Lynn Morrison: 'I spent my savings having just the best three weeks'

Lynn Morrison: 'I spent my savings having just the best three weeks'

Lynn Morrison / credit: Andrew O'Brien

Leith Theatre chief executive Lynn Morrison continues our Q&A series about the joys of Edinburgh's festival season

As the countdown moves towards Edinburgh festival season, our collaboration with the Edinburgh International Festival brings you another weekly Q&A interview. Today, we present Lynn Morrison, chief executive of Leith Theatre, an iconic capital venue which has had its fair share of ups and downs, and openings and closings since first unlocking its doors to the public in 1932. During a recent resurgence, the venue has hosted a number of International Festival gigs, including Neneh Cherry, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Jarvis Cocker, Anna Meredith, and Mogwai. Here, she tells us about memories of Edinburghs past, featuring early-morning screenings at The Cameo and night-time gigs on Calton Hill.

Lynn Morrison: 'I spent my savings having just the best three weeks'

Neneh Cherry performing at Leith Theatre as part of the Edinburgh International Festival / credit: Gaelle Beri

What are your first festival memories of Edinburgh?

I used to visit for day trips and wander the city when I was at high school but my first 'proper' festival experience was whilst I was at uni. I had spent weeks working full time and paying off student debt then came to Edinburgh to take my holiday during the festival before going back down south. I tried to see as much as I could and basically spent my summer savings having just the best three weeks.

What is your all-time favourite memory of Edinburgh during August?

Lots of my favourite memories are working for the Edinburgh International Film Festival at The Cameo, back when it was also an August event. I just loved the build-up and anticipation of the whole thing and being part of the EIFF machine. Probably happiest at the early morning print checks and press screenings when staff would come in (often after little sleep) to see the film with a coffee and doughnut. It felt like such a special secret treat and then when audiences arrived for the actual screening you could feel their excitement and couldn't wait to see the reaction as you knew what they were about to experience. Just magical.

Can you name one person you met in Edinburgh during festival-time who truly inspired you?

Naming one person is incredibly hard. My shortlist would all involve colleagues though, ones that I have worked alongside and who have gone the extra mile to make sure that the performance or experience was the very best it could be. Working as part of the festival is a thrilling and exhausting month in equal measure. The feeling of shared achievement and accomplishment once it's over: there is nothing like it. I guess my inspiration from festivals past has always been about the team: that's what makes the dream work!

If you could curate your own festival line-up for a day, who would you include? Anyone can be on there, dead or alive.

It would have to be a line-up at Leith Theatre. The venue is incredible as a live music venue so I would programme a Dead But Not Forgotten series. This is a take on an old film programme which brought back industry greats. This time it would all be about live music and having the opportunity to hear particular artists tread the Leith Theatre boards.

I would start gently with morning and matinee performances from Chet Baker (brought back from the early 50s before any personal struggles so his incredible voice and sound were in a perfect setting) and John Martyn (I did attend his gig on Calton Hill many years ago but I listened through the tent tarpaulin from the bar as I didn't have a ticket).

Evening performances would be a night of Bowie and Prince: two absolute greats who need no introduction but I missed seeing live in my lifetime. Their Dead But Not Forgotten gigs would certainly cure my 'I wish I had been there'. I have no doubt they would bring the five-star reviews!

What would you change to improve Edinburgh during August?

Could we have a weather fairy? Combined with incredible performances it would mean we would all be guaranteed the opportunity to wander this beautiful city and bask in Scottish sunshine. We could truly make the most of its surrounding green spaces, coastline, and outdoor hospitality.

How does Edinburgh compare to other arts festivals across the world?

The city is so accessible and its backdrop and location are a stage in itself. Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and also the gateway to being able to tag on a highland escape and outdoor experience after the festival is done. Perfect for everyone's post-festival recharge.

Part of The List's My Perfect Festival series, created in collaboration with the Edinburgh International Festival. Read more about other people's festival experiences here.