From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

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Celebrating Community Past and Present

Photo by Digital Sentinel

Photo by Digital Sentinel

Over 120 runners and walkers turned out to take part in the 2013 Wester Hailes Fun Run/ Walk.  All sorts of people took part: young and old, faster and the more sedate, families, local workers, runners in fancy dress, and parents walking with children in buggies.  Lots of people took part to raise money for

Photo taken by Digital Sentinel

Photo taken by Digital Sentinel

local charities and community groups.  The sun shone throughout the morning, and competitors were glad to find a water station at Clovenstone Community Centre after they had made it up that steep Greenway hill!  They were cheered on their way by local residents and by volunteer route stewards making sure that everyone went the right way.  The run was won by

Photo by Digital Sentinel

Photo by Digital Sentinel

Number 136, Richard Brown from the Wester Hailes Education Centre.  But for most people, the emphasis was on the fun of taking part and the achievement of completing the 5k route.  Funding for the event came from the South West Edinburgh Neighbourhood Partnership’s Community Grants Fund.  The Fun Run/ Walk was organised by a local planning group that includes Prospect Community Housing, Wester Hailes Health Agency, Wester Hailes Community Council, Clovenstone Community Centre, Active Schools, WHALE, Police Scotland, SCOREscotland, and CHAI.

Fun Run 1994

The idea to bring back the Fun Run was suggested here a couple of years ago when looking at the history of this event.  The original Fun Run started in 1983 and quickly grew as a community event with over 500 people taking part in 1992.  Although the competitive runners took it very seriously, it was really about everybody taking part together and being involved in their local community.  Sentinel photos taken of the run show that a wide range of people took part and that the event really promoted a sense of a community celebrating together.

Fun Run 4When local residents and organisations got together to re-launch the Fun Run last year, they wanted to include some elements of the original route, and some of those involved remembered how the event used to be organised which was very helpful in planning out the new run.  But it was the sense of bringing people together that they felt was the most important aspect of the old Fun Run and they hoped that the new event could reflect this.  In 2012, despite the heavy rain, there was a feeling that this was happening as those taking part said how much they had enjoyed the experience.  This year, with a clear sky and sunshine, there was a great atmosphere but this was really generated by the people taking part who cheered each other on across the route.  Those who completed the run quickly stayed on to support those finishing at a more sedate pace.  There’s now a feeling that there should be something else in the park after the Fun Run to build on this sense of community celebration.

The Sentinel used to record the Fun Run each year with a report but most

Photo by Digital Sentinel

Photo by Digital Sentinel

importantly photographs showing the range of people taking part and the involvement of the community.  The 2013 Fun Run greatly benefited from the new Digital Sentinel who were there throughout the morning taking photos and interviewing participants.  As well as showing what happened, this is an opportunity to build an archive for the future.  It was seeing the old Sentinel photos of the Fun Run that really encouraged people to start asking if it was possible to start this event again.  These sorts of archives aren’t only about creating a record of the past as a memory.  They also have a role to play in shaping future ideas and activities through reflection on what can be learned from the past and adapted for the present.  The 2013 Wester Hailes Fun Run was not a replica of past events, but it contained echoes from the past that helped shape its success.

For more great photos of the 2013 Fun Run check out the Digital Sentinel’s Flickr site.


Marathon Man

The Sentinel managed to balance its coverage between issues of national importance as well as giving up time and space to the people who made up the community of Wester Hailes.  This week we’re taking a look at a local resident who featured regularly in the Sentinel pages through his marathon running. 

 In December 1984, the Sentinel reported on Alastair Blacklaw and his running achievements.  He started his running career through the Wester Hailes Education Centre, joining their Sunday Running Club in order to improve his fitness.  However he was soon running longer and longer distances, building up to his first marathon, the 1983 Edinburgh marathon.  He trained regularly with the Sunday Running Club.  In 1984 this group had run 50 marathons between them, raising nearly £2,000 for charity in that time.  You can read the interview in full here at December 1983

 He then went on to win the Pentlands 5.3 mile foot race, beating more experienced runners.  The race’s route took a stony route up one side of the Pentlands to a height of 1,430 feet and back down again. 

In 1985, the Sentinel reported that Alastair had set his sights on a new challenge.  He planned to cover the Highland Way from Fort William to Glasgow and then run in the Glasgow marathon, 121 miles in total in just five days.  The Sentinel featured the story of this run in October 1985.  Despite less than perfect weather, he managed to complete both the walking element and a 26 mile run at the end.  You can read Alastair’s personal account here at My Highland Way

 Alastair was then chosen to be Edinburgh’s official representative in the Munich marathon, Edinburgh’s twin city.  His visit to Munich was featured in the Sentinel as he reported on the experience of being in Munich and taking part in the marathon.  As a guest of the city, he started at the front.  Unluckily, after only 1km he sprained his ankle.  If you’re a runner, you’ll know just how painful this is if you then try to run on.  He realised that he was near enough to the start to return for first aid but he was determined to carry on.  The pain eventually meant he had to walk rather than run, but he still managed to complete the 26 miles, into the Olympic Stadium where he received his hard won medal. You can read his story in full by clicking here on Munich Marathon.

WHEC Sunday Running Club

Get Well Soon

Health Services in Wester Hailes were slow to arrive.  Despite a large population building up quickly, the general lack of infrastructure meant there was no health centre provided.  People in the area therefore had to travel to Sighthill or Colinton to see a doctor, which was both time consuming and a financial cost for those on a low income.  In 1975 Local Health Councils had been established to represent the interests of the public in the National Health Service.  When a review of health services was then carried out in Edinburgh, the Edinburgh District Local Health Council was concerned about the problems facing people living in Wester Hailes.  In 1979, the Lothian Health Board organised a series of meetings to consult locally and the message from local people was that they wanted a health centre within Wester Hailes.  The Sentinel reported on this issue and on the health clinic that was set up as an interim measure.  Residents were encouraged to contact the Health Council to express their views about the state of local health services.  You can read this story here New Move on Health. Centre.

 The Sentinel followed up this article by offering in the next edition to collect people’s comments about the need for a local health centre.  The main objectors to the establishment of a new centre was reported to be local doctors who felt that the distance for travelling was not too far and that providing services from more than one centre would result in a deterioration of services.  In December 1979, the Sentinel reported that local people had joined together to campaign for better health facilities, calling themselves C.H.A.G, the Community Health Action Group.  They pointed out that whilst a one and a half mile journey did not in itself sound too far, if you had to use local public transport, if you had young children, or were elderly or more vulnerable, this journey could be complicated and stressful, especially in bad weather.  You can read about their campaign in Health Group.

 In the first quarter of 1980 approval to build a health centre was granted.  However it was not until February 1983 that the Sentinel was able to report that a new health centre was now being built and that it now looked more hopeful that doctors would be taking surgeries there.  The health centre would also have space for a range of services including dental surgeons, midwives and social workers.  In September 1979, the Sentinel’s lead story was that the health centre would be opening its gates on the 5th September and that there would definitely be G.P. surgeries there.