In 1969, forty years ago, the first phase of building in Wester Hailes was completed. As an area, Wester Hailes has a long and proud history of community-led action. As early as 1970, before the building of the estate was complete, a tenants association had been constituted to fight for improvements to the area. This was quickly followed by individual neighbourhoods forming groups to tackle their specific needs and problems, something which has remained a notable feature of Wester Hailes up to the present day. Over the years, the community has never been slow to make its voice heard when the situation demanded it. Campaigns have been mounted and energetic lobbying pursued. But the people of Wester Hailes have not been content just to press others to act, they have made things happen themselves. They have built playgrounds, set up clubs, organised gala days and run community enterprises. And in the 1980s, with the advent of the Urban Partnership, when funds flowed into the area on an unprecedented scale, they found themselves working with an array of politicians, civil servants and professional staff to deliver an ambitious, high profile regeneration programme.
Wester Hailes has a complex and fascinating history, sometimes controversial, always thought provoking. It is a place of social historical significance both in terms of its physical transformation but also through the emergence of a strong community that developed what was once regarded as one of the most sophisticated forms of community involvement in the UK. Many of the initiatives that seemed so promising faltered as funding priorities changed and politicians turned their attention to other concerns. There are achievements to be celebrated but also lessons to be learned as regeneration efforts have found sustainability a challenge.
We wanted this story to be told and commented on from as wide a variety of perspectives as possible. This blog will publish a range of posts: reflections, essays, recollections, opinions and analyses linked by the theme of the history of Wester Hailes. We’ll also be bringing you extracts and photographs from the Sentinel, the community newspaper that was once the voice of Wester Hailes. We hope to hear from you whether you’re a current or past resident, whether you work here now or you used to work here or if you’ve simply got an interest in social history, public policy, urban regeneration, community activism……..