From There… To Here

The social history of Wester Hailes

Green Times

Terry Nutkins at the Calders helping to plant trees

Terry Nutkins at the Calders helping to plant trees

With the sun shining and soaring temperatures, people want to be outside whenever possible to enjoy the weather, and to catch a cool breeze if it’s all feeling a bit too much for a Scottish summer!  In an area where many people don’t have their own garden or access to a communal garden, having areas of green space that can be used and enjoyed is of great importance.  In the mid-View over lake to shopping centre1960s when plans for Wester Hailes were being drawn up, it is clear that in the early stages, green space was an integral part of the design, with open planted areas and pathways lined by trees.  However these plans never made it off the drawing board, and the main open space provided was the famously vast car park deserts surrounding the new high rise blocks.

Whilst there were many pressing needs to be addressed in the early days of Wester Hailes, more accessible green space was part of the aim for a better area.  When looking at the current state of park land and possible sites for green development, the report Ten Years On commented that the fact there was no proper park in the area was deeply regrettable.  It went on to say

 “It is worth mentioning as an aside that even some of the worst industrial slums of the nineteenth century were provided with parks near at hand by the planners of the day.”

Over the years, great efforts were made to increase green space and to break up Clovenstone gardenthe concrete with grass, trees and planting.  The schools played an important role, with children taking part in planting projects.  This was sometimes to improve the area within the school playground such as the wildlife garden planted by children at Clovenstone Primary School in 1991.  But schools were also involved in wider planting schemes to improve local areas.  One hundred children from Dumbryden Primary School planted 100 plants in Dumbryden Grove as part of a series of environmental improvements carried out there.

The appointment of an Environmental Ranger for the area helped boost the profile of local environmental issues, and the Ranger had a regular column in the Sentinel.  After a year in post, he listed some of the new activities and groups with a focus on improving the environment.  Later that year he wrote about the importance of green space, and listed some of the nearest green spaces within walking distance of Wester Hailes.

union canalMany people from outside the area still have preconceived ideas about what the area looks like, and the enduring image of those desolate bare car parks seems to be part of the many myths surrounding Wester Hailes.  Visitors to the area, particularly on a summer day are often surprised by how different the reality is.  The environmental improvements carried out as part of the re-opening of the Union Hailes Quarry ParkCanal have resulted in a great asset for the area.  The development of Hailes Quarry Park has created community parkland with new additions including the recently planted wildflower meadow.  Over in Westburn, the Community Woodland was developed from a derelict woodland site into a conserved community resource.  Gate 55 is currently developing its garden space through a gardening project, there are new allotments at Dumbryden and a community garden, the Green Gym in the Calders.  These and other developments over the years have resulted in a better balance of developed land alongside green space with mature trees.  The City of Edinburgh Council recognises how important trees are and is in the process of consulting over Trees In The City, a draft set of policies and action plan which will be used to guide the management of its trees and woodlands.  In its introduction it states,

“Trees make a vital contribution to quality of life in Edinburgh.”

There has recently been disquiet in Wester Hailes over what some see as a new tarmacking policy being implemented in the area to reduce the need to maintain grass and bushy plants due to budget cuts.  Residents have mixed views but it is perhaps not much of a choice to be offered either overgrown untended bushes or an area of tarmac.  You can read about a recent campaign and its results here.

After an intensive planting scheme had been carried out in the early 1990s, the Ranger detailed in the Sentinel some of the benefits this planting brought to the people living there, to the community as a whole, and to the environment.

Benefits of green space


Music Notes

music 2 pic

Top Of The Pops made its last live appearance in 2006, but a marathon set of repeats is well underway.  This year, the repeat cycle has reached 1978 and you could tune in tonight and watch the Dooleys, Ruby Winters, Darts and the Boomtown Rats.  Music remains powerfully evocative for memory and there are few of us who aren’t transported back in time when we hear certain tracks.

As well as cataloguing local news, the Sentinel inevitably reflected the wider times around it and this was particularly true when it came to music trends.  Its record reviews were often forthright.  But it also covered wider music news and gave space to often passionately held views about music.  In 1978 it published an article called No Future which challenged the view that punk rock was dying out.  You can read the article here.

When musicians sought to influence politics in the 1980s, Red Wedge was set up as an alliance of musicians, writers and artists to promote the importance of political knowledge and activism.  In 1986 the Red Wedge tour came to Edinburgh and the Sentinel obtained interviews with some of the key members as well as reviewing the concert itself, publishing a 3 page feature in their February 1986 edition.

Large events were also covered.  In 1996, there was a feature on T In The Park music 1 picwhere the headline acts that year were Prodigy, Radiohead and Pulp.  Rumour had it that Keanu Reeves was making an appearance but unfortunately for the journalist they missed his performance.  You can read all about one writer’s experience of T In The Park here.

