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Our Leith Academy Residency took place from 2019 to 2022. Artists in residence worked in the secondary school to devise a technical theatre project and develop continued opportunities for students to build personal, social and vocational skills. This blog, written by Edinburgh International Festival’s Amy Firth, was written during the second year of the Leith Academy Residency. It captures a week’s worth of activities.

Our second year in Leith Academy focuses on the theme of diversity, in line with the school’s values and celebration of communities. I oversee the Residency, spending a lot of time at the school connecting with students and teachers to deliver projects, here’s what I got up to in a typically busy week...

Martha is one of our Personal Development Award students, taking part in an SQA level 6 qualification, equivalent to a Higher, to gain workplace experience with the International Festival. She kicked off the week with The LAB (Leith Academy Beatbox), an after school club she has developed following last year’s participatory project with Battersea Art Centre’s Beatbox Academy which saw students take to the Traverse stage to open Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster. Martha was keen to continue the momentum of that experience, developing her skills to give workshops to junior students.

On Tuesday, Martha was joined by two other Personal Development Award students, Shona and Harmony, at The Hub to work with Hugo Mintz, the International Festival’s Head of Communications. They learned interview skills and developed their CVs, as part of their weekly work with staff across the International Festival departments.

Meanwhile in school, we introduced new artists in residence, Mamoru Iriguchi and James Ley who presented a new performance for schools entitled S.E.X. (Sex Education Xtreme) to the third year Personal and Social Education classes. Developed through Imaginate, S.E.X. is a thought-provoking yet playful piece encouraging young people to celebrate their own and others’ gender identities. It was brilliant to see how the students engaged with the piece; Mamoru and James found their feedback encouraging. With the class in fits of giggles, it was not the first time I'd heard a student exclaim:

“What kind of school is this?”

On Wednesday, Mickey Graham came to the school to deliver an after school workshop on stage management. This has been part of our technical theatre project, connecting students to the International Festival’s technical team to learn skills including lighting, sound design, props and costume work, as well as planning an upcoming site visit to Leith Theatre.

Thursday saw Emma Jayne Park and Pete Lannon working with two first year classes on a project exploring the rules, explicit and unspoken, that govern how we express ourselves and who has the power in young people’s lives. Working towards a performance, Emma and Pete’s residency combines work across the curriculum, engaging with the classes in Technical, Science, Home Economics, and Personal and Social Development.

Our mentoring programme is well underway with meetings happening throughout the week. This programme connects senior students with International Festival staff through mutually enriching relationships, which help build confidence, deepen cultural awareness and support students to take their next steps. We currently have ten staff members matched with eleven students, with new recruitment over the next few months.

Before I knew it, it was Friday and, as part of Aly Wight’s residency working with the NPA Journalism class, the students launched their blog Leith Youth Voice. Aly has been working with students to equip them with skills in web management, interviewing, filming and sound recording. Their blog features this video which the students made at the Residency brand launch in December.

With more exciting projects on the horizon and the launch of the 2020 programme in sight, this feels like an important point in the Residency. Our impact and reach across the school years and curriculum has broadened and we feel part of the community. Every day in Leith Academy offers new experiences and challenges, and with the support of the staff at the school it continues to be an enriching and always fun partnership.

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