The History of Leith

November 24, 2004

Life in Sixties Leith

FIFTIES’ dancehall dreams, poverty and the arrival of the Swinging Sixties are just three of the themes explored at the Church Hill Theatre on Monday when the Citadel Arts Group takes a backward glance at the Leith of days gone by.

Based on and inspired by the stories and the memories of people brought up on the north side of the city, It Seems Like Yesterday! is an evening of three one-act plays: Stain Remover by Anne Stenhouse, On With The Dance by Millie Gray and The Father Of The Man by San Cassimally.

In the first piece, Betty welcomes in the Sixties but docker husband Bert fears change. And to make matters worse, their teenage daughter Doreen has ambitions to be the first in the family to go to “the uni”. A thought-provoking play, Stain Remover explores the opportunities open to women of all ages.

On With The Dance is based on memories of the Eldorado Ballroom in Mill Lane at the time of the big bands. The piece also explores the hopes and dreams of the young people in the dance hall in 1953 and charts how one young man in particular felt about being sent to fight in the Korean War.

Written by Millie Gray, the newly appointed Arts Champion for Older People in Scotland, it will bring to an end her ten-year association with the Citadel Arts Group.

Gray, who wrote the group’s inaugural production, the award- winning comedy It Helps If You Understand The Lingo – a play set in a Leith primary school in the swinging Sixties back in 1995 – explains: “The male lead in the piece has just come back from Korea. Now, Korea was one of the last wars in which national servicemen were used. As he says, he wasn’t a hardman or a natural born killer, he was just doing his National Service; got six weeks’ training and then found himself out in Korea firing guns at people.”

Bringing the evening to a close, Cassimally’s The Father Of The Man tells the tale of Billy Bond, a man who wore his poverty like a badge of honour. Now living in a Leith residential home and haunted by memories, Billy struggles to come to terms with the losses and loves of his life.

All three plays are based on stories the Citadel Arts Group gathered from elderly people attending lunch-clubs, or in residential homes and friendship clubs.

“The Father Of The Man is the story of an old man who actually lives in Ferry Lee residential home. It’s about his memories and how working class children couldn’t take advantage of bursary education, or if they did get a bursary, the way their parents spent it on other things”, says Gray. She hopes all three plays will not only entertain but bring back memories of a community spirit long gone and much missed.

• Church Hill Theatre, Morningside Road, Monday, 7.30pm, £7 (£5), 0131-657 3366. Also at North Edinburgh Arts Centre, Pennywell Court, November 25, 7pm, £6 (£4/£3), 0131-315 2151 and South Leith Church Hall, Henderson Street, December 1, 11am and 1.30pm, £2, 0131-657 3366

LIAM RUDDEN

source-Scotsman

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