Image description: Carol operates camera as she looks over the sea.


Carol participated in our In the Frame programme, a free documentary filmmaking course for North Edinburgh residents. Here, Carol reflects on how filmmaking has allowed her to share her moving life story for the benefit of others.


I was born in the village of Blanefield, Gateway to the Highlands, in 1958, and for the last 31 years have lived close to the sea in the council estate of Wardieburn, Granton, North Edinburgh. I moved from Central Edinburgh when my health began to decline and my relationship with my daughter's father ended. Post school, in 1979 I studied Speech and Drama at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) and the history of Drama and Film Noir at Glasgow University as a combined course. After graduating from RSAMD, now known as The Conservatoire, I taught drama at George Watson's College, freelanced for BBC Radio Scotland, and sold a few of my black and white photos to The Times Educational Supplement. I had the use of a darkroom when I lived in Dundas Street and learned to print and develop black and white photos thanks to the fantastic help my friend David and I received from Robin Gillanders, a gifted photographer who took many an evening to teach us how to develop and print black and white photos. 

Becoming a parent to my daughter Beccy in 1991, and a few years later being diagnosed with renal/kidney failure and having to go on dialysis, prevented me from pursuing the career I had planned, but during this time I was creatively sustained by stories, poetry, writing and reading – as well as parenting and friendships!  After a successful kidney transplant at the end of 2017, I joined David and songbirds to form a performing group The City Song Birds, telling stories, poems and singing our own material, as well as traditional folk tales from Scotland and all around the world, and all types of music, such as jazz, modern, blues or pop. Most of us learned the ukulele during the Covid lockdown. We still meet once a week at Dundas Street in David's living room and perform in The Netherbow Theatre/Scottish Storytelling Centre. I am working on a documentary at the moment on The City Song Birds.    

My daughter Beccy had made a film at Granton Primary School entitled Tales of Old Granton with Screen Education Edinburgh as a Primary school pupil, and when she saw the ‘In the Frame’ course by Screen Education Edinburgh advertised, she advised me to take the documentary making course. My daughter knew that I had been wanting to tell the story of my kidney transplant and dialysis journey to help other patients going through the same thing and suggested that film would be a great way to do that. 

Beccy and I worked together on our film. Initially, we were introduced to the fundamentals of camera, sound and editing. I enjoyed most discussing and listening to story ideas with my fellow filmmakers. When it came to make the film, Beccy and I filmed interviews with my former dialysis nurse, my friend David and, lastly, each other about our different emotional experiences during my transplant surgery. We also filmed land and seascapes as coverage for the interviews, as our film became more poetic in nature during the edit process. I found the project to be very cathartic and enjoyable but making the film did feel stressful at times! Particularly during the edit stage, my background in radio didn’t prepare me as well as I thought in considering how things might visually cut together. 

My daughter commented that it was ‘great to see me fired up again’ during the course of making this film. I feel proud of the film we made, and I feel confident in my filmmaking skills. I already feel ready to take on another film project. Taking part has been enriching and empowering and a source of new learning which I can take forward to other projects. The film, as well as being a resource for patients and families, was made to thank the donor family and my family and friends and I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity and support to do that through film on the course. I hope I’ve made a resource that is valuable to people who were in the same situation as me, as I made the film to fill a gap in the support given to patients and families. 

This was a very personal story to me, and I was driven to see it through to the end. It was a great motivational, learning experience - especially during this strange time of Covid. I’m grateful for the provision of a platform to share my story, which I hope others will find useful.