The Hub; a church where festivals are more common than prayers

IMG_0953

The church is now a café and festival box office during Edinburgh international festival. Photo: Elin Larsson

By Elin Larsson and Natalija Sako

Red carpet at the Hub. Photo: Elin Larsson

Red carpet at the Hub. Photo: Elin Larsson

Edinburgh, UK: At the heart of Edinburgh, right in the middle of the old city, lies the Hub. What from the outside looks like any other characteristic Victorian old church, couldn’t be more different. Over the last 40 years no bibles have been seen in the building. Instead the Hub has been transformed into a cultural meeting point in the middle of The Royal Mile.

 The tall gothic tower is not only one of Edinburgh’s most famous buildings, it is also a symbol of the recent loss of religious interest among the Scots. The transformation behind the Hub is not unique, all over Scotland empty churches have over the last couple of years been redeveloped into hostels as well as art-centers.

IMG_0959

The Hub café. Photo: Elin Larsson

The Hub is one of Edinburgh’s most well known landmarks. Everyone in the city knows to point out the tower, which also acts as a popular cover on the postcards from the region. When it was built between 1842 to 1845 however it went under a different name, namely that of Victoria Hall. Its proper architecture was constructed to house the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In the 50’s the name and purpose changed when Victoria Hall became Highland Tolbooth St John’s Church. The glory period didn’t last long and in the 80’s the church fell into disuse.

Art at the Hub. Photo: Elin Larsson

Art at the Hub. Photo: Elin Larsson

While entering the Hub all the feelings of being in a religious environment disappear. The visitor will see walls covered with modern art as well as photos from the latest festival. While walking along the red carpet covering the old stone based floor it is difficult to imagine that messes were held in the building only a half decade ago.  The only remaining traces from the past inside the building would be the windows with its characteristic design.

While walking along the red carpet covering the old stone based floor it is difficult to imagine that messes were held in the building only a half decade ago. The only remaining traces from the past inside the building would be the windows with its characteristic design. The inside transformation

The entrance to the Hub. Photo: Elin Larsson.

The entrance to the Hub. Photo: Elin Larsson.

took part about 15 years ago while the municipality decided to wake up the sleeping beauty after years of being unused.  This time the church was suppose to act under a non-religious flag and with an intention that fitted the citizens of Edinburgh much better. Today’s Hub is a common place for coffee-breaks, weddings and conferences, but the Hub really comes alive during the Edinburgh international festival where it’s considered the center of the whole arrangement. So even though the Hub may not be a central part of the religious community anymore, it is still the heart of the city.