The Hidden Door arts festival has been given the go-ahead to stage this year's event at the former Edinburgh City Council depot on King’s Stable Road.
Organisers of the popular festival confirmed on Tuesday that they had secured their preferred Grassmarket location for the 2015 event.
Hidden Door creative director David Martin announced in October hopes to transform the space at the former council depot for the week-long May event which showcases visual art, music, theatre, dance and cinema.
But the festival plans were thrown into doubt last week after developers revealed their vision to build a hotel, flats, student accommodation, an arts cafe complex and artisan workshop on the 1.3 acre site.
However, Mr Martin said he was delighted after developers agreed that the festival could go ahead before building works commence.
“It is amazing,” David said. “It feels like we have taken a gamble on the premises. We felt it was the best one but there were so many risks associated with it.
“We have taken a gamble and it’s really paid off to have done that because we feel like we've secured for Edinburgh a fantastic space for a brilliant urban festival.
“We've obviously got to pull it all off now which is another thing but I think we've done something special by getting this site."
Last year over 7500 people poured through the doors of the Market Street Vaults in a bid to showcase the best of emerging Scottish creative talent, with 40 bands and 70 artists taking part over nine nights in 24 disused vaults.
This year, the festival hopes to platform over 100 acts, with around 20 theatre and dance productions and a special programme of performance art curated by the Royal Scottish Academy.
“It will have a different feel to it from the last event,” David said. “It will be more magical and we are really interested in this hidden courtyard.
A matter of timing
For the last few months, the location of the festival hinged on timings and whether or not the developers' plans overlapped with the May 22-30 festival.
David said: “The council had a meeting with the developer [on Monday] regarding the issue and the news coming back from that meeting is that the developer has no problem with us using the site for our proposed dates.
“It came down to a matter of timing. The developer had to consent that we could take the premises on for a month without interrupting their schedule because they need to do surveys and all that sort of things before they do their planning permission for a big development.
“I think the idea that we can create a realm that people really do enter into and explore – I think we'll be able to do a lot more with that.
“There's going to be more experimental theatre involved in the project.
“The other really exciting is that we are collaborating with the Bongo Club with the event and they will run their annual arts week - called Bongo Lives - it will run on same dates as Hidden Doors.”
While the visual arts programme has already been confirmed with artists such as Melanie Davies and Livvy Turner named, the remaining parts of the programme will be released in stages between now and mid-April, with the theatre programme expected to be released next week on the Hidden Door Facebook page.
The buildings on King’s Stables Road in Edinburgh have lain empty since 2009 and put on the market by the council last year. A consultation will be carried out before any work starts on the site.
“From our point of view, the courtyard space is really nice and it is really unusual to have such an enclosed large courtyard area in the heart of Edinburgh,” David said.
“As far as I can tell they are going to keep the main parts we are actually using in the festival - the bits that backs on to King's Stable Lane and the mews - so they are knocking down the really shoddy bits of the complex that we are not going to touch.
“So actually, they could end up with a really characterful area and I think it will suit the mixed use proposals they are talking about.
“I think having artistic outlets, whether that is retail units or creative cafe centres, would work really well in that area.”
Ralph Jones, Head of Development at Peveril Securities - who are carrying out the redevelopment work in partnership with Campus Development Management - said the festival was "in keeping" with their plans.
He said: "We are delighted that Hidden Door have expressed an interest using the King's Stables Road site, providing a unique mix of visual art, music, theatre, dance and cinema.
"There are however a number of issues that will have to be agreed by them with the Council to allow this to proceed.
"Activity such as this is very much in keeping with our proposals for this much neglected corner of the Grassmarket, which will include an arts café complex and artisans workshops.
“Our proposals will breathe life into a part of the Grassmarket that has lain neglected for a number of years, providing a hotel, student accommodation, flats and facilities to accommodate and promote the arts.
“It will also provide a great link between the Grassmarket and Exchange business districts, bringing a vibrant mix of uses to the area and form part of the Council’s wider aspirations for a new cultural quarter.
"We look forward to meeting with the community over the next months, ensuring that they influence and shape our proposals."