At 9.30 am there is only one film showing at the Vue cinema in Ocean Terminal. Sunshine beams across Leith while people stream into the warm dark for the first screening. Parents, teachers, community leaders and local politicians have turned out in force to see an extraordinary celebration of local life. But the red carpet is reserved for the kids starring in Hold the Fort.
“There is,” as Fort Primary headteacher Moira Heatly says in her welcoming speech, “much more to the Fort than sometimes meets the eye.” The short films that follow prove the point over and over again. Local people of all ages tell their stories to the camera leading the audience from the wartime past when the Fort was occupied by soldiers, through the development of the 60s when new flats “with bathrooms and running water” housed more than 150 families.
And so to the present. Compared with grainy black and white images of the past, 21st century pictures of Fort Primary and Community Wing are full of colour. There are clubs of all kinds for people of all ages: the Wednesday girls, the Monday art club, the Polish drop in centre Swietlica, the badminton group.
At the heart of all this is the primary school and it is open for a breakfast club before classes begin until the after school club closes at the end of the day. Pupils conjure up dreams of fame and fortune with the aid of computer animations – and then they get to grips with real life: there are projects to get rid of bullying (FAB stands for Fort Against Bullying), to promote road safety and to learn how to live without wrecking the planet.
The documentary – which took six months to make with the help of £10,000 from public funds and charitable sponsorship – takes an affectionate look at the community without being sentimental. No-one pretends life is easy. Perhaps the most moving and revealing part of the film comes at the end, when parents remember their childhoods and express their hopes of providing a better future for their children.
“This project shows the real spirit of community,” Moira Heatly told many of the community at the first screening. Outside an even bigger crowd was already gathering for the second screening. And the red carpet (organised by Councillor Gordon Munro) was full up.
Hold the Fort will be released on DVD in 2009 and available in local libraries.
The project was directed by Martin Ayres of cagedbeastie.com and funding came from Edinburgh city Coucnil, Leith Neighbourhood Partnership, Youth Link Scotland, the Lottery and Growing Confidence.