Concerts were also covered and in 1996 the Sentinel obtained tickets for Oasis who played at Loch Lomond in front of 40,000 people.  It’s fair to say that the reviewer was impressed by the whole experience, describing their response as “stunned admiration”. You can read their review here.

music 3 picLocal bands weren’t overlooked.  When the Wester Hailes Festival Association organised a free rock concert in Sighthill Park in 1986, the event received full coverage with information about all the bands playing including the Styngrites, Camera Shy and The Play.  Also included in the local music feature were other up and coming Edinburgh based bands who were taking part in a competition at the Jailhouse, Calton Road.  And if you want a taste of those forthright record reviews, there’s a good selection included on these pages as well, including the hope that one album takes to the charts like a rock to water!  You can read this music feature here.

Death Of A Dream

YTS Logo

“One of the saddest things about unemployment is the number of young people involved.  These young people with their abundant energy and fresh ideas have much to contribute to society and it is society that must suffer from this present crisis.”

Unemployment amongst young people in the UK continues to be a cause for concern as the country faces difficult economic times and the on-going effects of austerity measures.  However, these words were written 35 years ago by the Chair of the Wester Hailes Youth Opportunity Programme as the WHYOP was launched.  He went on to say

 “Wester Hailes has never been slow to face up to its responsibilities and is proving true to form in this new venture which offers young people an alternative to the dole queue.”

yts traineeWhilst youth training programmes attracted their fair amount of critics, Wester Hailes seemed to find creative ways to provide placements, training and improved community services.  The scheme was able to offer placements for example with the Sentinel, the community café and a recycling project.  From an early stage the project took a holistic approach, recognising that some young people needed a broader range of training including life skills to become fully equipped for work.  This inevitably raised the project’s costs but enabled the scheme to have a more positive and permanent impact for the young people involved. Over its lifetime it had a 95% success rate with its trainees and was regarded as one of the most successful projects of its kind.

When the Youth Opportunity Programme was replaced by the Youth Training 10th birthdayScheme, the programme in Wester Hailes was adapted to meet the new requirements. In 1988, the Sentinel reported on 10 years of the Wester Hailes YTS.  During that time nearly 400 young people had benefited from being involved.  It was also one of the longest running voluntary YTS group in the country.  It also specialised in working with young people who found it difficult to access mainstream training, providing additional support and training to ensure they could take up training opportunities.  You can read more about their success story here.

The project got to a stage when it really needed new premises and in 1990, the Sentinel reported on the on-going tussle with the Wester Hailes Partnership over the promised funding that had yet to materialise.  When Malcom Rifkind visited the YTS, the manager took the opportunity to raise the issue with him, with the matter being reported in the paper.

Wester Hailes young people demonstrating against the YTS closureIn 1992, the scheme faced its biggest challenge, which sadly proved to be its last.  The main funding came from Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Ltd.  When the government made cuts to their funding, those cuts were passed on making the YTS unsustainable.  In April 1992 it was announced that the YTS would close.  The Sentinel paid tribute to all the scheme’s achievements and pointed out the many ways that the wider community had benefited from the support and activities of the YTS trainees.

last yts trainees

Star Scoops

David Bowie celebrated his 66th birthday by releasing his first single for 10 years this week to the surprise and delight of his many fans. Although the Sentinel never managed to secure an interview with him, it did achieve a number of impressive scoops with influential performers whose sound helped define their eras

English: Ian Dury at the Roundhouse, Chalk Far...

A Durable Geezer
In June 1984, Ian Dury talked to the Sentinel about his experience of performing and his first attempts at acting. After 12 years in the public eye, he shows that he has not lost his strong and sometimes controversial views!


Ice Man Goes Berserker
The Sentinel catches up with Gary Numan after the release of his new single “Berserker” in January 1985. He explains what he’s been doing whilst out of the public eye, gives some detail about his new album and the reason behind his choice of blue make-up.

The Clash
Still performing in 1985, the Clash explain why they have gone back to playing at small venues, including busking on Princes Street. They talk about Wester Hailes and their interest in promoting change through action.

The Clash (album)

The Clash (album)

Sounds Around

Sound around logo

In the early 1980s the Sentinel featured a music page, Sounds Around.  A mixture of reviews, information and tricky pop puzzles, for many readers today it will be a real blast from the past!  There’s a selection below- how many band names do you recognise?  And why not have a go at the music crosswords- can you remember back that far!

October 1980: A feature on Scottish groups to give some publicity to home grown talent, starting with Michael Marra.  The page also includes the chance to win David Bowie’s new album, “Scarey Monsters”.

November 1980: A review of All The Presidents Men’s gig at the Fusion Ballroom.  And a report on Highland Recording Studios as a possible route to getting a publishing deal for a song with a record company.

March 1981: An enthusiastic review of a performance by Siouxsie and the Banshees.  The page also includes information about who was playing where in Edinburgh over the next couple of months.  There’s also another review on a gig by the Alex Harvey Band, and information about the new album by The Exploited, “Punk Is Not Dead”.

