Behind the Red Door

Twenty miles outside of Scotland’s bustling capital lies a place with a vibrant community of close to 20,000 people, where the Union canal divides the neighbourhoods at the hilltop and the High Street at the foot, which leads to the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. In many ways, the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow is a worthy equal to Edinburgh.

However, the recent launch of Red Door means the West Lothian town may steal the limelight from the big city when it comes to showcasing local music. On the high street, hidden between the eleven pubs, small cafes and local shops, there is a red door which many people often walk past without noticing  — the entranceway to St. Peter’s Church. In the close future, following the work of three musical enthusiasts, this red door will signify the portal to a new venue which could bring the community’s music scene to life.

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The recent renovations transformed the heart of the 90-year-old church into an unexpected Greek-orthodox style kirk with a Cycladic style dome, gifting the upcoming venue with perfect architectural acoustics which further enhances the intimacy of the venue, which will fill a void in the community’s arts scene.

Although the town hosts an annual folk festival which draws in big crowds and has a jazz club which puts on regular shows, it lacks a venue fit for these types of events. For years, local musicophiles and art-lovers have had to hop on trains to travel to the neighbouring cities Glasgow and Edinburgh to see touring artists or leftist, specialised (music) events. As big venue spaces in the capital, such as Studio 24 on Calton Road, Grindlay Street’s Citrus Club, and Market Street’s Electric Circus closed up recently, this is the perfect time for Red Door to attempt to provide an eclectic mix of talent for the town’s inhabitants to enjoy right on their doorsteps.

Red Door as a brand is the brainchild of Stewart Veitch, a solicitor and trustee of the church, Robin Connelly,  who has a background in promoting small-scale events and jazz gigs at St James’ Church in Leith, and Rob Adams, a journalist and music critic. One of the co-creators, Stewart Veitch, explains how this will change both the church and the community: “I suppose it is about creating an identity, because for many people in the town, the church is just a red door on the high street, they don’t know what lies behind it, so this is an invitation for them to look behind it and see what is there.”

Red Door drew its first big crowd in with Richard Holloway’s book launch of ‘Waiting for the Last Bus’. The former Episcopal bishop of Edinburgh, who is also a broadcast journalist and author, was the first to baptise the church as a cultural venue to explain his exploration in prose of our fear of death. The event was organised in collaboration with Far From The Madding Crowd, the town’s local bookshop which was awarded  ‘Independent Bookshop of the Year for Scotland’ in 2017.

Sally Pattle, who owns the bookshop, commented on the collaboration: “At Far From The Madding Crowd, we are really excited about Red Door and what it means for Linlithgow. There is already a vibrant cultural scene here in the town, but Red Door are offering something slightly different in that there will be regular events for people to look forward to.”

Following this successful partnership, both local entities have decided to put their hands together once again for a music-cum-literary event. On Saturday, October 27, two of the most distinctive jazz guitarists in the UK, Don Paterson and Graeme Stephen, will help inaugurate Red Door as a musical venue. Aside from the concert, which will see the adventurous alliance explore melody and musical invention in a whole new setting, includes the book launch of Paterson’s latest book ‘The Fall at Home — New and Collected Poems.’

This event will be followed by an intimate gig with BBC Folk Award-winning singer-songwriter Chris Wood, whose first stop of his tour is the little burgh, and a look into different cultures with Jyotsna Srikanth, a superb violinist, who plays in the (Indian) Carnatic tradition. Veitch explains the importance of including touring and world-music artists: “We are setting up what we think are high-quality artists, who seem interested in being involved, almost to establish this as another gig on the circuit for similar acts. We are keen to see how these artists will respond to this place as well as how the local community will view it as an audience.”

Starting next year, the Red Door team is hoping to incorporate spoken word into its program, including hosting an event with Shore Poets, the main poetry collective in Edinburgh. When asked about how Red Door will establish itself from here on, Veitch added: “The initial splash of events are close together and we are hoping that, by doing so, we will establish an audience quite quickly. We want to draw in a listening audience and create social space to gather people, get them away from Netflix.”

Red Door is hosting events on Saturday October 27, Thursday November 8 and Wednesday November 28.

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