A specially-convened choir and band are set to perform Leith Side Stories – a set of lively new songs celebrating miscellaneous intriguing aspects of Edinburgh’s port area of Leith.
Songwriter Hugh Nankivell, who lives at the foot of Leith Walk, and arts writer Mark Fisher, who lives at the top, have written eight songs covering everything from the famous tongue-twisting Leith Police to pioneering sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. The songs will be performed on 6th April at Leith Dockers Club by The Leith Walkers, a 25-strong choir and band, who performed Sufjan Steven’s Songs For Christmas in December 2022 to sold-out audiences at Edinburgh’s Assembly Roxy.
As performing arts author and The Guardian theatre critic Mark Fisher explains, ‘Hugh and I have been writing together since the start of the pandemic, usually with me sending him words and Hugh – with astonishing speed – replying with fully formed songs. When he moved to the other end of Leith Walk last year, we struck upon the idea of writing about the people and places of Leith. For me as a journalist, it has been an inspiring project, not least to hear how the brilliant Leith Walkers have brought the songs to life.’
Co-writer Hugh Nankivell adds, ‘After putting together a new band and choir in the autumn to perform a one-off gig at the Assembly Roxy, many performers asked – what next? So these songs emerged – and retain an element of Sufjan Stevens, but also echoes of Kurt Weill, experimental jazz, romantic musicals, folky rounds and asymmetric time signatures, all played by a joyfully flexible group of singers, rhythm section, wind and strings.’ Hugh is Teaching Fellow in Community Music at the University of Edinburgh and has worked for numerous UK arts organisations, and has collaborated with Jackie Kay, Alice Oswald, Ian McMillan and Peter Oswald.
Among the songs are the atmospheric Sunset on Leith, a diverting tale of pop-up athleticism from 1825, a moving elegy to the MS Victoria – currently moored nearby – and a dance-song about well-kent landlady of the Port O’ Leith, Mary Moriarty.