The history of SCOREscotland

SCOREscotland have contributed an article that looks at their history and summarises the development of equal opportunities and race equalities work in Wester Hailes. They also asked a young person who was recently on a work placement with them to comment on growing up in Wester Hailes today.


Where did it come from?

Strengthening Communities for Race Equality Scotland – SCOREscotland is a    voluntary organisation working in the West of Edinburgh. SCOREscotland evolved from three akin organisations over the years. They all had a similar vision: Equal Opportunities and Race Equality.

Community Relations Forum 1992

Community Relations Forum 1992

The first of the three organisations was Wester Hailes Against Racism Project which was introduced in 1995 by the Wester Hailes Community Relations Project. Unfortunately, due to different reasons including funding cuts, Wester Hailes Against Racism Project was closed down.

Subsequently, a similar project – Wester Hailes Multicultural Welfare Project – was set up by The Wester Hailes Representative Council to cater for the minority ethnic communities in the West of Edinburgh.  In time, however, the target BME communities wanted their project to become an independent organisation designed to address their needs.

Thus the West Edinburgh Multicultural Organisation (WEMO) was developed in 2003. It became an independent organisation managed and run by local minority ethnic people.  WEMO was registered as a charity and company limited by guarantee in October 2004.SCOREscotland presentation

However, following a deep and wide organisational review in 2007, the organisation was re-launched on the 9th of November 2007 as Strengthening Communities for Race Equality Scotland – SCOREscotland.

SCOREscotland’s mission is: Social justice and race equality in a society proud of its diversity.

SCOREscotland’s Mission and purpose for existence is to:

Work in partnership with others to address the causes and effects of racism and to promote race equality. The organisation breaks down barriers to the full participation of minority ethnic communities in all aspects of civic life, including:

  • Equality of access to public services and information
  • Ability to contribute to and influence policy development and service delivery
  • Freely participating in social, political cultural, and economic life
  • Feeling valued and integrated as part of society

SCOREscotland offers:

  • 1 to 1 support and advocacy – on racial abuse/ discrimination/ harassment, welfare benefits, health, education, basic immigration, housing and employment.
  • Youth work – anti-racist youth work with children and young people aged 8-18yrs.
  • Group work – providing opportunities for adults to come together for peer support, raising awareness, meeting new people in the area, promoting social inclusion.
  • Community Engagement – partnership working with communities, other service providers and organisations to make sure the needs of BME people are addressed.
  • Programme of Events and Activities – bringing together people from diverse communities in a safe environment to engender, integration and social cohesion.

 SCOREscotland welcomes all people including those with protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

  Kid growing up in Wester Hailes

 “From the age of 8 or 9, don’t really know, I spent my Fridays and Saturdays at SCOREscotland – Knots & Crosses Youth Club – so named by us and popularly known as ‘KCYC’ – doing what kids do really. I remember taking part in a dance class where the club had called in a dance instructor to teach us a few dance moves. Funny stuff! My dance skills then were awful but who cares, it was really fun. We also had days of just chilling and watching films, while munching on yummy snacks (I do like my snacks). I loved it! There was never a dull moment…actually I can’t really say never…there were days where we had to talk about topics like littering and bullying. At that age I found that really boring, I was more interested in doing the fun things. But now at the age of 14 I really believe bullying is an important issue. Bullying is an issue which has caused a large number of teenagers to commit suicide. Those stories are shocking! Obviously the bullies didn’t know it was affecting the people that much but if people are told about what bullying does they might not do it. Thankfully I haven’t been bullied myself but I know people who have. This might have been the cause of why bullying is important to me. So think about it, whenever you want to make fun of the boy who doesn’t have any friends, think twice!

I like fashion, I like make up, I like One Direction, I like going to the cinema, I like my neighbours and they are friendly, I want to make where I stay a better place to live because it’s MY neighbourhood, Oh and I forgot to mention I’m African, Female and a Muslim but that shouldn’t matter should it? My message – I’m like everyone else so don’t treat me differently.”

R (aged 14) – Work Experience Student at SCOREscotland

SCOREscotland is on Facebook: for their page just click here.

Young Sentinel

Back in the 1980s, the Sentinel included a regular Young Sentinel page with a mixture of articles, reports and reviews aimed at younger readers.  Often with a caustic music review, the page also included information and issues particularly relevant to young people.  Here are 3 pages from 1986.

young sentinel picturesSeptember 1986: School Holiday TV- Do Scots kids get a fair deal?  Back in the days of 4 terrestial channels, the article points out that TV programming favours English rather than Scottish holidays.  Remember Glen Michael’s Cavalcade?Samantha Fox  There’s also a music review on the death of pop music and a list of contendors including Samantha Fox and Belinda Carlisle.

November 1986: Images of Violence.  The article looks at violence on TV and asks where the line should be after the show Dempsey and Makepeace had been criticised for on screen violence.  There’s also a feature on F.M. who were supporting Magnum at the Playhouse.

December 1986: Just Another Song.  A detailed report following the process of taking a song idea to a recorded single by the band Shame.