Edinburgh University to be backdrop for BBC3's Skins

It is one of the oldest universities in the world and counts Charles Darwin, philosopher and economist David Hume and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among its former students.

Edinburgh actress Freya Mavor starred in Skins. Picture: Robert Perry

Down the years Edinburgh University has been at the cutting edge of new discoveries, exciting theories and countless medical breakthroughs.

But soon its historic and studious façade will feature as the backdrop to a gritty drama to rival controversial “youth” series Skins.

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The university, established in 1573, is to play a leading role in a new six-part drama being written for BBC3 which will follow the fortunes of two friends whose student lives are torn apart by jealousy and corruption.

Entitled Clique, the drama has been created by Jess Brittain, one of the writers of hit E4 series Skins, which shocked viewers with scenes of sex, violence, bullying and drug abuse.

Her father, Dalkeith-born Bryan Elsley co-created Skins with his son Jamie.

Although now London-based, Ms Brittain has strong connections with Edinburgh and is said to understand the city’s unique class divides.

Not surprisingly, Clique has already been dubbed “University Skins”, and with a storyline that features a domineering lecturer who gathers a “clique” of bedazzled students around her, enthralled by her alluring brand of feminism, it has echoes of another famous Edinburgh drama, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

The drama is still in its early stages of production. However, filming is due to begin in Edinburgh in September featuring a mostly Scottish cast.

A spokeswoman for Balloon Entertainment confirmed filming will begin after the Festival and last for around three months. “It’s still being written at the moment,” she added.

“We’re hoping filming will be complete by Christmas and will have lots of young Scottish actors. Then it will be next summer before it is scheduled to run.”

The drama centres on childhood soulmates and best friends Georgia and Holly who are in their first weeks at the university. One of the girls is drawn into an elite group of bright female students led by lecturer Jude Monroe.

Not unlike Dame Muriel Spark’s famous Miss Jean Brodie, who referred to her pupils as “the crème de la crème”, she surrounds herself with alpha girls who hang on her brand of feminism.

While one of the friends is welcomed into the clique, the other remains a jealous outsider. However, the girls’ relationship takes a different twist when the outsider delves deeper into the group to uncover a world of lavish parties frequented by corrupt and sordid Edinburgh businessmen and women.

According to Dave Evans of Balloon Entertainment, Edinburgh was specifically chosen as the backdrop to the drama.

“It’s a university and city with a specific and fascinating class divide,” he said.

Skins was created by a young writing team barely out of their teens and featured mostly unknown actors, some of whom have gone on to carve high-profile careers. One of them, Edinburgh-born Freya Mavor, went on to pick up several awards for her performance.