Community celebration was a common theme running through the history of Wester Hailes. Each summer, great efforts were made to organise ambitious carnivals but also smaller neighbourhood focused events with gala days in each area. In 1983, there was an impressive programme spanning a week with a huge range of events including cafe cabarets, it’s a knockout, street barbecues, and the gala day parade.
A recurring feature was of course the Gala and Carnival Queens. As well as the official carnival queen, each area had its own Gala Queen as these pictures from Calders and Wester Hailes Park show. The gala days were more localised and a great way of encouraging people to then join in with events further afield. The neighbourhood structure in Wester Hailes contributed greatly to people feeling involved in the life of the community and the neighbourhood celebrations were an opportunity to meet immediate neighbours. By 1984, the Carnival was stretching across a fortnight with a Wild West theme. The 1980s seemed to be the era of carnival celebrations for the area, with a committee able to organise events and plenty of hands on deck to help run the various activities. By the 1990s, celebrations had become more modest although the area was able to celebrate 25 years of Wester Hailes in 1995 with hundreds of people taking part in a procession that can be seen here.
There are probably many reasons why community celebration events declined and the decrease in activity was not limited to Wester Hailes. There is no doubt that it does seem to have become harder to organise public events. Health and safety issues, whilst often necessary and helpful require greater planning and a greater level of responsibility. Funding remains elusive for any event that happens for more than one year despite the amount of people it benefits. Perhaps a new model is needed and the success of this year’s Big Lunch celebrations might be a consideration for next year. Slightly masked by the Jubilee theme this year, the Big Lunch, an Eden project, has actually been promoting the idea of neighbourhood parties for a few years now. West Edinburgh Time Bank organised a Big Lunch in 2011 and in 2012 at the Wester Hailes Health Agency. It would be great to see more of these in Wester Hailes over the next few years.