An introduction to Leith, and why it’s the epicentre of creativity in Edinburgh

Jul 20, 2017 · 3 min read

Uncover a different side to Edinburgh’s much-loved port

Image credit: alljengi

by Max Meres

London, circa 1969. John Lennon puts down his pen after writing the final words of what would soon be known as ‘Come Together’. He sighs, looking out as the sun sets over London. In a dusty rehearsal room across the city, Jimmy Page lays down the finishing touches to ‘The Lemon Song’, unaware that he has, in effect, rewritten the rules for contemporary guitar music.

1969 will always be remembered as an iconic year for music, but more so for London. After all, the city gave birth to ‘Abbey Road’, ‘Led Zeppelin II’ and The Who’s ‘Tommy’, all within 12 months. Perhaps someone slipped something potent into the Thames that January, triggering a spell of creativity that would reshape rock music forever. Whatever it was, there’s plenty of it circulating the waterpipes of Leith, and has been for decades.

Where on earth is Leith?

If you didn’t already know, Leith is a district in northern Edinburgh, home to Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’, Dexter Fletcher’s ‘Sunshine on Leith’, and most importantly, Caliber. As you make your way down Leith Walk, a mile-long street connecting the area to greater Edinburgh, a bohemian mist washes out from under the doors of various pubs and eateries.

Setting foot here, you can’t help but draw inspiration from the assortment of second hand record and book stores, sat alongside galleries of both contemporary and traditional art. Is it any wonder, then, that some of Scotland’s best loved fictional characters — think Begbie, Renton, and Inspector John Rebus — all cut their teeth in Leith and her surrounding areas? The short answer is no, or as the locals would say, “naw.”

And just what happens in this Leith place, anyway?

They say that the world is but a mere canvas for our imaginations to feast upon. That may be true, but having surroundings as alluring as the Water of Leith, or the subtle romance of great Edinburgh tenement flats, can’t hurt. Once the gateway linking Scotland’s maritime industry to Europe, the then port town was a thriving hub of bustling traders eager to establish themselves amongst the docks. Today, similar energies are harvested in Leith’s creative scene.

Take Leith Late, an institution promoting art initiatives from the area and beyond. Bringing together kindred spirits, the organisation makes use of venues across Leith with film screenings and panel talks focusing on topics pivotal to the area. Otherwise, there’s The Biscuit Factory, an abandoned warehouse turned art and fashion space on Anderson Place. It regularly hosts gigs, street food festivals, and exhibitions, all geared towards supporting the best of Edinburgh’s visionary exports. It’s opposite here, however, that one of the Leith’s more recent success stories, Caliber, calls home.

Where does Caliber fit into the equation?

In an office overlooking factories and paths that line the Water of Leith, Caliber’s team crafts strategies and campaigns that help to solidify and build client reputations. Caliber continues to develop its creative footprint in both Edinburgh, and the wider world, whether there’s sunshine on Leith or not.

Want to learn more? Get in touch, and we’ll see whether we can help you…

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