Iconic 'Banana Flats' in Leith get starring role in Edinburgh's Hogmanay film

The "Banana Flats" in Leith, the curved housing block immortalised in Irvine Welsh's novel Trainspotting, have secured a starring role in a short film showcasing Edinburgh as the home of Hogmanay.

The listed block of flats, which were given protected status three years ago, are featured alongside some of Edinburgh’s most famous backdrops in the second instalment of a three-part film commission to mark the end of 2020 and the arrival of 2021.

The film features specially-created drone displays accompanied by the words of a new poem commissioned from Scots Makar Jackie Kay.

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She is heard reading lines from the poem, while actors David Tennant, Siobhan Redmond and Lorne MacFadyen are among the other Scots to record contributions.

The largest block of flats in Edinburgh when it was built, Cables Wynd House was the childhood home of ‘Sick Boy’ in Trainspotting and was used by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle for some scenes when he shot sequel T2 in locations across the city.

The “brutalist” housing block, which dates back to the early 1960s, was recognised along with the neighbouring Links View House due to the key role they played in programmes to improve living conditions and health standards in the aftermath of the Second World War.

The Banana Flats features in a sequence in the short film about how older people have embraced technology to help them cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The three-part film is set to a soundtrack created for the project by Skye-based electronica band Niteworks, which previously worked on a score to accompany Edinburgh’s traditional Hogmanay fireworks spectacular.

Underbelly, the producers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festival, were unable to stage any live events in the city due to the heightened coronavirus restrictions.

However, they deployed the UK’s biggest “drone swarm” to create a number of special effects, filmed on the Achnacarry Estate, near Spean Bridge, in the Highlands.

The displays were them superimposed onto footage shot around the capital, against a backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, The Mound, North Bridge, Calton Hill and Portobello Beach.

Kay said: “In these lockdown days and nights - everyone in their separate bubbles - it was a magical experience to form a virtual creative bubble to make this new piece, a magical meeting of music, poem and drone, to say goodbye to all the difficulties of 2020 and a tentative hello to the coming year.

The Banana Flats in Leith, which were given protected status three years ago, are featured in the film commissioned to mark Hogmanay in Edinburgh.

"We have had to dig doon deep this year and find new ways of being creative at the bottom of the well. And what we came up with surprised us all. Art has never been more intimate.”

Underbelly directors Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam said: “Over the last four months, we’ve been innovating with an amazing creative team to design and produce this world-class event.

"Scotland’s unique position as ‘the Home of Hogmanay’ meant that we had the challenge to respond so that Scotland and Edinburgh maintained their pole position in the panoply of the world’s new year celebrations.

"Above all, we wanted to send out messages of reflection and of hope and we think we’ve done so with the collaboration between the creatives and their wonderful, innovative and imaginative work.

Cables Wynd House, which has been known by generations of Leithers as the Banana Flats, was famously featured in Irvine Welsh's novel Trainspotting. Picture: Santiago Arribas Pena

"The result is a truly rousing and ground-breaking and we’re thrilled to finally show the spectacle to the world.”

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Arthur's Seat is one of the iconic backdrops featured in the short film commissioned by Edinburgh's Hogmanay festival.
Special effects created using a drone swarm filmed in the Highlands have been superimposed onto famous backdrops like this one of Calton Hill and Princes Street.
The Nelson Monument and the National Monument on Calton Hill were lit up for the new short film.
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