The Pleasance

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For the surname, see Pleasance (surname).

The Pleasance is a street just outside the Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland, a remnant of the town walls flanking the west side of the street between Drummond Street and the Cowgate.[1] Historically, the street was one of the main routes into Edinburgh from the south, meeting St Mary's Wynd (now St Mary's Street) at St Mary's Wynd Port, one of the gateways of the town walls. The name derives from the Scots plesance, meaning a park or garden. It first appears in 1507 as the name of a nearby house and was later transferred to the street and then the suburb which was part of the regality of the Canongate.[2] The derivation of the name from a nunnery of St Mary of Placentia, often mentioned in histories of Edinburgh, is an invention by William Maitland in his 1753 History of Edinburgh.[3] The street is largely residential, although the University of Edinburgh owns property in the area.

University of Edinburgh union[edit]

Student Union buildings

The Pleasance contains a complex of university-owned buildings which, for nine months of the year, operate as one of the four Student Union venues that serve the Edinburgh University Students' Association. The Pleasance complex consists of two main bars: The Pleasance Bar and The Cabaret Bar; the Pleasance theatre (with a capacity of 320[4]); and several rooms that can be booked out for society use. Two LCD tvs and a large projector also ensure that all major sporting events are shown in the main bar. The Pleasance is the only one of the four student unions to hold a public license which means anyone can gain access without having to be a university student or signed in by a member.[citation needed]

As well as providing the opportunity to purchase food and drink, the Pleasance maintains a program of evening entertainment. Live comedy traditionally takes place on Tuesday evenings with acts such as Russell Howard and Jim Jefferies appearing in recent years.[citation needed] The Edinburgh Folk Club use the Cabaret Bar as the venue for their gigs on Wednesday nights. However the busiest evenings of the week normally fall on Monday nights with the Pleasance Pub Quiz attracting up to 40 teams on occasions in 2009.[citation needed]

Pleasance Edinburgh[edit]

The Pleasance Courtyard during the 2006 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Use of the union buildings during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe led to the formation in 1985 of Pleasance Theatre Trust Ltd,[5] which is the parent organisation that runs the Pleasance's Fringe events. By 2010 it had expanded from the Pleasance's two permanent theatre spaces into 23 venues hosting shows under the Pleasance name. These spaces range in size from the 770-seat Pleasance Grand to the Cellar and Hut, each of which seats 50 people, and "Pop-Up" spaces with a capacity of one.[citation needed]

The Pleasance is famous for spawning such acts as Frank Skinner, Graham Norton, Paul Merton, and Al Murray, although the list of its alumni is much longer.[5]

Pleasance Islington[edit]

In addition to the Edinburgh venue, the Pleasance Theatre Trust also runs a sister venue in Islington, North London, which operates throughout the year. This is named Pleasance Islington, previously Pleasance London. Comprising two theatres, one with 289 seats and another with 55 seats.[5] Pleasance Theatre Islington regularly plays host to established comedians such as Russell Brand,[6] Simon Amstell,[7] Eddie Izzard,[8] Mark Thomas[9] and Dara Ó Briain.[10]

Pleasance Islington also comprises a large complex of rehearsal rooms, recording studios, and production offices; and are often used by visiting companies and theatre companies preparing material for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[11]

Pleasance Islington has a number of resident theatre companies and organisations that it works with. These include Islington Community Theatre and the London Urban Collective.

Young Pleasance[edit]

Pleasance Theatre Trust also supports a youth theatre company, Young Pleasance, who rehearse and train all year in London. Young Pleasance produces a large scale production annually, which Pleasance Theatre Edinburgh plays host to during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Young Pleasance was founded in 1996 and is still run by its joint Artistic Directors Tim Norton and Kathryn Norton. Since 1996, with just three exceptions, each year's production has showcased the talents of performers between the age of 15 and 24 in new plays written by Tim Norton, often in collaboration with the company's Musical Director and Composer, Ned Bennett.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Edinburgh, Pleasance, Flodden Wall". Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  2. ^ S Harris, The Place Names of Edinburgh, London 1996
  3. ^ "Edinburgh, Pleasance, 'Convent Of St Mary Of Placentia'". Retrieved 2013-03-18. 
  4. ^ "Pleasance Edinburgh: Pleasance One". Retrieved 2009-08-07. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b c "About Pleasance". Retrieved 2010-01-05. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Russell Brand at Pleasance". Retrieved 2010-01-05. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Simon Amstell at Pleasance". Retrieved 2010-01-05. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Eddie Izzard at Pleasance". Retrieved 2010-01-05. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Mark Thomas at Pleasance". Retrieved 2010-01-05. [dead link]
  10. ^ "Dara O Briain at Pleasance". Retrieved 2010-01-05. [dead link]
  11. ^ "Rehearsal spaces to hire at Pleasance Islington". Retrieved 2010-01-05. [dead link]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°56′51.33″N 3°10′55.23″W / 55.9475917°N 3.1820083°W / 55.9475917; -3.1820083