Why Edinburgh International Festival's gift to city's schools is so special – Scotsman comment

“It’s a friend to you all your life. Once you’ve learned how to play a few chords, that’s all you really need.”

Harris Hawkey and Luo Lin Zheng perform on a new outdoor stage at Hermitage Park Primary in Leith which has been provided by the Edinburgh International Festival. (Picture: Ryan Buchanan)

Mark Knopfler, the singer-songwriter and guitarist, has spoken movingly about his love of playing his chosen musical instrument and what it has meant to him.

For those learning or able to play, having access to one can be a source of real joy at a time when many have been cooped up at home for hours on end because of the coronavirus outbreak.

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Now Edinburgh International Festival has revealed it is going to buy more than 250 musical instruments for schools in the city with a shortage made worse by the need to avoid sharing them, which would risk spreading the virus.

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Edinburgh International Festival buys 250 instruments for schools to help pupils...

The festival’s Play On: Music initiative is designed to create a tangible legacy out of this terrible year in which live performances of any kind of scale were impossible.

Caroline Donald, head of learning and engagement at the EIF, said: “We’re providing equal opportunities for all pupils to enjoy the health and well-being benefits of playing an instrument and developing the next generation of musicians and music-lovers in Edinburgh… We’re looking forward to seeing this project grow from strength to strength as artists start developing creative initiatives with the schools, when possible within the guidelines.”

If just a fraction of the children given the opportunity to play a musical instrument develop the same affinity for it as Knopfler – and if just one develops a similar talent – then the festival will have done something truly good and truly great.

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