From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes


In November 1990, Wester Hailes was graced for a day by a soap legend when Leslie Grantham, aka Dirty Den, came to open Edinburgh District Council’s new local office in the shopping centre. As the Sentinel put it: “to millions of Eastenders viewers he was the man you love to hate” and very probably one of the most well kent faces throughout Britain at the time. He had recently been killed off from Eastenders and he revealed to Mark Smith who interviewed him for the Sentinel that it was at his own request:

“Well I was doing something that everybody else wants to do. I had a fun time…The trouble is, that stops after a while – because it’s like a factory. You still enjoy their [the other cast members’] company, but for some reason I felt my energy was going and I just couldn’t go anywhere else. So I asked to leave…….and I left.”

Leslie became an actor, he said, because “everyone” told him he should but he went to drama school first to hone his talents (see example above). He was at pains, however, to point out that he was very far from a sensitive luvvie. He was born in a basment flat and later moved to a “sprawling housing estate” and felt that this start in life had given him a sense of perspective:

“If you’ve come from a rarified atmosphere you are only aware of what is around you. Where as, if you start at the bottom then even one step up the ladder is an improvement”

He was, he insisted, just a normal bloke who wasn’t sure about “this mega-stardom business” – acting was just a job of work to him. Leslie was then starring in a new TV series called The Paradise Club (anyone remember that?) and he was hoping it would be even better for him than Eastenders but, if not, he was prepared to be philosophical:

“I’ve had a great nine years and not many people have got into that position from where I’ve come from”

But the real revelation was that Dirty Den was once a dalek! Leslie actually began his television career in Doctor Who playing a dalek who tried to destroy the earth with a huge bomb before being blown to bits by it instead.

“I tell you, once you’ve played a dalek, the only way is up. I didn’t actually do the voice or anything, you just wander around with this costume stuck on your head. It was fun to do though. Doing these sorts of things on television is really silly, we just ran around like school kids having a laugh.”



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