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Edinburgh International Festival invites young people to Play On by building stages in playgrounds

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Play will be to the 21st century what work was to the industrial age – our dominant way of knowing, doing and creating value

Pat Kane

In a year when Edinburgh’s Festival stages must remain empty for the first time in 73 years, the International Festival is building outdoor stages to bring theatricality into schools and to support pupils to play, perform and learn outdoors. 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 first stage has been completed in Hermitage Park Primary School, just in time for pupils returning to school. To help introduce the pupils to the stage and to encourage engagement with the different artforms involved in the International Festival, our Learning and Engagement team have created innovative resources for schools, suggesting how they might use it and planting creative ideas. The pupils are now being tasked with creating design ideas for the backdrop of the stage, followed by a full engagement project that seeks to build an ongoing relationship between the school and the creative arts.

Despite having relatively little green space, Hermitage Park Primary School has already undertaken exciting outdoor projects including a miniature garden that is used for learning, just next to where the brand new stage has been built. Innovative projects like their ‘Coorie In’ have helped combat difficulties brought by lockdown, as students, teachers and parents have recorded themselves reading or telling stories for those pupils who might not get to hear them at home. Likewise, the school has been hiding books around the local area in a treasure hunt for pupils at home during lockdown.

Two men stand in a playground installing a wooden stage.
© 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 Scottish Government has published an extensive Play Strategy Action Plan, through which it recommends the use of play, particularly in outdoor environments, as a method of supporting the development of children growing up in Scotland. This intention has been at the heart of the Play On: Stages project. 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.

Building the stage also offered an important opportunity to employ local freelance events workers, many of whom have felt the hardships brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Future activities on the stages will also provide opportunities for artists to be employed to work with the school on creative initiatives.

‘The stage is a fantastic addition to the schools 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!’ said Ms Faye Calder-Kelly, Headteacher of Hermitage Park Primary School.

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The stage makes me feel like a real actor

Brodie, P3

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