Pupils take a healthy interest in Leith’s past

The play tells the story of Leith Hospital through the eyes of one young patient in the 1960s
The play tells the story of Leith Hospital through the eyes of one young patient in the 1960s
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memories of the old Leith Hospital have been used as the inspiration for a play celebrating the facility.

The Citadel Arts Group, which collected memories of the hospital last year for a living memories book, is producing the play which will be part of Leith Festival this summer.

Pupils and care home residents get a preview

Pupils and care home residents get a preview

Primary six pupils from St Mary’s Primary School – all born long after Leith Hospital closed in 1987 – have assisted writer Laure Paterson in coming up with a script, as have residents at Jameson Place Sheltered Housing, who still hold vivid memories of what was once a much-loved community resource.

The youngsters have also met with the older generations and heard their stories of the hospital, where the wards were once full with children suffering from tonsillitis, measles, whooping cough and scarlet fever.

Liz Hare, artistic director of the Citadel Arts Group, is now preparing to stage a public reading of the script on Sunday before the play is finalised for its June debut.

“It’s been really nice to have the older generations and the young working together,” Liz said. “Some of the children are going to dance in the play and the two groups have become quite friendly.

“The kids have been very interested in the hospital. It was a different experience back then and they can see that. They reacted very well to the main character, Janey, and her story. She’s almost the same age as them.

“A lot of their ideas have been taken on board.”

Set at the hospital in the early 1960s, the play, called Leith’s Hidden Treasure, will centre on Janey, played by Nicky McCabe, who finds herself admitted to the hospital after she is pushed down the stairs by her brother.

There, she is befriended by a kind student nurse and is under the care of a strict sister on the ward.

Janey, a working-class Leith girl, dreams of dancing for a living but is expected to go to work in a dangerous factory, which makes ropes for the shipbuilding industry.

The company is staying tight-lipped about which path she winds up taking.

“There were a lot of dance studios in Leith back then,” Liz said. “All of the youngsters said she should be a dancer while the older people said she should end up in the ropery. They’ll all have to wait to find out what happens.”

The closure of Leith Hospital remains a thorny issue for many Leith residents, according to Liz, who says time has failed to heal the wounds surrounding its controversial demise.

“I think people are still angry that their community hospital was taken away,” she said. “There was an accident and emergency department and a children’s wing, and they treated almost all illnesses.

“It was a training hospital as well and the nurses there were second-to-none. The hospital was very much part of the community. You would be treated by nurses or doctors who lived in the area.

“Before the NHS, people would contribute part of their salaries to it and even after the NHS, there was still a lot of fundraising. A lot of people still miss it.”

The reading of the play, which has been funded by the Leith Community Partnership and People Making Waves Make a Splash, will take place at The Granary, at The Shore, on Sunday at 7pm. Entry is free and feedback will be invited.

For more information or to reserve a place at the reading, visit www.citadelartsgroup.co.uk or contact Liz Hare on 0131-337 8570.

The play will be performed during Leith Festival, in the Granary, on June 14 and 15 at 7pm and on June 16 at 2.30pm.