The Leither - Issue 157

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Priceless Issue 157

Leither

“The youngest child soldier was a five year old in Uganda...” John Galloway, artist


2 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 157


40 years of excellence

Editor at Large

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hen I first moved down to central Leith in the early 1990s I rented a room on Bernard St. I had few needs, a couple of good places for grub and a couple of pubs - I was a student at that point, working nights as a chef round the Shore area, so late opening was essential. The Port ‘o’ Leith (wonderful Mary) and the Old Seaman’s Mission (now The Mal) then The Angel, was a sharp and useful introduction to, ahem, ‘all things Leith’. For grub, I’d get up early afternoon and head down to Tower St for breakfast in the mock Tudor cottage frequented by truckers and fly by nights, such as yours truly. The brightest shining light, my lodestar, was literally and metaphorically Pierinos. On dark winter nights it offered a veritable conversation of light, cutting through Leith’s mercurial weather. Pierino and Lucia were lovely hosts, the fish & chips were (and are) top notch, and I do believe I recall the current multi award winners Adriano and Domenico peeling spuds. 30 years on the same warm light enveloped me and the dog as we walked past Pierinos. The wonderful Andy Chung was bursting his lungs and the place was buzzing, prosecco glasses clinked, pizza boxes flapped, and Stevie the taxi driver told me it was their 40th anniversary and they were raising money for St Columba’s Hospice. With a sense of unease, I realised I had been invited… Mea culpa as ever. Anyhoo, I’m here now on this page. Papà Pierino, arrived here in 1969 when he was just 19 from a little town between Rome and Naples and worked for a few years before bringing Lucia over and marrying her. They established this business in 1983 with the help of their young family. Initially named The Tally Tower Fish & Chicken Bar after the Martello tower in the Docks, the couple changed the name to Pierinos in the early 1990s. “My father never forced us into the family business. He gave us the option to do something else if we wanted, but my

brother and I have worked here since we were 10 or 11 so it was natural for us. There is a big Italian community in Edinburgh and we all do the same thing, so it felt right for us to continue the tradition. We took over from our parents in 2000, Adriano and I run it with our wives Diana and Tina and all of our kids help, which the customers love.” Domenico describes his father as a ‘great, hard-working and fair man’ and added that everyone who knew him had a kind word to say. To celebrate the family eatery’s 40th birthday, after opening in 1983, the Crolla’s decided to have a party while also raising money for St Columba’s Hospice. His sons wanted to honour their father’s memory while giving back to their community. The hospice gave their father incredible palliative care during his last weeks. “Which allowed us to focus on spending time with him and make sure he was comfortable. He wanted to die at home and we are really grateful they made it happen.” Domenico says that their decision to hold the fundraiser was based on wanting to give back while also celebrating their birthday. They put out an invite on social media and welcomed locals through their doors for a four hour event. As mentioned earlier, Andy Chung played for diners, a raffle was held and gifts were donated by local businesses. Taking place on December 18 2023, the celebration managed to raise £2,968 through both online and in-store donations while the family donated £4,000 of their own money for the hospice. “It was both a celebration of the birthday but also a way of giving back to the hospice and the community,” Domenico continued. “It is one thing being good at your job and putting the long hours in but you have to appreciate the community around you and we have had a lot of support.” n Ê Info: stcolumbashospice.org/ pierinos.co.uk

Contents 4

Are we more concerned with a ship of grain disappearing than a generation of innocent children? Asks Graham Ross

12

Rodger Evans says: After a Samaritans shift I experience the world more vividly, more pungently, more noisily

15

Kennedy Wilson on why the best dystopian novels capture something of the present day

24

These acts of altruism show the worth and value of Citadel to Leith in a way bean counters can’t Gordon Munro

Leither Published by: Leither Publishing Editor: William Gould ( 07891 560 338  editor@leithermagazine.com Sub Editor: Dot Mathie Design:  design@leithermagazine.com Advertising: Sue Laing ( 07772 059 516  sue@leithermagazine.com Contacts:  heather@leithermagazine.com 8 leithermagazine.com Cartoonist: Gordon Riach Illustrator: Bernie Reid

