Summer newsletter

Welcome to summer news from Leith Open Space Group including details of an interesting programme of activities organised by Leith Community Involvement Project (see Summer in the City). There is lots more to come from Leith Open Space too and we will be contacting you again with plans for another Opening Doors shadow scheme and an exciting new Open Space event in 2008. We welcome your thoughts so don’t hesitate to get in touch or post a comment with your news and views.


in case you need reminding, this really is the summer!

Summer in the city

What exactly does democracy mean? The Leith Community Involvement Project has organised a ‘summer school’ so local people can take part in a thought-provoking programme to stimulate debate about the connection between democracy and the lives of ordinary people.

The programme begins in August with drama in the Scottish Parliament (the theatrical kind rather than political debate!). A trip to Holyrood provides the chance to see a performance of “The Journey of Jeannie Deans? following Jeannie’s journey from Edinburgh to London in an attempt to win the freedom of her sister who, she believes, has been wrongly accused of murder.

The summer school ends with a showing of Ken Loach’s film “Land and Freedom?, about the questions raised by a young woman’s discovery that her grandfather fought in the Spanish Civil War.

All activities are free of charge. FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT JACKIE MEARNS ON 554 9951 OR 07732471660 – she will be on holiday for two weeks from July 13. Continue reading “Summer in the city”

True or false?

During Refugee Week Fay Young of Leith Open Space Group joined an information session organised by Edinburgh Refugee Centre. This is the first part of her report.

We sat at tables in small groups grappling with questions. What exactly is an asylum seeker? Where do most refugees come from? What is a migrant worker? Can there be an illegal asylum seeker? Continue reading “True or false?”

A compassionate culture

I am British, I was born here and I have no intention of leaving here, so I want to create a society here where compassion is built into our culture, in this society we will be so aware of the world around us that we will not need a Refugee Week. Until then this is how we do it.? Benjamin Zephaniah, Poet

How does Edinburgh do it? Between 18 and 24 June Scotland’s capital joins the rest of the UK in organising events for Refugee Week. A programme of arts, cultural and educational events are planned to celebrate the contribution refugees make to the UK. At the same time the events hope to encourage a better understanding between communities (the Refugee Week website has an interesting blog presenting many different views. You can add yours here too). Continue reading “A compassionate culture”

A museum for Leith

Let’s join the campaign for Leith Museum. Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, is inviting Leithers near and far to sign a petition to support local groups campaigning for a museum celebrating the history of one of the fastest changing parts of the Capital.


Celebrating Leith’s history, the mural in North Junction Street was created by Tim Chalk and Paul Grime using material collected by Leith Local History Project in 1986. Thanks to Peter Stubbs for use of this photograph © Peter Stubbs

This not a new campaign – local groups such as Leith History Society have been calling for a museum for years – but as Mark told the Evening News
the case is now stronger than ever: “Leith deserves a museum which will strengthen community links at a time of rapid social change, and will highlight Leith’s important role in the history of Scotland as a whole.”

Exactly where the museum will be has yet to be decided (the spotlight falls on possible buildings like Lambs House and the old Customs House). But wherever it is there will be no shortage of exhibits: Leith’s diverse history stretches from seafaring to Trainspotting and celebrity connections include Mary Queen of Scots, Eduardo Paolozzi and Irvine Welsh.

Living memories of local people (recently captured by [murmur] who are returning to Edinburgh in June for a second phase of the oral history project ) are another rich resource for a museum aiming to appeal to people of all ages with family connections across the world.

So lets sign the petition – and pass it on!

No butts

It’s amazing what you can pick up with a litter picker (if that’s what those long sticks are called). At first sight on Saturday, Leith Links looked fresh and clean in the spring sunshine. Within two hours it was much cleaner. A group of willing volunteers had filled around 30 refuse sacks with assorted rubbish – crisp packets, drinks cans, cigarette butts, poly bags and a few other things you didn’t want to investigate closely (those litter pickers and rubber gloves meant you didn’t have to!).

leith links clean up

Bags of fun – with thanks to Greener Leith for the picture

Leith Open Space supported the enterprising community event organised by Greener Leith. We were joined by Cllr Gordon Munro (who is standing again for Leith Harbour Ward and got stuck in despite being dressed for a HIBS match, no prizes for picking him out) and Angela Blacklock, a Labour candidate for the new Leith Central Ward in Thursday’s Council elections, who proved to be a dab hand at picking up cigarette butts.

Altogether, as Alastair Tibbitt of Greener Leith said, it was not only a successful afternoon, it was fun too. Here’s to the next one!

Leith Spring Clean

With spring (and election) fever in the air, members of Leith Open Space group are looking forward to joining volunteers in the great Leith Spring Clean on Saturday, April 28.

