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Media magic at the Festival

"I INTERVIEWED Paul Daniels on Monday," beams 15-year-old Ruari Sutherland, from Portobello High, as he brandishes a piece of paper with the magician's autograph on it. "I was a bit nervous as he was my childhood idol. I used to buy all of his magic sets as I like magic tricks and circus skills, but it was great."

It's not the usual kind of activity you hear of when someone is talking about a summer school, but Ruari was taking part in the week-long Festival Radio programme, part of Edinburgh's GO4It holiday activity programme. It is organised in conjunction with Media Education, a multimedia training and production company which specialises in using digital technology to work with young people and community groups.

Youngsters have an opportunity to become a radio reporter for a week, learn how to use all the related technology, see Fringe shows for free, meet and interview performers and broadcast to listeners across Scotland and around the world. The summer school runs for two weeks and is open to 14 people each week.

"It is normally oversubscribed," says Sheena McDougal, of Media Education.

"But this number of people is perfect as they all get to use the equipment and they can get a lot of support from staff."

The group splits into pairs and small groups which choose a theme to work on. They decide what shows they want to see and who they would like to interview. They also go out on the streets and interview passers-by about their thoughts and opinions on the Festival.

Debbie Hannan, aged 15, a pupil at Holyrood High, says: "On the first day we had an induction and we were taught how to use all of the equipment.

Then we were asked to brainstorm ideas and choose shows that we wanted to see."

"After that the staff let you get on with it. You have people around if you need help but you can get on with what you want to do independently. It's the first time I've done anything like this. And it's a good opportunity to get experience in radio journalism."

Alison Burns, 15, from Trinity Academy agrees and adds: "It's also exciting that our show will be broadcast on the radio, but quite nerve-racking too."

The shows will be broadcast on 10 different radio stations across Scotland. "This gives people an idea of the atmosphere of the festival," Ms McDougal says. "They get to learn new skills such as interviewing techniques, how to use all of the equipment and it gives them an insight into media as a career.

"People come from different schools so they meet new people and learn about each other's interests. They also get the opportunity to see Festival shows and be part of the Fringe. They also talk to the performers so this is something new for them as well."

She adds: "At the beginning of the week they went out to do vox pops and they were quite nervous and didn't want to go up to people and ask questions, but by the end of the week they are out the door and asking all sorts of questions. Their confidence and competence improves greatly."

Ruari Sutherland agrees. "It's great to get out and talk to people you don't know."

This is the third year he has taken part. "You think you will meet people with the same interests as you but people do it for different reasons so it is nice to meet a mixture of people. And it's a good thing to have over the holidays."

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