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Students and staff at Leith Academy are benefitting from a new seating bank made possible by the Edinburgh International Festival and Sir Ian McKellen.

Today the Edinburgh International Festival announced the unveiling of a new seating bank installed in Leith Academy's drama studio, made possible by the proceeds from Sir Ian McKellen’s 2019 Festival performances.

While both students and teachers of the Edinburgh secondary school are thrilled with the new structure, there’s no one more excited than Sir Ian himself. As he says, “I’m so pleased that income from my 2019 Festival show was sufficient to install this seating bank. May the pupils enjoy performing in their Academy’s wonderfully versatile space and may audiences enjoy watching them.”

Anyone who saw Ian McKellen On Stage during the 2019 International Festival can attest to an evening of pure enchantment. The actor had audiences enthralled with anecdotes from his many years on stage and screen and readings from his most loved roles, including Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings. It was a highlight of that year’s Festival and particularly memorable for the generosity with which he delivered his personal stories. Now, almost two years on, it keeps on giving in another way.

The newly installed retractable seating bank will accommodate up to 92 people and greatly improves the use of the drama studio for lessons, assemblies, parents’ evenings and, of course, performances.

Students sit socially distanced on a blue raised seating bank while waving their hands in the air.

Leith Academy students and drama teacher Jenna Hamill enjoy their new drama studio seating bank

Mike Irving, Headteacher of Leith Academy, believes the contribution is significant and will have impact on the Academy’s culture moving beyond. “As a school and community, we are delighted to accept this wonderful gift from Sir Ian McKellen and look forward to enjoying the many presentations that will be viewed from the new seating,” he says. “I sincerely hope that one day Sir Ian accepts my open invitation to visit Leith Academy to enjoy performances from our talented young people.”

It’s a highlight in the Festival’s partnership with Leith Academy, which began in 2018 through the introduction of the Leith Academy Residency. This residency has now been extended until 2022 (coinciding with the Festival’s 75th anniversary) to expand the social and vocational development of students and staff beyond the disruption of last year’s school closures. Diversity, connection and discovery are all encouraged as part of the Festival’s broader learning and engagement programme.

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