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.

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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”

The essence of democracy

The Opening Doors visit to the Scottish Parliament was a first for Subash Punn. Here he describes why it made a lasting impression.

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Subash Punn on the Scottish Parliament: “Never judge this building by the cover”.

My first and as yet only visit to the Scottish Parliament was full of profound surprises, the three-hour experience as monumental as the building itself. Continue reading “The essence of democracy”

Opening Doors to Scottish Parliament

Members of the Opening Doors shadow scheme met Malcolm Chisholm, Minister for Communities, for a glimpse behind the scenes at the Scottish Parliament on Friday (15 December).


Pictured in the Garden Lobby, from the left: Subash Punn, Fay Young, Asha Pall, Malcolm Chisholm, Dougie Kerr and Celina Mbwiria (Nick Gardner is behind the camera).

Both sides learned something new. For Malcolm it was a chance to join the ‘shadows’ on an official guided tour round the building for the first time – as a Minister and the MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith he usually has a different view of the debating chamber and committee rooms. For the visiting party (which included Leith Open Space Group members Nick Gardner and Fay Young as well as Asha Pall, Celina Mbwiria, Subash Punn and Councillor Dougie Kerr) it was a chance to see those parts not usually covered by guided tours – the MSP’s offices and the restaurant.

But it was fitting that Malcolm’s tour began with a sculpture he had unveilled the night before to honour the contribution of Scottish women to democracy and human rights. Travelling the Distance, created by artist Shauna McMullan, records the thoughts of women in handwritten sentences which have been sculpted in porcelain. (It is worth remembering that five out of the six Opening Doors pioneers are women.)
Our thanks to Malcolm for giving us all such an informative and enjoyable visit – and a delicious lunch!

December Diary

Music, food and friendship are the main themes of our December events. But there is room for stimulating debate too in the Full Council Meeting on Thursday 21 December. Members of Opening Doors are welcome to join a group outing to hear the debate on the proposed tram route from Leith – and the case against replacing Trident.

Please contact Leith Open Space Group if you want to promote your own event. Email us at

Monday 11 December Winter Party
6.30 – 9.30 pm
Edinburgh Refugee Centre, St George’s West Church, Shandwick Place.

Everyone is welcome to join the annual party where there will be international food and music provided by African Scottish band Diwan, Brazilian group, Dias Quarter, Scottish folk singer Aaron Jones.

Thursday 14th December Polish Market
14:00 – 20:00
Castle Street

The market will feature a range of authentic Polish food, drink and live music. Organised in collaboration with the Scottish Polish Cultural Association.

Saturday 16 December

Friends of Dalmeny Street Park Winter Planting & Litter Pick
Meet in the Park at 9.30am.

Co-ordinator, Lise Bratton says the day starts with the litter-pick until about 11.00 and then everyone repairs to Out of the Blue’s Drill Hall for hot drinks, home-made cakes and cookies. The planting session will start at about 11.30am and is likely to finish around 1pm.
Equipment: all equipment will be provided but remember to dress for the weather!

Thursday December 21 Full Council Meeting

10 am City Chambers

This meeting could be worth finding a seat in the public gallery. Councillors debate the business case for the proposed tram route from Leith to the airport – and Council Leader, Ewan Aitken will raise the temperature further with his opposition to replacing Trident. Opening Doors members are invited to join a group visit to City Chambers.