Leith Academy Residency 2019–2022

Edinburgh International Festival’s residency with Leith Academy enriched the life of both the school and the Festival.

From 2019–2022 we took up residency at Leith Academy in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council. This project built on the success of our 2015–2017 residency in Castlebrae Community High School. The partnership focused on equipping the students with personal, social and vocational skills. We created cultural opportunities for the school community, ending the residency with an immersive performance in the school.

Leith Academy Residency Evaluation

We’re delighted to share an evaluation of the Leith Academy Residency, conducted by tialt. We are taking the learning from this report to inform our work for young people, and we hope that you find inspiration in it as well. Thank you to everyone who has given their time to this process and who has been a part of the residency, and to Baillie Gifford Investment Managers for their support of this residency as our Learning & Engagement partner. Please get in touch if you’d like to hear more about the Residency and our work with schools: engage@eif.co.uk

Read the evaluation

Muster Station: Leith at Leith Academy

In the final year of the residency, Leith Academy transformed into an International Festival venue. We commissioned Grid Iron theatre company to create an immersive performance in the school building. This project aimed to inspire pupils and put an international spotlight on the school.

Journeying through the spaces of Leith Academy, MusterStation: Leith explored ideas of community and perseverance in the face of crisis.

Grid Iron and the International Festival created opportunities for the school to engage with the project.

Design Project

We worked with the Art and Design classes on a creative project to make part of the set for the final scene. Using a photography processing technique called cyanotype, the pupils made 120 unique blankets. After the Festival, we donated the blankets to the school and charities to keep people warm!

Future House

We trained 22 senior pupils to work in paid Front of House roles for Muster Station: Leith. Some of these students will also gain a level five qualification in Customer Service.


Members of the Grid Iron team delivered workshops for pupils studying drama.


We invited teachers, pupils and their families to see Muster Station: Leith for free.

Our residency focused on three areas; artistic projects, logistic projects and connector projects.

Artistic projects

Our artistic projects placed artists in residence in the school, working with pupils to explore their creativity. Over 25 artists from a wide range of art forms have worked in the school since 2019.

For our first project, artist and Leith Academy alumni Heather Marshall ran art activities led by the interests of the young people. These workshops helped the students to build confidence and creativity. In the same year, Battersea Arts Centre's Beatbox Academy ran workshops for the pupils. They taught the students how to beatbox and write original songs. Some students performed their songs on stage at the Traverse Theatre.

Our artistic projects spanned several school subjects including Journalism, Physical Education and Personal and Social Education. In 2021, the theatre company Civic Digits worked on a project with the S3 Computing class. The project combined programming and performance to explore data security and how we live our lives on and offline.

Over the final year of the residency, we created a mentoring scheme for pupils in Advanced Higher Drama. We paired Scottish actors with students to support them with their goals and exams. As a legacy of the residency, this project is now being rolled out across Edinburgh for pupils wanting to pursue a career in theatre.

Logistic projects

Our logistic projects bought Festival staff and pupils together to work on projects to develop the students' professional skills.

In 2019, our Marketing and Communications team paired up with the school's Craft, Design Technology and Art and Design departments. They worked together to create a visual identity for the residency partnership.

In 2020, we brought specialists to the school's Technical Theatre Club. They delivered workshops focusing on lighting, sound and stage management.

In 2021, our Development team worked with the Music Department and the S3 Business students to learn about fundraising. With their new skills, they raised £10,000 for new music equipment. This allowed the school to deliver a new qualification in Music Technology.

Connector projects

Our connector projects deepened the connection between the Festival and the school. Some projects focused on small groups of pupils while others brought big groups together to share experiences.

In the first year, we worked with a group of Festival Ambassadors from S1–S6. They created an evaluation tool to guide the development of residency projects. This allowed us to build the pupils' voices into the project and helped us communicate our aims.

We created a group for pupils, teachers and Festival staff participated called Culture Club. The club was a programme of trips to see theatre, dance and music in Edinburgh’s venues.

We also delivered a Personal Development Award at SQA Level 6 over two years. We supported nine pupils to develop their personal, social and vocational skills through work experience with the Festival. 


The Leith Academy Residency is currently being evaluated and the report will be published in Spring 2023.

The learnings from this project will be used to inform our work with schools. We will share them internationally as a resource for building long-term, creative partnerships with schools.

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