it couldn’t be done or wouldn’t work. The amount of time and effort that was put into it by the team of volunteers in terms of organising it, preparing the site and running the festival was what made it possible. It turns out people really want this sort of thing to happen in Edinburgh. So we thought we should try and do it again!

And thanks to the vagaries of planning and development, you’re able to come back to King’s Stables again this year. How did that come about?

At the end of last year’s festival our contact in the council came to advise us on what we could leave on site (as it was to be demolished) and what we needed to dismantle. He mentioned we might want to leave some things in place as there was a chance it would still be in a state of limbo next year. I nearly collapsed – it was amazing to feel like the Council would want it to happen again.

How’ve you approached this year’s festival?

Because it’s in the same venue we want it to feel different from last year. We want it to be a different experience. The entrance will be quite different, and the layout will be changed a bit too. You will see what we mean when you come! We have decided to call the event “Hidden Door Electric City” in homage to its past as a street lighting depot – so we won’t be calling it the “Secret Courtyard” this year. Also we have decided to change the way we gather our content. As well as putting out an open call for projects and content, as we have always done, we are running an invited programme too. This will guarantee some really special work – especially in art, theatre and in poetry. Last year we didn’t have a poetry aspect to the programme – and we have some really exciting stuff planned for that this year.

So, what have you got lined up by way of performers?

I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until the end of March for that info – we are currently booking the music acts. Names will start being leaked soon though. We will be going for a mix of Edinburgh-based, Glasgow-based and some acts from further afield. We are always focused on the innovative and artistically interesting, so don’t expect any X-Factor winners….

What else can we expect from Hidden Door this year?

Well, alongside the poetry programme that I mentioned already, we have a fuller theatre programme which will feature a couple of invited theatre companies, who are really terrific. Starting to work like this really feels like we are developing our artistic vision – it’s an exciting place to be. We will also have a children’s programme this year for during the day – something we have never done before – and of course we will have a full cinema programme too. We are trying to build on what we learned from last year, and having permission from the council this far in advance means we can plan much more detail. Last year we only found out we could use the site about nine weeks before it was due to open! This year we want to make everything even better than before – better bars, better music programme and better experience for everyone who comes.

Are there still opportunities for people to get involved?

There are indeed – we have just put out our Call for Volunteers! If you would like to help out either during, in the lead up and preparation, or in the organising, please send us an email on with a brief blurb about what you do, your interests, why you’d like to volunteer, any relevant experience you might have and your availability. Thanks for the opportunity to plug!

What else do we need to know about Hidden Door?

Hidden Door is free to explore during the day 12pm – 6pm, but it is ticketed in the evenings – from 6pm to 12 midnight. You can come along for free, but in the evening – that’s when the magic really happens, and when the courtyard looks just out of this world! So keep your eye on our facebook and website – and get a ticket when they go on sale in the next few weeks. Remember as well – all that money you spend goes straight to paying for the transformation of the site and to the artists – no-one involved in the organisation gets paid – so it’s money well spent!

The creative community appreciate the support!

Hidden Door 2016 is @ King’s Stables Road, Edinburgh, from Fri 27 May to Sat 4 Jun 2016