A new 'film temple' in Edinburgh would be a fitting legacy for Sir Sean Connery – Brian Ferguson

Of the dozens of photographs of Sir Sean Connery I gazed at over the weekend there was one simple image that made me smile more than any other.

Sir Sean Connery unveiling a plaque to mark the site of his birthplace in Fountainbridge in 2010. Picture: Jane Barlow
Sir Sean Connery unveiling a plaque to mark the site of his birthplace in Fountainbridge in 2010. Picture: Jane Barlow

Posted by the Edinburgh International Film Festival shortly after his death was confirmed on Saturday afternoon, it captured him in his element on the event’s red carpet at the event. For a long time, it was like Connery was an ever-present at the festival, presiding over endless premieres and parties, and providing unbeatable star power to an event with no shortage of competitors.

On Monday morning, I listened to Diane Henderson, the festival’s long-time deputy artistic director, attempt to explain on the radio the lengths to which Connery would go into battle on behalf of the event to persuade film makers, distributors and actors why they should take part, and his insistence on seeing as many films as possible when he was in the city, often without the knowledge of those showing their work.

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It is hard to imagine how many people involved in some way with the film festival and its long-time headquarters, the Filmhouse, have had their lives touched by Connery in some way.

A slightly overlooked aspect of Connery’s passing is that the coronovirus pandemic means it is likely to be some time before there will be the opportunity for the people of Edinburgh, the city and the Scottish film industry to pay proper tribute to the city’s most famous son. There was something particularly cruel about the fact that the Filmhouse was forced to close temporarily on Monday night due to the new restrictions being enforced in the city.

It seems a lifetime ago now, but it is a mere nine months since I was given the lowdown on a revival of plans to create a new home for both the film festival and the Filmhouse in a nearby public square.

They were a revival of plans for a building Connery himself had agreed to put his name to when the same architect behind them, Richard Murphy, revealed his initial vision for the site in 2005.

Given that a lack of political support within the city council was blamed for those plans failing to get off the ground, it was something of a surprise to hear in March that the council had agreed a deal in principle to allow a new “film temple” to be built on Festival Square and finally realise the architect’s vision – subject to planning permission being secured and funding being raised.

Given an initial estimated cost of £50m and a projected opening date of 2025, the project was going to be challenging enough, before the pandemic shut down both the film festival and the Filmhouse this year, and will almost certainly affect both in 2021.

However it is to be hoped that Connery’s enthusiastic support for the project’s initial vision, his relentless work for the festival and his lifelong association with Edinburgh will finally help bring these plans to fruition.

And when a post-pandemic Edinburgh gets around to considering how best to honour his life and legacy when it need look no further than making sure it is named after him – to help inspire the film stars and starmakers of the future.

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Plans for a new 'film temple' for Edinburgh were unveiled by the Filmhouse and the city's film festival earlier this year. Image: Richard Murphy Architects

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Joy Yates

Editorial Director

Sir Sean Connery after being knighted by the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in 2000. Picture: David Cheskin/PA.
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