On dark winter nights Pierinos windows offers a conversation of light

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The Pierinos crew with a heavy cheque for St Columba’s Hospice

Cover: A Child’s Combat Jacket, 2022, Leaves, Size Age 5. Photograph by Wendy Law

Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 3


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time for looking ahead and casting our eyes to a future which none of us can predict, and which will undoubtedly disappear just as quickly as it descended on 1 January. Although predictions tend to be useless and foolhardy, there are some things which everyone can see coming down the line and inevitably, strange things start happening in anticipation of them. Take elections. This year, there will be a general election in the UK, either in May or October, depending on when Rishi Sunak finally accepts the inevitable that his rotten, useless, and talentless party will be getting booted out of office whenever the election is held. The likely beneficiaries of the Tories defeat will be a Labour party which in recent years has become nothing more than a beige shadow of the Tories. In November, the USA will hold its election to determine who will be the next president. The likely candidates in the final run-off will be a deluded, megalomaniac criminal, and an 81 year old man who finds it hard to navigate a set of stairs never mind the geopolitical shitstorm currently raging across the globe. The criminal is currently favourite to gain office. And what usually happens when incumbent political parties are facing electoral oblivion? That’s right, they start dropping bombs all over the place. Well, actually, only in places which suit their twisted narratives. In November 2023, Yemeni Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, began to attack and disrupt shipping traffic in the Red Sea. Their targets were ships which were either Israeli-owned, or heading to Israeli ports. Their stated motivation for these attacks was in retaliation for the Israeli government’s indiscriminate 4 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 157

response to the Hamas attack in northern Israel in October last year. The Israeli government is currently facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice which have been brought by South Africa. The majority of Houthi attacks have been focussed on commercial shipping. The Red Sea is a conduit for at least onetenth of the world’s seaborne trade. So far, the Houthi attacks on shipping have not resulted in any deaths, that is if you exclude the number of Houthis who have been killed in retaliatory bombings by the governments of the UK and the US amongst others. What is galling about all of this is that both the UK and US governments have stood side by side with Israel despite the entire world watching a genocide unfold in Gaza in which tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children have been slaughtered in what is nauseatingly described as an act of self-defence. But as soon as anyone seeks to stand side by side with the Palestinian people, they are viewed as terrorists and therefore must be dealt with accordingly. Heaven forbid that a few tankers carrying valuable commodities are hijacked in defiance of a genocide. We have to bomb those responsible immediately. However when, according to the EuroMed Human Rights Monitor, over 10,000 infants and children have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, the UK and the US continue to support the perpetrators stating that they have the right to

Are we more concerned with a ship of grain disappearing than a generation of innocent children?

Graham Ross

And so here we are, another new year… “defend themselves”. It is beyond gross. I’m not for one minute saying that the Houthi rebels attacks should be ignored or not dealt with, but who gets to decide when one attack is an act of terror and another, altogether more murderous attack is politically justified? Are we really more concerned with a ship full of grain disappearing than we are about an entire generation of innocent children being wiped out? Right now, it seems that we are. And what better way for ailing governments to show that they’re not finished yet than to get planes in the sky and start dropping bombs all over the middle east? It’s worked before, hasn’t it? No it hasn’t. It never works. And it won’t work this time. The Houthi rebels have already vowed to continue attacking ships in the Red Sea only hours after the UK and US carried out strikes targeting the group in Yemen. President Biden has stated that he will not hesitate to direct further, what he calls, “measures” in order to - and listen up here - “protect our people and the free flow of international commerce as necessary.” There you have it - commerce trumps innocent children. You don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s going to happen here. The allied bombing campaign may create a temporary hiatus in the Houthi shipping attacks, but there will be further attacks carried out across the middle east and perhaps even beyond, as long as Israel and its allies continue their rampage in Gaza. The conflict has already spread to Lebanon, and with tensions increasing by the day, it won’t be long before Iraq, Iran and Syria could become embroiled in what will be a much wider war. Time for cool heads then? No. Send for Top Gun… There’s an election around the corner. n


