Castlebrae High to become Edinburgh Festival venue

EIF director Fergus Linehan with Castlebrae Community High School pupils. Picture: TSPL

One of Scotland’s once closure-threatened schools will be turned into a fully-fledged venue for the Edinburgh International Festival to mark its 70th anniversary in 2017.

Director Fergus Linehan has unveiled plans to expand his event to Castlebrae Community High, in the capital’s Craigmillar area.

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He revealed students at the school - which is in the midst of a three-year partnership with the festival - would be involved in the running of the venue next summer.

Castlebrae would be the first out-of-town site to be developed by the festival since Mr Linehan since took charge of the EIF in 2015.

The school was almost closed down by the city council three years ago due to poor exam results, truancy and exclusion rates before a last-minute reprieve after a campaign by parents. The new venue is being planned as part of a strategy to get more young people involved in the festival, through the programming of shows aimed at families and schoolchildren.

Another new EIF innovation being launched this year is the creation of an official “festival jury” made up of young people who will come up with their own criteria for categories to honour shows at the festival.

Last year Mr Linehan warned that the future success of the festival was dependent on the presence of the arts in the classroom in Edinburgh.

The link-up with Castlebrae, announced by the festival just over a year ago, has already seen special events staged for pupils at the school and at the EIF headquarters at The Hub on the Royal Mile.

Some pupils are benefiting from a work experience and mentoring programme, as well as getting the chance to attend some of the festival’s most sought-after events.

Broadway star Alan Cumming, one of the most high-profile acts in this year’s line-up, is due to give a special talk to students and staff at Castlebrae in August.

Mr Linehan said: “The project with Castlebrae has been going fantastically well. It operates on several levels.

“We’ve ran workshops for them, we held their prom at The Hub, we’ve been running professional development projects and we’ve been bringing people who are interested to shows. We’re working closer and closer with them.

“There are a couple of spaces at the school which we’re planning to use in 2017, but the idea is that we will work with the students over the course of the year so that they basically create and run the venue. We’re thinking of it as just the same as any other fully-fledged venue. We want it to be there for the whole festival next year.”