6th Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival and huge success

The 6th Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival took place from 14 – 17 August at peak Edinburgh Festival Fringe time.


The demonstrations and talks were all free to attend and took place just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the centre of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Edinburgh World Heritage Trust and Architecture & Design Scotland kindly donated their premises to host the shows and all the presenters donated their time and materials to promote traditional building skills and materials. We are also grateful to Construction Industry Training Board who sponsored the event.


We started with a roofing theme with roof slating and roof leadwork demonstrations delivered by the National Federation of Roofing Contractors with particular focus on the skills and materials required to repair and maintain Scotland’s built heritage. This was followed by Ali Davey from Historic Environment Scotland who gave a talk on the important role of blacksmiths in the development of Edinburgh and showing the different styles used throughout the city.





Feedback was very positive with one Twitter user stating “Events today were wonderful!! Back tomorrow for plastering!”


That led us onto day 2 where we had a Lime Render Demonstration by Scottish Lime Centre Trust and a Decorative Plaster Demonstration from Will Napier and Fionn Blench which were both very well received.




Yet more positive feedback on Twitter with one person commenting “Who knew that animal hair (Highland cattle in Scotland) was such an important part of the lime stone mix. Fascinating insights into traditional building skills at the Edinburgh Traditional Building Festival.”


Then it was a quick run up to Calton Hill for a Building Stones Geology Tour delivered by Luis Albornoz who is a Building Stone Scientist at British Geological Survey with one of those who attended enquiring if Luis was running any lectures on the topic as she would like to find out more.



We then had a stonemasonry demonstration from Stewart Inkster who highlighted issues regarding disrepair and the skills and materials required to repair Edinburgh’s stone buildings. If done properly, there was no reason that these repairs would not last another 100 years but all too often this was not the case with temporary repairs being preferred due to the short-term costs but in the long-term it often resulted in additional costs to the homeowner.


This was followed with a look at the key role innovation could play in the traditional building sector. Scott McGibbon from Heriot Watt University gave us an exclusive Sneak Peek Into 21st Century Historic Building Repair and maintenance.


Then Dr Anthony Lewis of GlasgowLife and Glasgow Museums gave us an insight into the builders of Edinburgh’s New Town and how practices elsewhere in the world influenced the design of the city.




Our final day kicked off with Mark Nevin of Nevin of Edinburgh and he showed the skills and techniques for transforming a piece of MDF into looking like a piece of oak and then into marble. This is always well received and he makes it look so easy.


We finished with Prof Richard Rodger of University of Edinburgh who discussed “Why Build Tenements in Scotland and Did it Matter?” This presentation focused on the dominant housing form in nineteenth century Scotland. The law and landownership were crucial elements in the explanation of tenement construction which has had long run social, spatial and behavioural implications for Scots.



We are very fortunate to have so many tradespersons and professionals who are prepared to donate their time to share their knowledge and expertise but equally, we are fortunate to have so many people who take time out of their busy schedules (especially during the Festival Fringe) to find out more about the built heritage they see every day.


Some more positive feedback on Twitter at the event of the week with comments such as “terrific mix of hands-on demos, lectures, discussion and, well, Danish pastries. Looking at Edinburgh with fresh eyes now!” and “Good job guys for promoting this amazing topic!”




John McKinney


John McKinney

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