Festival Heroes: Good doctor heeds humane call

Edinburgh International Festival pays tribute to Festival Heroes - meet Dr Howard Moody, a Festival Hero who began a street collection for his local food bank and welcomed a Ukrainian family into his home.

GOOD PRACTISE: Dr Howard Moody at his home in Bruntsfield. Picture: Jess Shurte
GOOD PRACTISE: Dr Howard Moody at his home in Bruntsfield. Picture: Jess Shurte

In a spirit of gratitude to all those whose hard work, encouragement and friendship supported the Capital’s festival community down the years, Edinburgh International Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary by shining a light on Festival Heroes – people who have selflessly opened their hearts and homes, and welcomed the world to Edinburgh.

Dr Howard Moody, 79, is a retired medical professional who has lived in his Bruntsfield home for over half a century. He speaks fondly of his neighbours who have very keenly jumped on board with his idea of a street-wide collection for their local food bank at Bruntsfield Evangelical Church.What started in March 2020 with one wheelbarrow going door-to-door is now a three-barrow operation which collects at least 150 items a week every Friday.

Howard calculates that they have collected over 15,000 different items, from toothpaste to tinned tuna – anything with a long shelf life is welcome.He says: “People are very generous! And I have no memory of anybody ever taking the food items people leave on their driveways or the street for us to collect.”

This month is a time off for the operation, due to the holidays, but there is no sign of slowing down for Howard, who is already thinking ahead to special collections in early September, pre-Christmas, and Easter, when the community is encouraged to donate more specific items, such as school gear or children’s toys.

After having to jump through many hoops, and filling in piles of paperwork, in May this year Howard and his wife, Alison, welcomed into their home a mother, 37, and a daughter, 11, who had fled the war in Ukraine.

Their home, a few hours north of Mariupol, had been heavily shelled by Russian forces and is now being shelled by Ukrainians trying to drive the Russians back. The mother has been granted a three-year visa and is working on getting the rest of her family out of Ukraine and to safety, but not her husband, who is not allowed to leave as he is of conscription age.

Apart from having a Masters in economics, she is also a trained baker and got a job in a local bakery ten days after landing in Scotland, while her daughter is already enrolled in school.

Howard adds: “People, given half a chance, are really great. The school waived all the fees, including the holiday club, and the parents, as soon as they learnt about her, sorted her uniform.”

Come down to Thank You Edinburgh, a free Edinburgh International Festival concert, featuring Philadelphia Orchestra, streaming live into the Princess Street Gardens from The Playhouse at 3pm on Saturday, 27 August. For more information, see www.eif.co.uk