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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ashley Jack
Ashley worked with the students taking a National Progression Award in Dance, as well as providing hip-hop tasters for all S2s.

Ashley Jack is an Edinburgh-based hip hop dancer and choreographer. Ashley teaches children and adults in studios, dance colleges and schools, and under her brand, House of Jack. She also organises regular workshops by international and local dancers.

Civic Digits
Civic Digits are working with the S3 Computing students on a new project, Data Driven Actor, creating a motorised actor that expresses emotion informed by different data sets. Civic Digits are also working with all S2s exploring the company’s Big Data Show, through which all S2s will gain the SQA-accredited qualification ‘An introduction to cyber resilience and digital citizenship’.

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.

Pete Lannon and Emma Jayne Park
Pete and Emma worked with two S1 classes on a project exploring the rules (the explicit and unspoken ones) that govern how we express ourselves and who has the power in young people’s lives.

Pete Lannon is a performer and director based in Glasgow, and one-third of SUPERFAN: a new contemporary performance company whose work blends theatre, performance art, circus and choreography to create new work for adult and young audiences.

Emma Jayne Park works under the handle Cultured Mongrel as a dancer, theatre maker, collaborator and micro-activist. From creating dance with young rural communities to working as a movement director in established theatres, her politics always underline her practice with a focus on narrowing the gap between ideology and practice, questioning inherited systems and consent-fuelled collaboration.

Mamoru Iriguchi, with Lou Brodie and James Ley
Mamoru, Lou and James worked in Leith while developing a piece of theatre entitled S.E.X. (Sex Education Xplorers), working with S3s in Personal and Social Education classes. Initially developed through Imaginate, S.E.X. is a thought-provoking yet playful piece, which encourages everyone to celebrate their own and others’ gender identities.

Mamoru Iriguchi is an award-winning Edinburgh-based performance maker and theatre designer with a background in zoology. His performance works explore 2D and 3D, liveness and pre-recorded-ness, gender and sexuality, fairytales and evolution theories.

Lou Brodie is an applied artist, performance maker and project manager based in Scotland. Through an artistic process rooted in social practice and conviviality, Lou produces idiosyncratic artworks and events in collaboration with communities, people and place.

James Ley is a dramaturg, playwright and screenwriter living in Edinburgh. James is under commission to Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Ambassadors Theatre Group, Perth Theatre, Pearlfisher Theatre Company and the Scottish Film Talent Network.

Heather Marshall
Heather worked with students in the school’s Nurture Base on projects that were responsive to their needs. She worked with a group of students on projects related to identity and LGBTQ+ awareness and understanding in the school; a group of S1 students on building confidence through the creation of alter egos; and students from Wider Achievement on a collaborative art installation for Leith Academy’s Diversity week.

Heather Marshall is a multi-award-winning artist who creates accessible sociopolitical performance and live art for people that may not traditionally attend mainstream arts events. She often works under the company name Creative Electric.

Aly Wight
Aly is working on a new project with the Leith Academy community that will leave a legacy in the school. Previously, Aly worked with students taking a National Progression Award in Journalism, equipping them with skills including videography, sound recording, and website management.

Aly Wight is a photographer and film-maker based in Edinburgh who works with a range of clients in the arts, charity, corporate and design industries. Aly was an artist in residence for the Castlebrae Community High School Residency, capturing the pupils emotional and physical transformation over the course of three years.

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

Culture Club

This programme offers social trips for staff and students to engage in a variety of cultural experiences – from music and drama, to visual art and dance - encouraging an appetite for the arts and breaking down any barriers which might inhibit many from engaging.

So far, we have been on Culture Club trips to:

Mouthpiece – Traverse Theatre
Touching the Void – Lyceum Theatre
RSNO: The Music of Harry Potter – Usher Hall
Scottish Ballet: Spring! – Festival Theatre
Us/Them– Festival Theatre Studio
Scottish Opera: The Magic Flute – Festival Theatre
Ian McKellen on Stage- Assembly Hall
Barber Shop Chronicles - The Lyceum
Scottish Ballet: The Snow Queen - Festival Theatre

During the 2019 Festival, sixty staff and students went to see Ian McKellen On Stage. A share of the profits will go towards improvements to the school.

Our Christmas Culture Club to see Scottish Ballet’s The Snow Queen was opened to the families of students at Leith Academy as part of our efforts to engage the wider communities of the school.

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.


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.

In partnership with City of Edinburgh Council.