We’ve been banging on quite a bit recently about the distinctive and highly successful approach to community action and local representation that developed in Wester Hailes over the years. Whether it was the staff and volunteers of FISH working above and beyond the call of duty to bring help and support to vulnerable people; or a debate about the best way to represent the community (Scooby Doo or a community council); or even the above piece about CRAB – everything that was achieved was down to the commitment and energy of local individuals.
But there’s a danger in getting too misty eyed and romantic about it all. Just a couple of months before the CRAB group sprung into life, the committee of the Murrayburn Tenants Association, one of the six local constituent bodies that made up Scooby Doo, resigned en-masse. Stan Taylor, the Chairman of the group, explained to the Sentinel:
“It was the same old story, of a gradually dwindling group of people having to do more and more whilst the vast majority of residents were quite happy to let them get on with it. We felt that by resigning we would force Murrayburn residents to look seriously at whether they wanted a Tenants Association or not.”
However no significant reaction had been provoked by this rather desperate act. Three months later, Scooby Doo had to ask a student community worker to leaflet every house in Murrayburn and then follow this up by knocking on doors to ask a single question – Would you be willing to help or support a Murrayburn Tenants Association? And, in its next issue, the Sentinel was able to report “an encouraging response” to all this effort – over 20 people had turned up to a Special Public Meeting held to revive the group.
But it was never more than a small minority of people at any one time who made things happen in Wester Hailes and there was always the consequent danger of disillusionment and burn-out if the burden had to be shouldered by the few for too long. As the first ever action group formed in the area – the Wester Hailes Association of Tenants – put it, back in the early 70s when they were trying to drum up much-needed support:
“We need your help. Apathy is a killer of communities.”