See Greener Leith website for more details.
Apart from being worthwhile work (and good excercise) this is a great opportunity to get to know other groups in the area and maybe get new ideas and contacts for future Leith Open Space events and Opening Doors shadow schemes. Greener Leith is doing a lot of work to strengthen support for a community garden in Leith. The value of crespringflowersating a community garden in Leith was one of the ideas discussed at our Open Space discussion day last May.

Meanwhile some of LOS group be clocking in at the Bowling Green club on Leith Links at 1.30pm on Saturday. If you want to join us just get in touch, or contact Ally Tibbitt of Greener Leith.
See you on Saturday?

The word on the street

If you have time, treat yourself to a walk through living memories today. As you walk round Leith you will almost certainly see the green ear signs marking the spot where local people tell stories that shape the character of this unique part of Edinburgh.greenear 1 2

These green ears are symbols of [murmur] a very human approach to local history which we first reported on this website in September last year (see Making History in Leith). At that time we passed on an appeal for local people to come forward with their stories. Now [murmur] Edinburgh has been launched and Leith Open Space is very proud to have played a small part in helping to make local history. Some of our supporters are among the voices on the street.

Memories of life in Leith can come to life with the help of your mobile phone. Dial the number on the sign and you can hear a story (often more than one) triggered by this location. Alternatively, if you don’t have time for a walk today, click on the [murmur] Edinburgh website, and try any of the red dots on the map.

storytelling 1

A sense of place: thanks to New Media Scotland for pictures

Remember when you could catch a train from Leith Central Station to Waverley? Just click here for John Stewart’s story? Or try here for Stan’s great tales of ‘the dancing’ on Mondays and Fridays when Alexander’s Ragtime Band filled the Assembly Hall with jiving couples. Then go along to Victoria Swim Centre to hear Gina remember the days when she paid six old pennies for a bath at Victoria Swimming Pool (for a whole shilling she got soap too).

The present inspires stories too. Celina Mbwiria, a founder member of our Opening Doors shadow scheme, celebrates the diversity she finds at the foot of Leith Walk. Click here for her warm memories of the welcome Leith Primary School gave her children at a time when there were no black children in the classroom. And click here to discover how Tommy Miah (who has generously donated food for our Open Space events) brings ‘fusion’ food such as curried haggis to that grand old cinema building which is now The Raj restaurant.

Supporters of Leith Open Space were among many who responded to the appeal for stories when Shawn Micallef came from Toronto last year to explore the potential for developing the [murmur] project in Edinburgh. Mary Moriarty, vice chair of Leith Festival, welcomed Shawn to meet locals at her Port O’ Leith bar with his name chalked among today’s specials on the bar blackboard. (Click here for one of Mary’s stories).portoleithjpeg

The first 20 story signs were recently launched in Leith but there will always be room for more. Shawn hopes to be back for a second launch in June when [murmur] Leith is part of the Six Cities Design Festival, and the Leith Festival.
[murmur] in Leith is produced in partnership with New Media Scotland (, which supports imaginative collaboration between art and technology. Or as Michelle Kasprzak of NMS puts it: ‘we are using the technology we all carry in our pocket as a tool to access contemporary culture’. New Media Scotland is core funded by the Scottish Arts Council, and [murmur] in Leith is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Time to involve the minority

“I have found out that there is still a gap that needs to be filled. At the local level, there is an immense need to involve the minority community.?


Doris Koyabe reflects on what she has learned from Opening Doors.

Why did I join the shadowing scheme?

There were three simple reasons. First of all, politics affects everything we do from the water we drink to the things we buy. Why should we leave matters relating to our well being in the hands of politicians? I have always been interested in knowing how politicians and policy makers come to a consensus since they affect each one of us on a daily basis. Given that policies and the politics of a country go together, I thought this was the best way to experience exactly how decisions are made. Continue reading “Time to involve the minority”

A helping hand

My aim is to encourage Sikh women to be more involved in politics. I wanted to be able to show how we can help to influence decisions that have an impact on our lives.


“As a Scottish Sikh I can see both sides of the coin.”

It’s a cold winter day but a warm and spicy smell greets you as soon as you open the door. Wednesday is curry day at Dr Bell’s Family Centre in Leith and that is why Asha Devi Singh suggested meeting here for lunch.

Over a delicious plate of chick pea and potato curry with poppadom and coriander relish on the side, Asha explains why she decided to take part in the Opening Doors Shadow Scheme. “My aim is to encourage Sikh women to be more involved in politics,? she says, “I wanted to be able to show how we can help to influence decisions that have an impact on our lives.? Continue reading “A helping hand”