Is today a day of miracles or is it that I have woken up in a different place and time? I have the idea that this summer is going to be quite different for a lot of people.
Imagine, please just put yourself in my place.
One of the lowest, most difficult points of my life was losing a lot of what I worked for because the City Council decided to obsess about creating a tram route from the Airport to Ocean Terminal in Leith. The years 2008 to the end of 2010 were unbelievable, really difficult to reflect on but we did get through it all of us.
The devastation on Leith Walk was a bit like Dante`s Inferno at one point with explosions, subsidence, a year-long hole in the pavement outside the door of the Leith Cycle Shop. That time consisted of all sorts of happenings with arguments and anger, working together to survive the chaos, sharing the electricity, travel and food money. The memory of the birthday party for that hole and the consequent health and Safety incident is as fresh now as it was the day it took place.
I used to have photographs of some of the devastation, but of course, they got lost along the way along with the wonderful computer that was gifted to the Leith Circle Shop and lasted for four and a half years through everything including explosions, experimental creations and power cuts.
The Leith Tram-works became a celebrity event, talked about, I am sure, much further afield than Leith, I can tell you. I am sure that more newspapers were bought during the period than were before or after the worst was over.
The Leith Circle shop was, central to the devastation with The Bed Shop straight across the road, The Driving Centre a block down the road, The Leith Sports Shop, Leith Cycle Shop (that`s where the birthday hole was), Leith Barbers Shop, Arkay Imaging, the Morrocan Cafe, the Leith Flower Shop and last, but not least, the original Valvona Crolla Deli. There are a few Italian Restaurant businesses that were badly affected by The Tram Works.
April, 2008, springs to mind as the month in which one of the most passionate, involved local community meetings I have ever attended took place. All the businesses had come with an agenda to put forward and all of them were going to be heard. You see, that’s the way it is in Leith, none of this talk behind closed doors, let’s get it out in the open, deal with the problems, and find solutions. What came out of that meeting? Well, the Leith Business Association, what else, run by a dedicated group of people who really kept businesses up to date, met once a month, constituted themselves properly and invited representatives from all relevant groups to the meetings. It was because of the Leith Business Association that communication between the businesses, builders and council became clearer. It was because of the Leith Business Association that some things that were on the cards to happen didn’t and the reinstatement of the roads and pavements is as good as it is at the moment, at least from Pilrig Church to the foot of the Walk. The Leith Business Association was in place until 2014. Unfortunately, by this time there was a much smaller group in place and the chairman was not really well enough to continue.
One of the proudest moments for me as a mother was listening to my son aged 10 describe the doughnut effect, where because of lack of ability to actually get to your local shops, you decide to shop further afield and get used to doing that, meaning that the shops at the centre of the doughnut die because of lack of footfall and the outer layer or retail outlets on the outer edges take over and thrive. We actually used his description in an Evening News Article that came out in September, 2008.
That was then, and we all sort of survived the struggle. I am sure I am not the only one still bearing the scars of that time and I have not quite been able to find proper work since, although I have not stopped working.
When I do look back I realise that the best year for Leith Circle was 2011, after the worst of the Tram-Works and before it had to close in June 2012. We had an amazing year. We were a Leith Festival venue, a Fringe Festival venue, and an Edinburgh Mela venue. Something I will never forget.
We really were such a powerful community survival network and the shop was an incredible hub that saw people from completely different backgrounds, just get on with it, become friends, share work, social, creative and learning time. We are all still connected the Leith Circle Community. All going in different directions most of the time but we do still get together, and,…..City of Edinburgh Council, we still work in the background for the good of Edinburgh Communities.
So, back to today and why I am writing this. The undernoted photo explains everything. Are the council still trying to get trams running down Leith Walk, or was the crochet there as a reminder of that earlier time. The burger vendor who has been at the New Kirkgate Centre since the beginning in 2008 did not seem to remember who put it there but there was a smile on his face when he said I don`t know!!!!!
I think we should do something to raise funds just in case. Is it possible for us all to get together again one more time for Leith, for the businesses, for the people belonging to and adopted by Leith. Could we hold just one more event? Do you think it would be possible, celebrate survival, celebrate the birthday for the hole party, celebrate the community here and at the same time create a JUST IN CASE FUND, just in case. Please let me know.
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