Read all about this session’s Porty Does Strictly.  Behind the scenes access, dancers’ reactions, we’ve got the lot! (only 4 months late)


From Brutalist to Flagship: building a new Portobello High

In 1876, Portobello Burgh Public School opened with 290 pupils attending the first ever session. Over the course of the 139 years since then, the school has been renamed and rebuilt with tens of thousands having gone through its doors. Chances are, if you’ve lived in the greater Edinburgh area, then you know someone who has been to the school. Nowadays, it is known as Portobello High School, its pupil roll numbers well over a thousand and its nine-storey school building towers over the seaside suburbia that surrounds it on all sides. It was once the largest secondary school in the whole of Europe and is as much a feature of the Edinburgh landscape as Arthur’s Seat itself, a marvel to be seen.

However, chances are if you know someone who went to Portobello High School, then you also know about the state of sheer disrepair the building is in. Part of the “brutalist” architecture movement that rushed through the sixties with promises of streets in the sky and futuristic forms of housing, the current school building, like many of its contemporaries, is essentially falling apart. It can no longer keep up with modern educational demands and as long as students need to go there, they are at a disadvantage.

Luckily, it won’t need to be like this for much longer, thanks to the new school building currently being constructed in Portobello Park.

In 2006, the need for a new school building for Portobello High was identified by the council. Well-documented discussions about where the site would be have taken place with some residents even going to court in order to prevent the council building it on Portobello Park, delaying construction numerous times. Nevertheless, this ended last year when the Scottish Parliament ruled in favour of the council and construction began in October 2014. The projected date of completion for the construction is June 2016 and the most likely moving in date will be August, when the pupils and staff come back from their summer holidays. Any discrepancies or possible delays will be known about by January.

“One of the most important changes between the old school building and the new building is the fact that the new one should be a lot more self-contained,” Ms Kennedy told me and a colleague when we went to interview her. Ms Kennedy has what can be argued as one of the most important jobs in the school at the moment. She is the coordinator for the new school which she combines with what could be seen as her “day-to-day” job of Portobello High School Business Manager. Despite being very busy, she graciously gave us some of her time for an interview about the new school building.

We now know that there will no longer be any trips outside of the school for P.E. as the new facilities will be able to accommodate everyone. Catering should also be much improved which is needed in order to help encourage pupils to stay on campus instead of going home or out for lunch. One of the most important goals for the new school is to try and keep pupils on site as much as possible in order to create a greater sense of unity.

“This will be a flagship school.” This was one of the first ideas Mrs Kennedy introduced to us. Perhaps the most important aspect of this is the introduction of social areas on the ground floor. This was identified as one of the main focuses when it came to designing the new building because, in Mrs Kennedy’s words, “At the moment, you’ve got nowhere to go really.” While the designs for these areas are still to be completely finalised, there are general ideas of the kinds of facilities you can expect.

There will be booths with TV screens that you can hook up iPads to in order to make editing or discussing articles easier.  A conference room to practise or deliver presentations in will also exist. Across the entire ground floor and beyond, there will be assorted seating including benches and high seats with tables, so senior students can study without the need for study rooms. Scattered throughout will be thirty information screens, showing a variety of departmental and school-specific information such as finished pieces of art or projects from geography. “There is going to be so much choice in the new building,” Mrs Kennedy said about the social areas. We would tend to agree.

Most likely, you are aware of the rumour that has been filtering around the school: that the school uniform will be changed for the move to the new school. Mrs Kennedy shed some light on the situation. In the near future, there will be a consultation with pupils voting for what they want the school uniform to be. Also, there will be no major changes in staff or the structure of the timetable, apart from the fact that due to the improved P.E. facilities, the school will now be able to fulfil the government’s commitment to give pupils two hours of P.E. a week, something which we are unable to do now.

As someone with a mother who never fails to tell stories about how they went to the Portobello Annex, the original school building, and about how it was for “first years only and how you did English, Arithmetic – not Maths – Textiles, Secretarial Studies” and other subjects that either don’t exist anymore or have changed into something practically different, it’s important to recognise what this school means to the community. I won’t be the only person who has been the latest in a long line of family members to go to Portobello High School. Celebration of the current school building is something to be taken very seriously. On the day we interviewed her, Mrs Kennedy informed us that a committee was being organised to find ways to celebrate our nine-storey block. It is right to look forward to the new school building after it’s been so long in the making, nevertheless, we need to celebrate what we have now. When the school is knocked down and all that is left of it is dust, Edinburgh will have lost one of the most recognisable silhouettes on the skyline in return for one of the most modern high schools in Scotland. Either way, this new building will still be Portobello High School and whichever one you went to, the annex, the tower or next year’s model, you should be able to say with pride that you went to Portobello High School.

