Community group hope star performance can help keep Castlebrae open

Save the Brae members hope the play will stop the school closing. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Save the Brae members hope the play will stop the school closing. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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IT is one of the most recognisable tracks to be performed by Swedish pop group Abba.

Now, a new version of Mamma Mia has been written by a community group fighting the city council’s plans to close a secondary school.

The track will be sung by members of the Save the Brae campaign group during a performance of a play that they have written called Echoes, which will express their opposition to and frustration over the council’s proposals to close Castlebrae Community High School next summer.

Among those taking part in the play is Kevin Finlay, chair of the Save the Brae group, and he is urging local councillors to join residents in the 

The 42-year-old, who lives in Niddrie, said: “Last year we decided to come together to start provisionally writing the play because we had a feeling the council was going to try to close the school.

“I think if you go back in history, any local issues like this have been tackled by using arts to get points across.”

Around eight men and women, most of whom are members of Save the Brae, performed the 55-minute play – which features songs and poems – for the first time at the Gaff Theatre in Craigmillar last night, and will take their fight to the stage again this evening.

Mr Finlay added: “I’m quite excited about the play, it’s just another way of getting our point across and voicing our opposition against the council’s 

“It’s to highlight our campaign again and keep us in the public eye, and let the council know that we’re still here and still fighting.

“Hopefully by doing the play we can get some of the community involved in the campaign.”

In October, councillors at a meeting of the education committee approved plans to consult on the closure of Castlebrae Community High School following poor exam results and a falling school roll.

It is anticipated that the 200 pupils at the Craigmillar school will transfer to Liberton, Portobello and Holy Rood High schools – which the council said have space to accommodate additional pupils – following the proposed closure next summer.

Susan Heron, 54, plays Ina in the play – a fictional character who has lived in Craigmillar all her life and doesn’t want the school to close.

She said the play was a “powerful statement of how Castlebrae school life was and is”.

“Snippets of history paint the picture,” she said. “In 1976, James Callaghan, then prime minister, came to the school and celebrated its achievement with an official opening. This was in Craigmillar’s heyday, before unemployment and housing problems began to wreak havoc on the area, leading to demolition and depopulation.”

Mr Callaghan is played by 60-year-old Peter Scott, who has lived in Craigmillar for a quarter of a century.

“The only similarity is the glasses,” he said. “I’m a lot heavier than he was!”

The second and final performance of Echoes will get under way at the Gaff Theatre at 7.30pm tonight.