It's that time of year when filming is about to start with the performing arts academy I teach at every Saturday. Scripts are written and cast, and now we are in the throes of finding locations.
The middle age group of kids, 9 to 12 year olds, have two films to shoot and both are set in a wood, so one location was going to suffice, making my job a lot easier. I found something suitable on the western outskirts of the city, and then just needed to recce it. We have to be able to provide toilet facilities and such basic amenities for the kids, and I could see from Google Maps that there was some sort of working yard in the area called Barnton Quarry.
However, I wasn't quite prepared for what I found.
There was three inches of snow on the ground when I arrived at the quarry, which is surrounded by steel fencing, and bizarrely, an intercom on a fence post on the outside of the area. I pressed the button and eventually spoke to the man in charge. As I waited for him to arrive I kept busy looking for CCTV, feeling a little unnerved.
But I needn't have been concerned. Martyn was very agreeable to allowing the students to film in the area, and use the facilities, and then invited me on a tour of the site. I agreed, a little puzzled, as all I could see was a low brick building.
There were two entrances, and he guided me into the first which was dimly lit by working lights. Inside was a series of empty rooms off a long corridor, and at the far end was a much larger room, sunken down into the ground. It was dripping with water, leaking in from the roof, and I struggled to imagine what it could possibly have been for. But it turns out that this was one of the bases for guiding the RAF in WWII, and would have housed one of those giant map tables that operators would push around models of planes. The company that now owned the building were in the process of renovating it, to eventually open it to the public.
But the next building was even more fascinating. As Martyn dragged back the rusted outer doors, it revealed a circular, concrete-lined, tunnel, going down steeply into the earth, with a string of lights on the ceiling lighting the way. It looked all very James-Bond-villain-lair-esque.
At the bottom of the tunnel were giant hinges, giving a clue to what had once stood here. Back in the Cold War, this facility was a nuclear bunker for those in power, and the hinges would have supported thick blast doors. Martyn led the way, and we continued down three levels, deep underground. Some of the old 1960s equipment was still there, including the enormous air filters. It was vast, and could have kept those based there safe for several months. However, apparently it would not have survived a direct hit. It was built to only withstand a nuclear strike at Rosyth Naval base, some 10km away.
Amazing that vast amounts of money were spent on this in the 60s, and it was never used, apart from one exercise. Though I believe modern day facilities do exist today, somewhere.
The company behind the venture also own "Scotlands Secret Bunker" over in Fife, which is open to the public. Eventually this place too will open to the public, though that will be many years hence, but I reckon worth the wait. What a shame it wasn't ready today, and the students would have had an amazing location. For now though, much like pre production for their film, you have to use your imagination to picture what this place will look like once complete.