Edinburgh International Festival launches projects to boost arts access in schools

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ENGAGEMENT projects to boost arts access in Edinburgh have been launched across schools in the capital.

Two engagement projects seek to encourage young people to continue to play music and remove financial barriers to learning how to play instruments.

The projects were started due to the cancellation of the 2020 Edinburgh International Festival (EIF).

The  two projects, “Play on: Music” and “Play on: Stages” were inspired due to the lack of live art in Edinburgh due to the pandemic.

Play On: Music aims to remove the financial barriers to learning an instrument, and provide equal opportunities for all pupils to discover music and inspire a new generation of musicians and audiences.

The Edinburgh International Festival is funding over 250 new instruments, which will be purchased from The Wind Section in Edinburgh.

A group of children playing music on an outdoor stage - Entertainment News Scotland
Harris Hawkey and Luo Lin Zheng from Hermitage Park Primary School perform for their classmates on their outdoor stage, constructed by Edinburgh International Festival as part of a new project Play On: Stages. 

The Instrumental Music Service currently does not have enough instruments to meet pupil demand, resulting in up to three pupils sharing one between them.

Covid-safe guidelines  prevent the sharing of instruments for safety and hygiene purposes causing the issue to be more strenuous.

Music initially prioritises secondary school students who are due to sit SQA music exams in the next 12 months.

The project also focuses on attracting new primary school pupils from lower income households who would like to start lessons but would not otherwise have the opportunity.

The second initiative, Play On: Stages, is a project building outdoor stage structures in consultation with schools.

Cllr Ian Perry, Education Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “These new creative learning partnership projects with the Edinburgh International Festival are really bringing some welcome positive news to our schools in what is a tremendously challenging period for them.

“The pandemic has restricted so many of their normal day to day activities like playing musical instruments so this investment from the Festival is fantastic.

“Access to the arts is important to our young people, for attainment, wider achievement, and health and wellbeing, particularly in the current situation.

“This is especially true for those who may face financial barriers and are not able to play an instrument.”

“The festival residencies in our high schools have been such an outstanding success and putting up these stages in primary school playgrounds is a great idea as it allows the whole school to benefit from them – learning can be taken outside with the obvious health benefits that brings.

Digital educational resources have been created to help teachers introduce pupils to the stage and the different artforms that feature at the Festival each year.

Following a pilot at Hermitage Park Primary School, the International Festival has built stages at Lorne Primary School, Leith Primary School and St Mary’s RC.

Caroline Donald, Head of Learning & Engagement at Edinburgh International Festival said: “Edinburgh International Festival as we know it had to be placed on pause for 2020, so we wanted to shine a light on the artists, musicians and stages that would usually bring the city to life each summer by creating a physical legacy that supports children across the city.

“The outdoor stage at Hermitage Park Primary has already generated a lot of excitement for the pupils and working with the feeder schools for Leith Academy is an excellent opportunity for us to build upon our successful residency.

“We are 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.”