Film has played a major role during the Community Connections Festival, probably more than was anticipated by the Our Place In Time partners when the fortnight’s activities were being planned. Film was always envisaged as an element, with the Our Place In Time poetry reading and of course the film night to mark the end of the festival. But other activities were filmed too, creating a great digital record of the festival and the people who were part of it.
By the time Channel 4 arrived to commission the film The Huts in 1984, the Wester Hailes community had formed a Media Forum to challenge negative portrayals of the area. They knew from experience that there was such a thing as bad publicity and local residents were tired of the community being used as a backdrop for sensationalised issues of the day. The Huts showed a different side to life in Wester Hailes and has remained a firm favourite with many replays at community events over the years.
It was therefore very encouraging to have so many positive films made about Wester Hailes over one fortnight during Community Connections, from the filming of the poetry walk, to STV Edinburgh covering the Paint It Back session with the Edinburgh Sketcher. The landscape has changed radically, but the local community remains connected to its activist roots. The films made captured all of this but also showed a sense of confidence that there had been many changes for the better and Wester Hailes is definitely looking forward as well as being connected to its past.
Let’s Meet At The Underpass
STV Edinburgh visits Wester Hailes
As part of the Community Connections Festival, a group of tenants from Cassiltoun Housing Association in Castlemilk, Glasgow came to visit Wester Hailes. Cassiltoun have been working with the Glasgow School of Art on ACCORD, a project focused on recording heritage assets that meant something to the community. So they were keen to visit Wester Hailes to compare notes with residents there and to experience a social history walk. Members of Our Place In Time and other residents were keen to learn from Cassiltoun about 3D printing and to have the Totem Pole printed out as a smaller scale 3D model.
There have been connections between the two communities in the past so it was great for both communities to meet up again. Despite being on different sides of the country, they share much in common, in particular the journeys made to bring about improvements and battles faced. Wester Hailes is younger as a community but the video of images from across the years clearly resonated with the experience of the Cassiltoun activists and there was lively discussion and a strengthening of links between the two areas generated during the day. The Wester Hailes residents are now keen to visit Cassiltoun in return to learn more about their history and the regeneration efforts made there by the community.
You can find more information about this visit in the Digital Sentinel.
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.
Despite grey skies and chilly conditions, people still turned out in force for the 2015 Wester Hailes Fun Run/ Walk. Launching the Community Connections Festival, the Fun Run is a great example of how social history and shared memories can be tapped into to encourage present day activity. Now in its 4th year, the Fun Run was started back up after some of the Fun Run photos from the 1980s and 1990s were published on the From There To Here blog and people remembered what a great event it had been. Local residents and organisations got together, planned a new route and restarted the event, keeping the original aim to make it an occasion everyone could join in with.
This year, serious runners took part alongside toddlers in buggies around a 5k route that utilises the pathways and bridges around Wester Hailes from the Calders to Hailesland before heading up to Clovenstone. Everyone received a medal for completing the route. It is very much a community celebration event with people cheering the participants on round the route and it has generated a lot of good will and positive feedback locally. All the participants also received a copy of the paper Digital Sentinel promoting all the Community Connections Festival activities as part of their Finishers’ Bag contents.
Connecting Past To Present
The Connected Community Festival programme is now ready to view! There’s a wide range of activities on offer. The fortnight launches with the popular Wester Hailes Fun Run which was brought back to life after photos and memories of the old run were featured on the From There To Here website. Also on offer during the fortnight is a fantastic exhibition of photos showing Wester Hailes over the years and its transformation. Held at the Healthy Living Centre, it features photos from the Sentinel, Wester Hailes’ former community newspaper now being reborn as the Digital Sentinel which was supported by a previous Connected Communities grant. Other activities include history walks, one focused on poetry with a famous former resident of Wester Hailes Colin Bartie, and one featuring art drawn during the walk by the Edinburgh Sketcher. The Festival will also facilitate a visit from Cassiltoun Housing Association and the ACCORD project who will bring their knowledge and skills of photogrammetry and laser scanning to record items of interest in the neighbourhood and producing 3D printed mini totem poles. This visit will provide an opportunity for community partners to share knowledge and experience. The two weeks will be rounded off with a film night at WHALE Arts Agency with films of the area past and present celebrating the variety and depth of community life. The full programme can be found here.
This Distributed Festival within the Connected Communities Distributed Festival is being organised by the Our Place in Time partner organisations along with community activist Eoghan Howard, Dr Peter Matthews of University of Stirling, Cassiltoun Housing Association, and ACCORD. The aims of the event, suggested by the community partners are to:
- Develop the outputs from previous Connected Communities projects
- Develop links between the various projects in Wester Hailes, partners and organisations in Castlemilk in Glasgow and the ACCORD project
- Develop further connections to academics by advertising it widely through the Connected Communities network
- Complement the asset-mapping and community engagement processes being developed through community planning in Scotland, such as the Open Space process of engagement in Wester Hailes
Proposals were invited by the Arts and Humanities Research Council earlier this year for activities to be part of its Connected Communities Festival 2015 which this year has been spread across two weeks to reflect its focus on widening and deepening community engagement with Connected Communities and AHRC funded research. These could undertake a wide range of community engagement activities which demonstrated they were co-produced between researchers, communities and other partners. The Our Place In Time partners wanted to create a sense of celebration utilising a festival/ gala style to increase engagement and in recognition that Wester Hailes used to produce highly successful carnival days and gala weeks. The AHRC grant has enabled the partners to put together a diverse programme that will bring different groups of people together as well as sharing skills, knowledge and experience across the area.
A variety of events/ activities is being planned as part of the Wester Hailes Festival including an exhibition, “Our Place In Time” poetry/ video shoot, “Paint It Back” history walk, and film night. Cassiltoun Housing Association and ACCORD will visit Wester Hailes during the Festival and will use photogrammetry and laser scanning to record items of interest in the area and produce 3D printed mini totem poles. This will enable two different communities to share different skills and learn from each other during the day and subsequently through ongoing online contact.
The Digital Sentinel will be used to promote the Festival through producing a paper print run that will be distributed throughout the area. A paper version was produced last month to publicise the Open Space event and was extremely well received with many people sharing stories of when the Sentinel used to delivered weekly. The Festival will begin with the Wester Hailes Fun Run on Sunday 14th June. This successful locally run event was restarted four years ago after memories of the original Fun Run were shared in the From There To Here blog, demonstrating how effective local engagement and interaction can be with digital media and where it can lead. The Festival will run until Saturday 26th June.
The Our Place In Time blog will feature regular updates, news and reports to record the progress of the Wester Hailes Community Connections 2015 experience.
The range of Our Place In Time projects represents a unique and exciting partnership between community-run and led organisations, universities, and research institutions that harnesses and develops new technology and social media to explore the past, present, and possible in a neighbourhood.
The research partners were predominantly funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) Connected Communities programme. Led by Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh, all partners were keen to explore the social bonds and bridges that make up the community in Wester Hailes and how current and past residents’ memories being shared on Facebook and elsewhere supported these.
The community and community organisations brought fresh ideas, a lot of hard work, trust, an ability to say “no”, and a lot of fantastic memories of times past in Wester Hailes. The initial investment, in money and energy, has led to a wide range of sustainable projects that are a showcase for both Wester Hailes in Edinburgh and across the UK, and for partnership working between research institutions and communities.
We’re sending out the newsletters this week and we’ve put a display in the reception area explaining how to access the site. You can see the newsletter here at Prospect Newsletter July 2011.