Queens for a Day – Pageants and Parades in Leith

″Gala; a social occasion with special entertainments or performances.″
Oxford Dictionaries


Since the 16th century, in towns and villages across Scotland, the annual fair or gala has been a focus for community life. Marking kinship, the day was a holiday and an opportunity to celebrate local industry and production, alongside sporting or musical prowess.

Today, far from fading into history, Gala Day has continued as an expression of community cohesion, sometimes the only opportunity for families or neighbours to get together.

Investigating the historic origins of Gala along with its strong Leith traditions, Queens for a Day worked with volunteers from the Leith Festival Association and a broad range older and younger people to document and celebrate the Kings and Queens involved in this community wide celebration today.



Uncovering new archive material, held by Citizen Curator and community partners. An historical timeline of the development of Gala locally, from the ‘Hospital Demonstration Day’ or ‘Hospital Saturday’ that first took place in 1907 to the week-long arts festival run by Leith Festival Association today. A collection of contemporary oral history relating to Leith and to Gala Day, a film documenting personal experiences of the day, a teachers pack alongside a ‘pop-up’ exhibition, currently on display at the People’s Story museum.

The teachers pack will be available to download here shortly.

Please also see the Online Archive.



Leith Festival Association, Custom House (SHBT), A Kind of Seeing/ LeithLate, Museums & Galleries Edinburgh and our many community partners.



Queens for the Day was made posable with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as part of the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.


Photo Credit:


Online Archive
Keywords: Project, Local, History, Leith, Gala, Heritage, Community, Museum


Project Lead: Ria Sloan