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Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 5


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“It looks er... jolly simple, doesn’t it?” “It’s, er, jolly deadly, old boy”

t was Friday April 24th, 1964, when my Dad and I grabbed the number 8 bus from Pennywell and headed for Rodney Street. Our destination was the old ABC Ritz cinema, and the film we were about to see, was Zulu. The film had previously premiered in London on January 22nd (the anniversary of the actual battle depicted in the film) but this was its very first showing in Edinburgh. It was the first time I had ever queued to get into a cinema, and that night, the picture house was packed. Like many a young boy growing up in the monochrome early 1960s, I was enthralled by the colour, action

Unfortunately, amongst the wokefueled naysayers of today, accusations of racism are often levelled at the film. This allegation crops up with tiresome regularity, making you wonder if the majority of the critical accusers have ever sat and watched the film all the way through. Zulu doesn’t linger on the geopolitics of why the British were there in the first place (it’s briefly mentioned, but not dwelt upon) it’s simply a story of grim survival. In which both sides battle valiantly against one another under the blazing African sun. I’m no military historian, but I would hazard a guess that the bulk of the British soldiers who fought for Queen Victoria during the 19th century in Africa, India, China and many other countries were barely educated with no real grasp of world politics. Which is to say they would also be totally ignorant as to why they were sent to such far flung

and spectacle of the film. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Over the years I have revisited Zulu many times, and it never fails to excite and overwhelm you with its thundering battle scenes, memorable characters, John Barry’s powerful music score and stunning Technicolor cinematography. All filmed in the natural splendour of the stunning Drakensberg mountains in South Africa. Surprisingly Stanley Baker, a box office star of the day, was the main driving force behind getting the film made. Being a proud and patriotic Welshman, his country’s participation in the story of the battle of Rorke’s Drift made it an immensely attractive proposition for him – both as an actor and a first-time producer. Of course, it’s also notable for introducing the young Michael Caine in his first starring role, and he made an immediate impression, surprisingly. as the posh upper crust officer.

places to fight against the indigenous populations. The film shows this aspect of a common soldier’s bewilderment and confusion better than most. “There’s not to reason why…there’s but to do or die”. Lord Tennyson’s poetic words appear quite appropriate on this occasion. Another aspect that differentiates the film from many others, is the genuine respect and dignity given to the Zulu nation during the telling of the story. The Zulus were (and no doubt still are) a proud and brave warrior nation, so on this occasion, they were not depicted as mindless savages, rather a courageous and effective fighting unit. Apart from the furious conflagrations, there is one brief scene that I recall with some clarity. Prior to the commencement of the main battle. The sight of Stanley Baker’s hand shaking with fear as he attempts to load a bullet into the chamber of his pistol, haunts me still…

Lawrence Lettice celebrates the 60th Anniversary of the film Zulu

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Surprisingly Stanley Baker, a box office star of the day, was the main driving force behind getting the film made

It may be coincidence but a similar image afflicted Tom Hanks in Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan just before the landing on Omaha beach. One amusing recollection I have in connection with the film, occurred throughout much of 1964, when the mass attack on Rorke’s Drift was enthusiastically re-enacted on the playing fields of my old primary school – usually during lunchtimes. A couple of dozen of the older boys would stand firm, like a pre-teen thin red line, while dozens of the younger boys (of which I was one) would whoop and holler, making loud Zulu chants while charging towards them. As expected, all hell broke loose but, from memory, there were no serious injuries incurred. I suppose it did make for a slight change from kicking a football around. One of the film’s actors (Glynn Edwards, who played Corporal Allen)

once kept a flat down at The Shore. A possibly apocryphal story doing the rounds at the time, involved the late actor strolling in Leith one day where a cheeky local shouted over to him – “Hello there! Is Zulu on again tonight!” Joking aside, it’s a film that continues to grow in stature, in no way does it glorify war. Rather, with authentic realism, it shows the raw courage of both sides. By the end of the film there is great relief, a sense of physical and emotional exhaustion, and a palpable feeling of mutual respect between both soldier and native. What Stanley Baker and director Cy Endfield achieved was a quite remarkable film. Which has stood the test of time, as not only a gripping action epic, but a deep and thoughtful antiwar film in which the human costs of warfare is laid bare for all to see. It remains one of the greatest British films ever made. n Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 7


The Circle of Nostalgia For as long as humans have formed into social groups, a recurring pattern has manifested itself writes Tom Wheeler

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ne in which the older and younger generations find themselves at cross purposes over a broad range of issues. The reasons for this are so complex and varied that you could spend years exploring the tensions between ingrained societal norms and the conflicting priorities of a new demographic cohort. Or you could save yourself a load of time by just reading any nostalgia meme shared by boomers on Facebook. You know the ones. Rambling, chronologically dubious lists – usually in all caps, and always in an indescribably hideous font – of arbitrarily recalled details of a perceived shared childhood. Hardy perennials on these lists include playing out in the street (back lanes preferred) until nightfall, mild to medium corporal punishment, identical beige meals served daily, and being restricted to three TV channels (this, incidentally, is the appropriate point to insert a reference to Saturday afternoon wrestling on ITV). The list will then conclude with some emphatic variation of “…AND IT NEVER DID US ANY HARM!!!”. What folly, scoff the young. You’ll never catch us living in the past so pathetically. Except, of course, you eventually will. The medium will be different, as will the specific subject matter, but the premise will be identical. The world around you will change in ways you struggle to comprehend fully, and your default response will be to regurgitate a slew of childhood memories – mostly awful ones, conveniently reappraised – in a desperate throwback to a society you understood slightly better. Now, as a person in the throes of middle age, I really ought to have a foot in each camp here. In fact, I should be ideally placed to comment sagely on both the ludicrous wistfulness of the generation above and the callow idealism of the one below. My physique and mental agility might resemble those of an octogenarian; but my intellectual maturity and financial profile would befit someone a third of my age. But it doesn’t seem to work quite like that. Instead, I’m caught in the worst of both worlds: old enough to realise that most of the things I believed in my twenties were demonstrable nonsense, but too young to have blindly convinced myself that those currently in their twenties are dafter still. 8 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 157

Overall, my sympathies lean towards the young’uns, it can’t be fun to be dismissed as feckless wasters

Overall, my sympathies tend to lean towards the young’uns – it can’t be fun to be dismissed as feckless wasters by a generation who bought their homes outright with spare change from their paper rounds – but every now and then, I’ll catch myself tacitly agreeing with some element or other of the Universal Boomer Meme. At the moment, it’s the threeTV-channel thing. Now, I had the comparative luxury of a four-channel childhood, but the principle largely holds true. (Incidentally, I was 19 when a fifth analogue TV channel arrived in 1997, complete with grand fanfare and fuzzy picture. In retrospect, this seems as chronologically improbable as your average nostalgia meme, given that satellite TV and the internet were already taking hold by then, but there you go.) Now, I’m not for a moment advocating a return to a three channel pseudoutopia. But I am very much of a group that grew up with strictly limited choices of information and entertainment, before being presented quite suddenly with almost unlimited ones. Those who grew up in an online society are, naturally enough, well placed to navigate it. People a couple of generations older might be inclined to steer clear of all such dangerous nonsense – other than Facebook, of course, the one-stop shop for the promulgation of nostalgia memes. My generation, on the other hand, fully appreciates the power and significance of a connected world, while