Heather Notman

Behind the Scenes of the School Show

“Who else is a prostitute?” Ms. Rose asks as she paces across the room in the Drama department. Rehearsals have commenced for this year’s school musical: Jesus Christ Superstar, and phrases like this are not uncommon, considering the variety of unorthodox roles in the production. This scene takes place in a temple, as Jesus enters, surrounded by the prostitutes, opium salesmen, and hagglers filling the place. This rehearsal is focused on the performance of the background cast at the start of the scene, who offer Jesus goods and solicit him for sex. It’s hard work – the opening of the scene is repeated many times, perfecting the dance moves and stage positioning of the rabble of pedlars as Jesus enters.

The play was originally conceived in 1970 by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Evolving from a concept album to a full production in Broadway, the production gained momentum, touring many times around the United States and later in the United Kingdom. Jesus Christ Superstar is considered an incredible success, attaining international acclaim. Its story revolves loosely around the Gospel’s account of Jesus’ last week, largely from the perspective of Judas. The unique nature of the show comes from the portrayal of Judas – instead of being depicted as a terrible and treacherous character, he is seen as a tragic character unhappy with the direction Jesus is taking his followers. The show is comprised of two acts, lasting a rough total of 2 hours, with an intermission between acts.

Choosing the production was, however, no easy task due to a variety of limitations and factors that had to be considered. Ms. Miles, a leading figure in the show this year, offered an insight into the process: “There are lots of reasons why we choose different plays, some of it is to do with licensing. New plays like Wicked are phenomenally expensive. We have to pick something that both staff and pupils will be happy with, and a suitable division between boys and girls as we traditionally get more girls than boys.” The lead roles consist of a talented cast, including Robyn Canning (S6) as Mary Magdalene, Daniel Haquin (S6) as Judas, and Kieran Brown (S5) as Jesus Christ. “We picked them for a variety of reasons”, Ms. Miles explained, “it is just straight singing – there is no dialogue, so they have to be strong singers. Specific roles require certain vocal ranges.”

Interviewing Robyn Canning gives more detail about the show and what it’s like to take part in it. Robyn describes her character, Mary Magdalene as “A reformed sinner who has become one of Jesus’ most devoted followers… She is completely in love with Jesus, he is the only person to offer her forgiveness and compassion.” On what it’s like to play Mary in the school play – “She’s the female lead so I have quite a bit to do! I’m lucky that I get to sing a really famous song from the show ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him.’”

“From the first scene I saw of this play I wanted to be Judas. As a fairly confident person I feel Judas perfectly portrays a slightly exaggerated version of myself,” Daniel Haquin explains, as he is queried on his role as Judas Iscariot. He goes on to explain the importance of his character in the play: “He has about 9 songs, some of which are solos, others smaller parts in chorus numbers. I reckon this rendition puts Judas at the heart of the show – in this he is the one who warns Jesus that he is making a mistake. He’s misunderstood”. Discussing his influences and inspiration, Daniel refers to the first time he saw the play. “Tim Minchin is my favourite comedian, and he was the first and best person I saw perform Judas. From his style to his voice and stature, I hope to bring a similar level of intensity to the character.”

Jesus Christ Superstar ran from Tuesday 24th – Thursday 26th of November. It was generally agreed to have been another theatrical triumph for the talented Porty team.

Isaac Neal and Nick Weaver

Back to the Future, Now Back to the Past

Great Scott! Back to the Future Day has been and gone.

That would be October 21, 2015, the date to which Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel through time in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II. While all three movies in the iconic trilogy are beloved by fans, particular attention is focused, at the moment, on the second film. It predicted that by this year we’d have a host of crazy new technologies and products, including hands-free video games and self-fastening shoes.

While we haven’t made much progress toward levitating cars or controller-less gaming, several of the film’s other predictions have indeed come true—and many others are very close. The Cubs may win the series yet!

4:29 p.m. on October 21, 2015. That was the moment Marty, Doc and Jennifer travelled to from 1985 in Back to the Future II. Back to the Future Day was a momentous occasion for many fans and you would have to be living under a rock not to know of it and even then someone would probably have told you.

In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly and Doc Brown make an exhilarating visit to the year 2015 seemingly to resolve a few problems with the future McFly family. But when the two return home, they soon discover someone has tampered with time to produce an alternate, more sinister, 1985 Hill Valley. Their only hope is to once again get back to 1955 and save the future. Back to the Future Day was celebrated by fans of the blockbuster trilogy around the world as a movie milestone.

The technology featured in Back to the Future Part II seemed advanced at the time but we have met most of these innovations: 3D TV, self-lacing shoes, even robots that can walk your dog! Some on the other hand seem distant. When it comes to our own bodily care, we can’t yet exfoliate away the years with a Doc-style “rejuvenation clinic” facial. Self-drying clothes aren’t a thing yet although fashion designers are currently experimenting with weaving electronics into their fabrics.

Back to the Future Day was an incredible day for many, one couple even had a Back to the Future-themed wedding on October 21 – now that’s commitment. It was celebrated widely across the globe and will surely be a day to remember.

Joshua Rowan and Daniel Craik

The Re:Portobello website can be found here: