Edinburgh International Festival to build outdoor stages in primary school playgrounds

The Edinburgh International Festival has revealed it is to build outdoor stages in primary school playgrounds in the city as part of a drive to introduce pupils to the world of theatre at an early age.

Hermitage Park Primary in Leith. Picture: Ryan Buchanan
Hermitage Park Primary in Leith. Picture: Ryan Buchanan

Instigated by the cancellation of live shows at this year’s event, the initiative is aimed at helping to encourage the use of outdoor areas in schools for performing, playing and learning.

A pilot project has been created at Hermitage Park Primary in Leith, where pupils will be encouraged to stage their own shows and artists are expected to work with pupils of creative projects.

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The Play On: Stages initiative, which is being funded from the festival’s own resources, is expected to run for at least the next two years.

As part of the scheme, the EIF has also created new resources for primary school teachers to help introduce pupils to the different art forms that are normally staged in the city each August and why Edinburgh is known around the world as “the Festival City”.

A video created as part of the project explains the origins of the festival, when it was instigated in the aftermath of the Second World War, and their evolution over the last 73 years, and also shows how the outdoor stage was built.

A spokesman for the EIF said: “In place of the stages left empty by the social distancing restrictions, the festival has launched a project to build stages in the playgrounds of Edinburgh primary schools, starting with Hermitage Park Primary in Leith.

“Play On: Stages is a project building stage structures in consultation with schools, bringing playgrounds to life and providing teachers with an outdoor platform from which to develop learning and creative activities.

The shutdown of live events in Edinburgh this month inspired the creation of the Play On: Stages project. Picture: Ryan Buchanan

“There is considerable evidence that play and creative activity helps support children’s development. This includes language skills, problem solving and perspective, as well as increased creativity and wellbeing.

“The hope is that between Hermitage Park Primary School and Edinburgh International Festival, the stage has literally been set for new and enriching forms of play.”

Caroline Donald, head of learning at the EIF, said: “As the festival stages have gone quiet this August and we wanted to create an opportunity for Festival City children to Play On, discover their creativity, and a space to enjoy being back together.

"Our stage is not only a space to perform and play, but can be utilised by the school as a cross curricular learning space.”

The new outdoor stage that has been created by the Edinburgh International Festival. Picture: Ryan Buchanan

Hermitage Park Primary headteacher Faye Calder-Kelly said: “The stage is a fantastic addition to our creative resources.

"The children are really enjoying imaginative play on the stage and making up performances for their peers.

"The stage allows us to take drama lessons outside and gives the children a professional performance space.

“We are really looking forward to a time we can share our performances with the wider school community.”

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