Wester Hailes has had a relatively short history as a community with its 40th birthday still a couple of years away. But, as the Our Place In Time partners are very aware, much has happened over the course of just a few decades, with the physical appearance of the area showing dramatic change. Almost as soon as the high rise blocks were completed, campaigns arose to have them demolished as people faced the reality of living in accommodation that was not fit for purpose with both design faults and material flaws creating poor living conditions. The community mobilised, lobbied and demonstrated to highlight their situation and to fight for help. Throughout this time, the Sentinel, Wester Hailes’ community newspaper was on hand to document progress and crucially to take photographs.
It is these photos that form the heart of the Our Place In Time exhibition that was launched yesterday at the Healthy Living Centre as part of the Community Connections Festival being supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The photos form a vivid timeline, clearly showing the massive demolition and rebuild project that led to Wester Hailes’ current shape. But they also show the vibrancy of community life during this time with images of festival days, group activities and local decision making in process. Whilst one story line around the high rises is about the poor housing quality and the lack of surrounding infrastructure, the images of the blocks also evoke a range of other memories from people who lived there, often as children and who remember the sense of community and comradeship they shared with neighbours and those living nearby. These memories are often most effectively captured via social media and have led to complex multi stranded and sometimes contradictory narratives about life in Wester Hailes during that period.
The exhibition will be at the Healthy Living Centre for the next couple of months.