This is the start of what we hope will be a fairly regular series of short question and answer interviews with people in which we ask them about their experience and memories of living and working in Wester Hailes over the decades. Our first interviewee is Sandra Gray:
When did you move to Wester Hailes and why?
I came to Wester Hailes in 1980. I moved from Broomhouse because the flat I was living in there was damp and horrible and we got a flat in what was then Wester Hailes Drive, now Harvesters Way, which was much nicer. It had central heating and it was a good bit more spacious. I’ve lived there ever since.
Wester Hailes had better facilities than Broomhouse – there was the shopping centre and a lot more open space for my kids to play in. You could walk to the shopping centre and the kids could walk to school without having to cross a road.
Tell us a bit about yourself please
When I moved to Wester Hailes at first the kids were still quite young and I was a stay at home mum. But, as they got older, I started to look for something to do, I wanted to try and get back to work. I went along to WHOT (the Wester Hailes Opportunities Trust) who helped people with training and they put me through a couple of courses, one of which was word processing and then they got me a placement as a volunteer with the Windmill. This was about 1990. The Windmill ran a day care centre and helped people who had mental health problems and, after a bit, I got a part-time paid post there doing admin work. The Windmill closed down in 1992 when its funding came to an end and I got a new job with CHIP (the Community Housing Information Project) which was run by the Rep Council. Round about the same time I was also starting to get involved with my local Neighbourhood Council.
The job at CHIP was very interesting. I worked hand in hand with the Rep Council’s Housing Spokesperson who was Marion Diamond. That went on for about five years but came to an end when Urban Aid grant was withdrawn. Then I went on to work for Seedlings a local child care project for a couple of years until it was merged with what became Smile Childcare. I left that in 1997 and spent three years running a joinery business’s office before joining Wester Hailes Community Housing Association (now Prospect) in 2000 where I still work.
What are your best memories of Wester Hailes?
I think how well I’ve done and how well my kids have done. They got a proper education – Clovenstone Primary School gave them a great start – and now they’re employed in good jobs. Overall, bringing up a family in Wester Hailes has been a positive experience. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t moved to Wester Hailes and benefitted from all the local projects I’ve worked for and been involved in.
In what ways has Wester Hailes changed over the years?
Facilities and housing have definitely improved. The demolition of most of the multis changed the face of Wester Hailes. The upgrading of security in common stairs and improvements to the environment in general means that the quality of life is now much better. Having a train station and improvements to the bus services has made local transport much better now than it was back in 1980. There are facilities like a doctors surgery and a dentist on your doorstep and then there’s all the projects that have been set up over the years to help local people.