From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

Smartphones and tagging

Love them or loathe them, smartphones are here to stay!  For some people they are an indispensible tool, for others a distracting gadget.  And for many they remain still too costly an item.  We’re hoping to be involved in a project that will use smartphones as one way of accessing information on the social history of the area. 

We posted about this idea back in April when we featured the website Tales Of Things.   A text, audio or video tag is attached to an object via a QR code, which operates like a more sophisticated type of barcode.  If you’ve got a smartphone, ie an iPhone or an Android, you can scan the tagged object and view the attached story, picture, video etc.  So a building could be tagged and its QR tag would instantly show you what had been there previously, let you hear memories of people who had lived there and give you a history of the area. 

 If you haven’t got a smartphone, you would still be able to access the information via the internet by visiting the Tales Of Things site and looking up images of Wester Hailes.  In any project we’re involved in, we’ll try to make sure the information is as accessible as possible.  But we are aware that a growing number of people do now have iPhones or Androids and we thought it would be interesting to see how many of the people looking at the blog and at our Facebook page have one.  And we’re also interested to know how many of those who have an iPhone or an Android live in Wester Hailes.  So we’ve put together a poll.  Please click on one of the statements below to let us know. 


Carnival Time

Sentinel 1979

Carnivals and Festival events have been one of the great features of Wester Hailes over the years.  Right from the earliest, efforts were made to pull the community together through celebration days and activities.  The first Festival was held in 1978 and it was quickly established as an annual event, incorporating all sorts of events including a Gala Day stretching across a week.  Over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look at Festival times as this community celebration developed and changed over time. 

 In 1979, the Sentinel reported on plans for the second Festival, highlighting the

Sentinel June 1979

aim of including all sections of the community.  You can read the report by clicking here on 1979 Festival and Gala.  Judging from the photos shown in the June edition of the paper, the occasion was a great success. 

Sentinel 1979

What’s clear from these early Festival weeks is the impressive breadth of activities and events that were organised.  In 1981, the Sentinel included a 4 page Festival review that is packed with information about the highlights of the week.  You can read about all the action by clicking here on Festival 1981.

 The Festival weeks were well attended but also had lots of support to organise and run the different activities on offer.  A Festival committee co-ordinated the planning and put together the programme.  Organising an outdoor event such as a Fun Day is perhaps harder now than it was then.  There’s a whole raft of health and safety standards that need to be met, and the issue of insurance and responsibility is high on the agenda.  And the old issue of funding continues to cause difficulties.  Whilst it is great that funders want to fund new projects, it is now extremely hard to raise year on year funding as projects are encouraged to become sustainable.  However sustainability for a once a year annual event is not always a workable strategy, especially when the emphasis is on providing free activities.  With thousands of people benefitting, perhaps a special case should be made for local community celebrations that bring people together, a positive image of the area and enable local groups to publicise their services and projects. 

 The good news is that community celebration events still manage to run and this weekend there will be Altogether In The Park in Sighthill Park from 11AM- 4PM.  You can find out more about this family focused fun day by looking them up here at Altogether In The Park

Altogether In The Park: Sat 4th June 2011


Over the last six months or so, a group of postgraduate students from Edinburgh University have been engaged in a study of Wester Hailes – its past, present and the potential for future growth and development – as part of a joint urban geography and design programme. This has now borne fruit in the form of a book which has collected together a series of carefully researched and extremely interesting essays on the subject.

Entitled “Gamma/Jaamaa: Urban Fragments: Casablanca/Edinburgh” the book explores the theme of marginality in relation to these two cities. In the case of Edinburgh, a considerable part of the focus is on Wester Hailes, drawing on the Sentinel archive as a major information resource. The essays range from historical studies into the planning and building of the estate and the consequent problems that had to be faced, analyses of how aspects of the present day community are functioning, through to proposals for future development and improvement.

The flawed process that led to the erection of poorly constructed and soulless high rise blocks (maladministration on a monumental scale – literally) and the do-it-yourself response of early residents to the almost total lack of facilities are recounted in clear, concise detail. The degree to which creativity and local cultural initiatives have flourished on the edge of the UK’s premier “festival city” and the unutilised potential of this peripheral, but actually very well connected, location are teased out and examined.

Gamma/Jaamaa may be an academic publication but it is an altogether unstuffy and stimulating take on some of the key elements of Wester Hailes as a place and a community, from its inception to where it stands now – and where it might go. It certainly repays careful reading and we hope to publish some individual pieces by the students involved on this blog in the coming weeks.