This Sunday sees the red carpet laid out in Hollywood for all the glitz of the OSCARS. Wester Hailes has seen its fair share of film limelight over the years. In one year alone in 1984, filming for three productions took place. A film about Douglas Dunn the poet had scenes set in the WHEC. The Oxford film company shot sequences for their film Restless Natives, and it was the year that the Channel 4 film “The Huts” was filmed.
One of the top searches on this blog is for the “The Huts”. Made in the early days of Channel 4, the film focuses on the efforts of local residents working together to improve life locally. For years people in Wester Hailes had asked for more facilities. They organised the building of the Community Workshop in Hailesland, establishing a local management committee. The plan was then to have community flats in each individual area. But despite constant campaigning, the scheme became caught between the new two tier local government, with the District Council being unable to come to agreement with the Lothian Regional Council over who should provide the premises. So, as with many of the developments in Wester Hailes when official channels would not provide support, the community created its own solution, overseeing the construction of 7 huts. These community bases provided places where people could meet, groups could be run and services delivered.
The film shows how the community huts impacted on the lives of local individuals and groups, creating change and improving the life of the wider community. It focuses on positive aspects of the area, using drama, documentary and music to show the strength of the local community. The story of the making of The Huts is almost as well known as the film itself. Jeremy Isaacs, head of Channel 4 visited Wester Hailes to consult with Jimmy Boyle about a film that was being produced about his book, “A Sense of Freedom”. Jimmy Boyle completed a training course in Wester Hailes prior to being released from prison. Jeremy Isaacs realised that the story of the Community Workshop would make a fascinating film but he wanted people from Wester Hailes to be involved in shaping the film as well as appearing in it. A collaborative partnership was formed between Turnstyle a small independent film company and the Wester Hailes Representative Council to put together the film.
Wester Hailes residents had already set up a Media Forum to challenge some of the negative portrayals of the area. Media reports continually focused on bad news stories, creating a stigma that is still in evidence today. So local residents were keen that The Huts should show another side to life in the area.
Community groups such as the FISH Neighbourhood Scheme and the Wester Hailes parents’ support group described their work.
The Wester Hailes children’s circus were featured, as well as the music of Tommy Smith the saxophonist. The film was shown on Channel 4 in August 1985. you can read more about the film by clicking here on Sentinel August 1984.