Pilrig Park School: Time
Dance piece from Edinburgh school for 11-18-year-olds with learning needs
It’s a fact of life that audiences at the average school show will be comprised solely of the performers’ nearest and dearest. Unless, that is, your reputation precedes you – which is exactly what has happened to Pilrig Park, a secondary school for 11-18-year-olds with moderate/complex learning needs. Since it took the bold step five years ago, of staging its annual dance show at the second largest theatre in Scotland, word has spread that Pilrig Park has something special to offer.
‘Our ticket sales now are not just to mums, dads and grannies,’ says headteacher Ellen Muir. ‘We have quite a few members of the public buying them. One of them came up to me two years ago, when we did a big animal piece, and said that until the children took their masks off during the finale, he had no idea they had additional support needs. What the audience sees is a group of talented young performers.’
This year’s show is all about time, and from storyboarding to set building, performance to costume design, the entire school is involved in some capacity across a range of subjects. ‘It’s curriculum through the arts, rather than arts just being on your curriculum – and that’s the difference,’ explains Muir of her school’s ethos. She is also full of praise for the commitment shown by the venue, and the effect performing there has on the children.
‘The partnership with the Festival Theatre is phenomenal,’ she says. ‘It’s an amazing place to perform, and just being there demands a certain standard. Our children are really challenged to reach that standard – but they rise to it every year.’
The appreciation is mutual, with the Festival Theatre’s chief executive John Stalker one of the show’s biggest fans. ‘Pilrig Park is not merely a school it is a community determined to live life to the full,’ he says. ‘The passion and enthusiasm of the staff is infectious and evident from the achievements of all the students. There can be no better way of demonstrating that the Festival Theatre exists for everyone, than the night each year that Pilrig Park takes command of our stage.’
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 8 Jun