Maltese family ‘in limbo’ over music school closure

Simon Mercieca, eight, moved to Scotland with his dad, Duncan, mum, Daniela and little brother David from Malta when he secured at place at the Edinburgh Music School. Picture: Greg Macvean
Simon Mercieca, eight, moved to Scotland with his dad, Duncan, mum, Daniela and little brother David from Malta when he secured at place at the Edinburgh Music School. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THEY relocated their family more than 2000 miles across Europe so their child could indulge a life-long passion for music.

But now, a Maltese family fear being left in limbo if the world-renowned music school their eldest son attends is closed down by city of Edinburgh council as a cost-cutting measure.

Daniela and Duncan Mercieca say they have “found a home” in the Capital since swapping the seaside town of St Julian’s on the Mediterranean island for a duplex in Silverknowes in July 2016 so son Simon, eight, could take up an offer of a place at the now-threatened City of Edinburgh Music School.

However, Daniela, 41, admits she “doesn’t know what will happen” if the cash-strapped authority presses ahead with proposals to close the school in an effort to shave around £380,000 from its annual budget.

Educational psychologist Daniela said both her and husband Duncan, 43, took a “career sabbatical” in order to make the move, with both also caring for David, three.

She added Simon, who plays piano and violin, would be 
“devastated” if the school closed, describing it as a 
“family”.

She said: “I remember when he was at school back home, he would be tapping on his desk during class and I had to explain to teachers he wasn’t doing that to be cheeky, it was just because he always had music in his head.

“There he can express that side of himself because he is around other children who feel the same passion for music as he does. Music is something that just comes naturally to Simon; it is almost like breathing to him.

“Everyone around the school, from the teachers to the other parents, it’s less like a community and more like a family, because everyone is in the same boat, they all understand music and what it means in the same way.

“If the school does close... I don’t know what will happen, at the moment it doesn’t bear thinking about.”

The family had little connection with Scotland before moving, other than Duncan spending a year at Stirling University while studying for a PhD in 
inclusive education.

However, they brought Simon to the Capital for an audition in February 2016 after reading about the school online and learned just a day later he’d been admitted, sparking a hectic dash to get their affairs in order.

They eventually made the move in June, settling into their home in Silverknowes just three weeks after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Daniela admitted it was a “crazy time”, adding: “We moved to Scotland just after the Brexit vote, so we were already concerned about what would happen after that is done and now there is the threat of the school shutting.”

“When we arrived at the school for the first time with Simon, we didn’t tell him it was an audition, we just told him he would play for some people.

“I don’t even think he really thought about it, because playing, performing, it is what he loves to do.

“When they told us he was in, we didn’t even think about it. We just started putting plans in place to actually move.

“First it was Brexit, now there is this; it has been stressful.”

Plans to close the school – based in Broughton High in the Comely Bank area of the city – were put forth by the council as part of their annual budget proposals, with the intention of redistributing the school around four locations in the city.

However, opponents have called the plans “deceptive”, claiming the savings made would be negligible and closing the facility, which helped launch the early careers of musical stars including Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson and Celtic fusion artist Martyn Bennett, would deprive Scotland of a “national centre of 
excellence”.

Trainspotting star Ewen Bremner is the latest in a line of names from the arts world to back a reprieve for the threatened school – joining jazz legend Tommy Smith and cellist Julian Lloyd Webber in demanding the school stay open – after revealing daughter Harmony was a recent graduate.

Bremner described the school as “a beacon in the city’s cultural 
firmament”.

Support in the local community has also remained strong, with around a hundred people attending a meeting at Broughton High on Monday evening to make their views known.