Leith Academy

Edinburgh International Festival is partnered with Leith Academy in a residency designed to enrich the life of the school.

The residency looks beyond the work that the International Festival presents on stage, equipping students with personal, social and vocational skills as well as creating cultural opportunities for the school community.

We began our relationship with the school in late 2018 by consulting with students and staff at Leith Academy to develop plans that reflected the interests and needs of the school community. Emerging through the consultation work and in connection with the International Festival programme, an overarching theme of identity marked the first year of the residency, exploring who we are as individuals and as a community.

The second year of the residency was marked by the theme of diversity, alongside the school's own celebrations. In March, our ongoing projects were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. Following schools re-opening after the summer break, we have been working creatively with the school to help where we can and continue our residency. We have re-imagined some existing projects, like the Personal Development Award, to be delivered with social distancing measures in place, as well as creating digital opportunities for the school, including connecting the S3s with a Forth One presenter as part of a unit on radio production.

We have extended the residency to autumn 2022, to make up for time lost to the pandemic and celebrate the Festival’s 75th anniversary with Leith Academy. Our final year in Leith Academy will focus on the theme of perseverance, a reference to Leith’s motto and a celebration of the strength of our relationship as we emerge from the pandemic.

Advanced Higher Drama Mentoring Project

The Advanced Higher Drama Mentoring project was created to match students from the Advanced Higher class with a professional actor as a mentor, to help work on their monologues, dissertations and most importantly build their confidence. The sessions are held digitally which has allowed us to work with a wide scope of actors based across the country.

Our bank of mentors includes:

  • Saskia Ashdon (Lament for Sheku Bayoh, EIF/NTS)
  • James Boal (The Taming of the Shrew, Bard in the Botanics)
  • Charlene Boyd (The Miracle Man, NTS)
  • Daniel Cahill (The James Plays, NT/ NTS)
  • Thierry Mabonga (Brothers Karamazov, Tron Theatre)
  • Shauna MacDonald (Mouthpiece, Traverse)
  • Nicola Roy (Belles Stratagem, Lyceum)
  • Joanne Thomson (The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Heart, Royal Exchange)

Civic Digits and the Data Driven Actors

Theatre company Civic Digits have recently worked with the S3 Computing students on a new project, Data Driven Actor, to create a motorised actor that expressed emotion informed by different data sets. Using technology from the University of Edinburgh’s Informatics department, the young people explore emotions and data over three sessions, culminating in an actor coming into class to perform alongside the Data Driven Actor. Civic Digits also worked with all S2s to explore the company’s Big Data Show, which every student was able to watch in class.

Artists in Residence

As part of the residency, the International Festival places artists in residence within the school, engaging different groups through a variety of artforms.

Civic Digits

Civic Digits: Civic Digits blends digital technology, gaming and live performance to create innovative and interactive experiences, to question what it means to be a digital citizen in the 21st century. They are interested in how big human issues like power, justice, friendship, health and family play out in our interconnected digital and real worlds, and how we can be part of positive mainstream change. At the heart of everything they do is the aim to create a digital future where we all can flourish.

Previous Artists in Residence

The Residency Brand

In collaboration with the International Festival’s Marketing and Communications team, we set third year students in Art and Design and Craft, Design and Technology the task of designing a brand identity for the Residency which reflected the values of the relationship between Leith Academy and the International Festival.

Leith Academy Residency logo, blue on white

The Marketing and Communications team delivered a programme of ten workshops which supported the students in understanding the components of a brand identity, as well as sharing details of their roles in the organisation and respective career paths.

Students then created mood boards which offered ideas for logos, straplines, colour schemes and merchandise, which were brought to completion by a Graphic Designer.

The final design is a monogrammed L and A in Festival yellow and vivid blue reflecting the school’s crest and Leith’s maritime history. Merchandise has been produced using the brand, externally as well as by a production team of students in Craft, Design and Technology. This brand will be used throughout the Residency to mark all projects.

In early 2020, we began working with our Technical team to work with students and provide expertise in the area of Technical Theatre. These projects look beyond the work the Festival presents on stage, connecting students with our staff to learn vocational skills and understand what it takes to put on a Festival.

Personal Development Award: Festival Residents

Six students socially distanced outside Leith Academy school

2020-2021 Festival Residents

© Ryan Buchanan

We have delivered the Personal Development Award: Festival Resident, our bespoke qualification for senior pupils recognised and awarded by the Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA), to nine students over two years. Candidates gained workplace experience with the Festival, building a range of personal, social and vocational skills through project-based learning.

Find out more about the qualification and our students.

S3 Radio Project

As part of their drama studies, the S3 students of Leith Academy have been exploring radio and podcasts. To support this work, the International Festival connected the school with Radio Forth’s Gavin Pearson who took part in a Q&S session with the students about his career in radio. Gavin was also kind enough to judge some radio creations by the young people, selecting the entries below as the top three recordings. We are all very grateful to Gavin and Radio Forth for their support and fantastic advice for the S3 pupils. Click the bold links below to listen to the shows!

The Purple Podcast by Evan, Katy & Max
Gavin commented that the piece was really well written, a very creative idea with a brilliant set out of the roles. The timing and tone were brilliant, with a good flow – did not sound scripted.

Radio Talk Show – Titanic by Evie, Mhairi & Sira
Gavin comment that this was a very well organised piece, well researched and had a natural flow. He also thought the car insurance ad was better than the actual ones on the radio!

J and A Radio by James, Joseph & James
Gavin commented that this piece had a fantastic energy and nice humour, brilliant light and shade in the presenter’s delivery. Also clever ideas and use of sound effects.


We have developed a mentoring programme with the guidance of the Scottish Mentoring Network which matches International Festival staff with senior students at Leith Academy. Following a successful mentoring programme as part of the Castlebrae Residency, this programme will support participants to form meaningful and mutually enriching relationships which will deepen cultural awareness, build confidence and support students to take their next steps.

Festival Ambassadors

A group of students S1-6 have formed the Festival Ambassadors and are working closely within the Residency to oversee all projects as well as acting as ambassadors of the partnership. The group have co-designed a evaluation tool using Creative Scotland’s toolkit Is This The Best It Can Be?, which is used to ensure all projects are working for and with the community of the school.

Photos by Artist in Residence Aly Wight.

Beatboxing at Leith Academy

In 2019, a partnership project between the Edinburgh International Festival, the Traverse Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre saw students from Leith Academy explore the art and skills of beatboxing, culminating in a performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.

Working with artists from the BAC Beatbox Academy alongside Scottish singer-songwriter Josie O’Neill, pupils were introduced to beatboxing through a week long in-school residency in June. These sessions were followed by a Summer School in July where students created their own beatboxing curtain raisers which kicked off several performances of Battersea Art Centre’s Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s original tale, and re-imagined with songs, soundscapes and sonic trickery, Frankenstein was performed at the Traverse Theatre from 6-25 August.

Find out more about when Leith Academy met Beatbox Academy over on the blog.

0 Stars

It has been amazing to share a stage with Beatbox Academy, their talent is mega inspiring.

Amelia, S2

In partnership with City of Edinburgh Council.