lacking most of the skills and instincts to realise even a tiny fraction of its potential. The more choices unfold in front of us, the more we’re confronted with our deep-seated inability even to begin to narrow them down. So what we do in practice is marvel at having so much of humanity’s accumulated knowledge at our fingertips, fail entirely to decide upon which bit we’d most like to explore, and end up watching old YouTube clips of the wrestling on ITV. Meanwhile, the specific life skill that made us feel superior to our parents – that is, the ability to programme a VHS recorder – is finding fewer and fewer practical applications. And my point is? Well, there’s a question. When generations do battle, as they always have, there rarely is much of a point. So for want of anything more practical, I’ll probably get to work on my own later-life memes, for when I inexplicably but inevitably become convinced that mine was the finest generation of all. TETRIS ON THE GAMEBOY! BLURRY CHANNEL 5!! PROGRAMMING THE VHS!!! BLUR OR OASIS?!?!? (To which the correct answer is, of course, Pulp.) Once that’s done, I’ll get ready to shuffle off my mortal coil; but not before passing the baton on to the next generation of nostalgists, who will demand to know “WHO REMEMBERS 4G?!?!?”. And no doubt it will never have done them any harm. ■


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DeidreBrock

A world free of monstrous weapons

MP for Edinburgh North and Leith Ben Allison

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he National Museum of Scotland is launching a free exhibition this summer highlighting the country’s front-line role in the Cold War and exploring its ‘visible and invisible legacies’. Cold War Scotland will bring together nearly 200 objects and tell the stories of Scots whose lives and communities were shaped by the advent of atomic power and the lingering threat of attack or nuclear disaster. The exhibition will also shine a light on Scotland’s rich and proud history of Cold War-era activism and resistance. This began in the early 1960s with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s protests and civil disobedience against the arrival of US nuclear submarines, armed with Polaris missiles, in the Holy Loch near Dunoon. Operations at the base were disrupted by marches, sit-ins, and blockades, as thousands spoke out against the weapons and what they saw as a threat to peace and a violation of Scottish sovereignty. I’ll be interested to see if the Ding Dong Dollar songwriting project features in the exhibition. Music was at the core of anti-Polaris activism, with the movement giving rise to over fifty protest songs. These combined folk and popular melodies with sharp lyrics, like the chorus, “Ye canny spend a dollar when ye’re deid,” from the movement’s eponymous anthem. This anti-nuclear tradition should inspire and motivate us today, with the UK’s weapons programme recently coming under renewed scrutiny. It emerged in December that Rishi Sunak, clearly desperate and void of ideas, tried to strike a secret deal with Dominic Cummings to spearhead the Tories’ upcoming election strategy. No agreement was reached, but Cummings said one of his conditions was a guarantee to address “the scandal of nuclear weapons infrastructure” which

is “rotting”, “a dangerous disaster”, and a “budget nightmare of hard-to-believe and highly classified proportions”, with “tens of billions secretly in the hole”. Dangerous and rotting are not words you want to hear associated with one of the world’s deadliest nuclear arsenals, lying just 30 miles from Glasgow. Cummings, for all his faults, has been at the very heart of government and seen ‘under the bonnet’ of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). His comments should be taken very seriously. They also confirm and vindicate long-held concerns many of us voiced repeatedly. The SNP is pushing for the UK Government to make an urgent statement on whether people living near nuclear bases in Scotland remain safe. We already know that the Vanguard class nuclear submarines are in poor condition, with only three out of the

The concerns of the antiPolaris activists were prescient and remain deeply relevant today four currently operational. In 2022, the ageing fleet nearly led to ‘the worst Royal Navy disaster since World War Two’, according to the UK Defence Journal. I’ve been on the MoD’s case about these issues for years, pressing for answers on the dumping of weapons and radioactive waste, and declining safety at its nuclear bases on the Clyde. In 2022, the number of nuclear safety incidents at Faslane and Coulport leapt by a third. And the number of the more significant category B and C incidents exceeded the total for the previous three years combined. Part of the problem is we don’t know exactly what these categories mean. The MoD won’t provide any detail

