Appeal launched to save Portobello High School mural

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A FORMER art teacher at Portobello High School has appealed for a new home for a 40ft mural which has hung in the school’s main hall for almost 20 years.

It took Helen Forde – who was previously known to pupils as Mrs Brady – six years, and more than 50 fifth- and sixth-year art student volunteers, to create the piece which charts the history of art up to the explosion of postmodernism in the 1960s.

But now, the mural – which was designed to give students something to look at during exams held in the hall – risks being scrapped after it was revealed it wouldn’t be moving to the new school at Portobello Park due to its size.

Helen, who taught at Portobello for 25 years before retiring in 2003, revealed she was “devastated” when she learned the mural was to be left behind.

“When I designed it, I thought it should be something that wouldn’t go out of fashion and obviously the history of art is going to remain the same,” she said.

“I always thought it would move to the new school whenever that was completed, so I was crushed to learn it wasn’t going to be a part of it.

“When I designed it, I thought it might help to calm or inspire pupils sitting exams in the hall who previously only had a clock to look at.”

The painting depicts the changing face of artistic expression up to the 1960s, including interpretations of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Fragonard’s The Swing and Munch’s The Scream, among others.

Helen, 72, still paints from her studio in Leith and says it would be “wonderful” if the mural went somewhere it could be added to.

“We only stopped at the 60s because we ran out of room, it would be a dream come true if it could go somewhere and be continually added to with different artistic styles,” she said.

“Wherever it goes, I hope it prominently displays the fact it was all the students’ work, they put all the effort into it and deserve the credit.”

Headteacher Ruth McKay said that every effort was made to ensure the mural was part of the move to the new school, however its size proved to be an issue.

“There was a real effort to take it with us, it’s been considered but with the scale it wasn’t going to be possible,” she said.

“It’s something that people remember fondly about their time at Portobello High, it’s very quirky and unusual and we’re determined to find somewhere it can still be appreciated.”

Sixth-year pupils Cameron McCowan and Rosie MacArthur said they were sad to see it being left behind.

Rosie said: “I’m quite annoyed, it’s been here the whole time I’ve been here and even the whole time my brother was here as well, I really thought we could’ve added to it at the new school.

“Obviously the size was a problem, but it’s eye-catching and it’s a shame it won’t be there.”