Springing from nowhere (hence the name!) into a small gallery space in the centre of Edinburgh in 1994, Out of the Blue Arts and Education Trust is now celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Out of the Blue has since grown many branches and now enlivens and animates five buildings in Edinburgh, turning them into inclusive hubs for the creative community in Edinburgh. This includes the legendary Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith and the iconic Bongo Club in the city centre. Since 1994, over two million people have come through our doors to work, create, exhibit, perform, eat, drink, dance, teach and learn.
Each Out of the Blue building has a creative purpose in its own right, but collectively they drive the growth of the Creative Industries in Edinburgh and Scotland by providing opportunities for employment, education and enterprise. The buildings provide spaces for studios, workshops, classes, exhibitions, music practice, recording, performance, rehearsal, events, meetings, theatre, music, visual arts, architecture, designers, screen printers, social enterprises, jewellery makers, and more.
Out of the Blue has been a member of the Cultural Social Enterprise Network (SEN) since its inception in 2009, and has been a great advocate for the social enterprise movement in Scotland.
Senscot Cultural Coordinator Sarah Cameron said, “Given the breadth of work it engages in and the time and effort it puts into creating wonderful, inclusive spaces for creatives, Out of the Blue has obviously brought massive benefits to the local community it serves.
“More than that, though, Out of the Blue has been incredibly supportive of the social enterprise movement – sharing their experience and knowledge with social entrepreneurs working in different communities across Scotland. They’re a hugely valued member of the Cultural SEN, and a great example of how a social enterprise can have a huge impact on the community it operates in.”
“Out of the Blue’s spaces resist classification. Our buildings are not simply artists’ studios, or ‘creative hubs’. Our spaces are unique, reflecting a model that has developed over 25 years, and reflect a hybrid of arts, participatory education, enterprise, creativity, and community development,” explained Rob Hoon, Out of the Blue Manager.
“There is cross fertilisation between these areas which support individuals and collective initiatives. This in turn has economic, health and educational benefits for individuals and their communities.”
Phil Denning, chair of Out of the Blue’s board of directors, is looking forward to continuing to serve the creative community in Edinburgh for years to come.
“As we look ahead to the next 25 years, we want to embed this creative ambition across the communities we work in, to continue to make spaces where everyone can flourish, and to harness the magic that Out of the Blue has already captured for so many people across the city.”
One of Out of the Blue’s most enduring legacies is likely to be iconic Edinburgh venue The Bongo Club, which has survived two venue relocations and several existential threats to maintain its status as one of Edinburgh’s most well-loved and frequented nightspots.
“The Bongo Club has been pushing the boundaries of the Edinburgh scene since 1996 as a nightclub, live venue and all-round artistic hub with a street-level-headed attitude and an international reputation,” Ally Hill, manager of The Bongo Club said.
“Through the loyal support of the community (and the Council), it’s overcome threats to its existence and is currently in its third incarnation, occupying the cavernous spaces below the Central Library, on Cowgate. World class international talent perform throughout much of the year and the roll call of high profile names lining up to lend their support during the last ‘Save the Bongo’ campaign bears testament to this enduring international status.”
Throughout its 25-year history, Out of the Blue has overseen innumerable success stories from those using its spaces to bring their creative vision to life; from Young Fathers first meeting at the Bongo Club and now creating music at Out of the Blue’s Music Studios, to young people training in its cafe, and now planning to run an urban cook school at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall.
Out of the Blue is an organisation that has made a significant impact on the city of Edinburgh and the communities it thrives in, as well as contributing to the wider arts sector in Scotland.
Here’s to another 25 years!