Hidden Letters

An outdoor poetry sculpture trail of six brightly coloured park benches in the grounds of St. John’s Church set in the foothills of Edinburgh Castle rock, at the west end of the Princes Street Gardens with spectacular views to Edinburgh Castle, transforming this quiet urban oasis into an outdoor space for reading, resting and meeting family and friends.

The sculptures are designed in the shape of giant letters from the Cyrillic alphabet which have no graphic analogue in the Roman or Greek scripts. Initially, the Hidden Letters were sited in the two upper green bays to the east of the church building and then ‘migrated’ to the Peace Garden to the south west of the church building before being relocated to the church’s arches for the winter.

Hidden Letters launched as part of Just Festival – Edinburgh’s festival of social justice and human rights within the framework of Edinburgh Festival Fringe showing from 6-28 August 2021 and was then extended until 14 November 2021. Admission was free with no need to pre-book, open to all daily 10:30-17:30, with opportunities to initiate a self-guided tour, request a curatorial tour or get involved by tuning into the related poetry activism online events. SCROLL DOWN FOR ALL THE DETAILS

Hidden Letters Edinburgh features 14 specially commissioned poems attached to each letter-bench by contemporary Bulgarian writers, presented in their original Cyrillic script and in English translation, including Georgi Gospodinov/Георги Господинов, Tsocho Boyadjiev/Цочо Бояджиев, Mirela Ivanova/Мирела Иванова, Nadezhda Radulova/Надежда Радулова, Silvia Choleva/Силвия Чолева, Galina Nikolova/Галина Николова, Ivan Landzhev/Иван Ланджев, Nikola Petrov/Никола Петров, Marin Bodakov/Марин Бодаков, Anna Lazarova/Анна Лазарова, Stefan Ivanov/Стефан Иванов, Krassimira Dzhisova/Красимира Джисова, Peter Chuhov/Петър Чухов и Maria Kalinova/Мария Калинова.


Request a curatorial tour of the Hidden Letters by CONTACTING US HERE

Initiate a self-guided tour of the Hidden Letters by PLANNING YOUR VISIT HERE

Find the Hidden Letters hiding in plain sight in the churchyard of St. John’s. Initially, the Hidden Letters were sited in the two upper green bays to the east of the church building 6-28 August 2021 and then ‘migrated’ to the Peace Garden to the south west of the church building 1 September – 14 November 2021 before being relocated to the church’s arches for the winter.

Use either the fully accessible Princes Street entrance of St. John’s Church, Edinburgh EH2 4BJ or the stairs access through the 1A Lothian Road entrance of St. John’s Church, Edinburgh EH1 2AB.

St. John’s Church is about 10 minutes walk from either Edinburgh Waverley or Haymarket railway stations and many bus routes stop near to the church in Princes Street or Lothian Road. For information on reaching St John’s Church by public transport see Lothian Buses or Traveline Scotland

Share our Hidden Letters flyer DOWNLOAD IT HERE


Tune into the three related online poetry activism events as part of Just Festival reconsidering the role of small cultures in the global village of world literature delivered in partnership with Just Festival

Poetry, Precarity and Post-Covid Monuments

64 min online discussion held on 18 August 2021 as part of Just Festival featuring academic and author Albena Azmanova, as well as the Bulgarian and Scottish poets, translators and artists Nadezhda Radoulova and Alec Finlay, hosted and chaired by Iliyana Nedkova WATCH AGAIN HERE

Provinciality in the Global Village of World Literature?

75 min online discussion held on 14 August 2021 as part of Just Festival featuring Eilís Ní Dhuibhne, Stefan Ivanov and Jim Mackintosh – three poets who write in Irish Gaelic, Bulgarian and Scots. Chaired by academic and author Dimitar Kambourov and hosted by Iliyana Nedkova WATCH AGAIN HERE

“We don’t consider ourselves provincial which doesn’t mean we are not provincial” Eilís Ní Dhuibhn

Impromptu Movement. Free Improvisation. Hidden Letters

An improvised movement (approx 5 min) performed live amongst the Hidden Letters by Sara Lockwood of the dance collective Les Impromptues on 27 August 2021 as part of Just Festival 2021 and the Impromptu Movements series of ‘pandemic solos’ 2020-21. Recorded live and streamed online, each Impromptu Movement responds to a new location and is inspired by the repertoire of the modern dance pioneer Margaret Morris (1891-1980). Yet each impromptue inserts her own variations, improvisations, and costumes extending Margaret Morris signature style movement even further. Camerawork by Paparazzi Pup. Music by composer Albert Hurwit – an extract from Symphony 1 (Movement I: Origins) from a recording by the Bulgarian National Radio Symphony Orchestra and Klezma Band WATCH HERE

Sara Lockwood of Les Impromptues dance collective playing an improvised dance game of hide and seek with the Cyrillic alphabet

Fun facts? The Cyrillic alphabet is one of the three official alphabets of the European Union alongside the Roman and Greek scripts. It is used by over 300 million people worldwide in more than 10 countries, including Bulgaria where the alphabet is celebrated at an annual day of culture, language, and education every 24 May at least since 1813.

More fun facts? Unlike the Roman/Latin script, which is usually adapted to different languages by adding supplementary marks such as accents to standard Roman letters, the Cyrillic alphabet was constructed by the creation of entirely new letterforms inspired by the Greek and Roman scripts. The Cyrillic alphabet was commissioned c. 893 by the Bulgarian Tsar Simeon I the Great, developed by scholars from the Preslav Literary School and named in honor of the Saint Cyril, one of the two Byzantine brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, who created the Glagolitic alphabet earlier on.

The siting of Hidden Letters Edinburgh in the grounds of St John’s Church thus resonates with the origins of the Cyrillic script and Christianity.

Daniela Dimova-Yaneva and Iliyana Nedkova – two of three curators of Hidden Letters Edinburgh

Hidden Letters Edinburgh as part of Just Festival 2021

Hidden Letters benches are designed by the Bulgarian artists and architects Cyrill Zlatkov and Ivan Ivanov. The project was initiated by Reading Sofia Foundation and first launched in Sofia in 2018. It has since toured to Berlin, Paris, Budapest, Plovdiv, Munster, Rabat and Brussels.

Edinburgh is the first UK destination for six of the 14 benches-letters from the Bulgarian/Slavic alphabet Б, Д, Ж, З, И, Й, Ц, Ч, Ш, Щ, Ъ, ь, Ю, and Я. Fabricated in Edinburgh by Sandy Law, Spas Yanev and Daniel Penev.

Hidden Letters Edinburgh is an initiative of the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland, curated by Daniela Dimova-Yaneva, Iliyana Nedkova and Todora Radeva.

Hidden Letters Edinburgh is supported in-kind by Edinburgh’s Just Festival and St. John’s Church with financial support from Creative Scotland Cultural Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund. Further in-kind support from Reading Sofia Foundation.

Hidden Letters in Sofia

Hidden Letters in Paris
Hidden Letters in Sofia

6 thoughts on “Hidden Letters

  1. Hi Iliyana , how is it all going ? Hope you will be able to come to my gallery when it opens on this Monday ? Best Andrew

    Sent from my iPhone



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