After a year off, Hidden Door Festival re-emerged in 2021 in perhaps it’s best incarnation yet. With a location next to the Social Bite village, the Granton Gasworks and the Walled Garden where the Granton Castle used to be, there was much about this 2021 location that added enigma to the festival, and opened the door for interesting conversation and discussion, despite the lack of festival water stations due to the polluted site. And it did not simply pull off one of the best sites; it also pulled off a bold and beautiful programme of artists and musicians that kept us all intrigued, entertained and shouting for more at the end of a headliner set.

Hidden Door were working with Edinburgh College, who provided access to the site for this year’s festival. The event also provided a platform for students to get involved, gaining inspiration and experience to boost their future careers. This came in the form of the arts space warehouse that hosted a great deal to stimulate and inspire the gig-goers, from the sculptures and photography to the performance-based works that pulled us away from the music at occasional points of the festival.

With dance, puppetry, theatre and spoken word in the warehouse alone, it was a surprise to find that over at the music site, there was not one but two stages for performances. And these performances felt on a grand scale, bigger and more amplified than anything Hidden Door have pulled off in the years previous. With the significant North Stage feeling like most outdoor festival stage venues, and the South Stage feeling more like the more intimate backstage exclusive space, there was a wide array of spaces for the punters to traverse over the course of the five days in Granton.

The Wednesday was the opening night with two recognisable names on the bill that get plentiful BBC 6 airplay. We arrived just in time to catch half of local lad, Hamish Hawk‘s set. With new album, Heavy Elevator, out, it has prominence during the set, with acclaimed tracks such as The Mauritian Badminton Doubles Champion, 1973 and Calls to Tiree. A lengthy and distinguished set, it was a great opener for the Festival.

Something Smashing filled the time between music acts with an intriguing dance show, involving futuristic outfits and brass instruments, avant-garde enough to prepare us for the next element of the Hidden Door, giving us food for thought for the next four days.

Pictish Trail AKA Lost Map’s Johnny Lynch was headlining the gig for the evening, opening with his dynamic and frenetic new track, Natural Successor. With him and band adorned in boiler suits, they were aptly attired for a gig at a gasworks. Performing much from his album he’s been keen to plug since it’s release, Thumb World (2020), we are treated to live versions of tracks such as Slow Memories, Fear Anchor and Turning Back as well as some from his previous albums and projects. The highlight hit was his Silver Columns’ finale track, Brow Beaten, amplifying the energy for the end of Day 1 of Hidden Door.

Day 3 was the next I was able to make it back on site, as it’s not accessible as some of the previous Hidden Door locations. However, the Friday night had a fun and exciting element to it. Ibibio Sound Machine were headlining so there was much anticipation for the evening.

Arriving in time for a puppet show that outlined the creative and resourceful aspects of this festival, it was a varied evening of ents before we even got to the headlining act. Disco afro-beats was the theme of the night, and whether it was chilling by the Beach Hut or checking out some art we’d missed the first night over at the warehouse, we were ready for Ibibio by the time they took to the stage. The London-based 8-piece afro-funk band led by charismatic frontwoman Eno Williams got the crowd well and truly dancing by the main stage. With a mash-up of African and electronic elements, incorporating funk and disco to the electro synths, the band were a delight to gear everyone up for the weekend.

Day 4 AKA Saturday had a future-retro pop theme and seemed for the most part to be taken over by PC Music, as far as the music programme was concerned. Arriving in time for The End of the World Party, as organised by Lily and Gordon of Post Coal Prom Queen, a fun collaborative event with artists such as Empress, it was obvious we were in for a peak-laptop night of sparkle and future beats.

Grove, producer and vocalist, kept things militant over at the South Stage before the SALTY DOGS theatre company offered up their intimate show, !T’S TH!S (UTOP!A), a love song to the feminist manifesto. A show that involved tea dresses and cake but of course, there was an element of poking fun at patriarchy.

With Caro and EASYFUN keeping the pop party going before the much anticipated Hannah Diamond, we were truly warmed up for the fun and glitter that Diamond brings.

Already signed up for Primavera in 2022, future-retro pop of Hannah Diamond, despite the downpour, brought a pink bodywarmer and black tutu to Hidden Door alongside the hyperreal visuals (she creates herself) and her authentic artistic vocals. The London-based pop musician, who is known to have collaborated with PC Music’s A.G. Cook and Charlie XCX, is clearly not all pop and bubblegum, throwing a layer of darkness to the music, but is lofty enough for everyone to seemingly enjoy their Saturday nights via the means of dance.

Sunday, Day 5, was perhaps my personal highlight with an opportunity to get down there early and inhale more than any other day previous. A varied and eclectic bill that began with the Tinderbox Orchestra and Harry Bongo to the more shoegaze sounds of Wozniak made it a fascinating closer.

Local band, Super Inuit, Fern and Brian, indulged us with dreamy electronic pop, including some new tracks such as Mothering Tongue. Reflective, sultry and yet, pacey, Super Inuit prepped us for the headliners, Rival Consoles.

Before indulging in the headliner, we attempted to make it back over to the warehouse for Wax Lyrical, a spoken word feast that included the wonderful Iona Lee. However, we made it in time for it concluding. Thus, it was time to take in the vibes of the Beach Hut as the sun was setting before hot footing it over back to the North Stage for the final act of the evening and the festival, Rival Consoles.

An epic, cinematic, stretch of electro, all building up to that techno-electro crescendo we know so well from this producer. With acclaimed album, Articulation, out during the pandemic, it’s entrancing to watch Ryan Lee West perform his set, clearly with much concern, apprehension and excitement for so many of these artists taking this stage over the last five days, as they finally get the chance to promote the work that they’ve been working incredibly hard on during the last couple of years.

It was a brilliant feat to witness it in the space of the Hidden Door Festival, which opens its doors to so many artists, performers and musicians across the creative spectrum. And even more so with the illuminating gasometer in the backdrop.

Photos courtesy of Dan Mosley