Faslane Peace Camp

of individual incidents, stating they could include “equipment failures, human error, procedural failings, documentation shortcoming or nearmisses.” We have a right to know the nature of these incidents. What are the effects of these safety lapses on the people who work at the bases, those living nearby or on the environment? It shouldn’t take the digging of individual MPs or journalists to get piecemeal bits of information from the MoD; the public deserves transparency. As long as there are nuclear warheads in our waters I’ll keep asking questions, but ultimately I want to see a Scotland and a world free of these monstrous weapons. Depressingly though, both the Tories and Labour support their renewal. Replacing Trident will cost hundreds of billions of pounds, money which would be far better used to tackle the cost of living crisis, lift people out of poverty and address the biggest security threat we face, the climate emergency. We could shift to life-affirming investments in our people, our renewables potential, our health and education systems, our social security, our infrastructure, our research and development, and so much more. The concerns raised by the antiPolaris activists in the Cold War era were prescient and remain deeply relevant today. Perhaps the most famous song to come out of the movement is Hamish Henderson’s anti-war, anti-imperialist, Freedom Come All Ye. Henderson described his iconic anthem as “expressing my hopes for Scotland, and for the survival of humanity on this beleaguered planet.” His words resonate as strongly today as when he wrote the song 64 years ago. ■ Ê Twitter: @DeidreBrock Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 11


Which comes first,

music words?

the or the S

ongwriters are often asked this in interviews. My question would be but what if they’re the same thing? Why don’t we start with a spot of time travel? It’s 1995, two years before New Labour wins a landslide election. Britpop is all over the radio, TV and print media. The art world is being shaken up by pickled sharks, unmade beds, and a Sarah Lucas piece called Two Fried Eggs And A Kebab. And a singer from Sheffield is copyrighting what will come to be known as geek chic. She came from Greece. She had a thirst for knowledge. A song from another era. She studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s College. Democracy, or demos, to get all Greek about it, means common people. But I had to start it somewhere, so it started there. This isn’t a supermarket, the point of departure in Jarvis Cocker’s lyric, it’s a non-descript room. We’re jumping forward now to 2007. The contrast of children’s art on the walls and drab furniture suggests either a council office, or the least loved corner of a nursery. One of the paintings depicts a family home in front of which sits a car with a red and blue light. Dad is being marched toward that car. Welcome to the main meeting room in Edinburgh’s children’s hearings office. Three of us sit one side of the table, three the other. The star of the show is seated between two prison guards. She’s the mother of a little boy who’s currently being looked after elsewhere. When she came in she was handcuffed. She still is. She says five wordsI don’t want to leave. These words could be spoken from the bottom of a well. And you suspect that’s where her psyche dwells rather than in this formal-informal space with a boardroom feel and a plastic fire engine in one corner. I don’t want to leave. Where doesn’t she want to leave? This building, this city, this country? The panel member to my right leans over and whispersShe said she doesn’t want to live. Ah… 12 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 157

After a Samaritans shift I can experience the world more vividly, more pungently, more noisily

I’ve not tuned in. I’ve not anticipated this. I’ve not scribbled anything on the piece of paper in front of me that helps. The picture fades. We jump forward again in time. It’s the day after tomorrow. An office near Haymarket, the late afternoon shift. A phone rings. Except it doesn’t ring. A light on the otherwise standard landline phone pulses with a red flash to show it’s ringing. On the third ring – or flash – I pick up. I don’t say hello. I don’t say my name. I don’t make a fuss. I say five words. Words matter, right? Words are what connect us. Words are a key component of what makes us human. The novelist and art critic John Berger said— What I would mean by “truth” is a question of the precision of the words, of their sequences, how the spaces between them encourage the reader to come as close as possible to the experience described. Words are so often used in the opposite sense, as a

screen of diversion. It’s the struggle towards truthfulness which is the same whether one is writing a poem, a novel, or an argument. Words count, then. But what about tone? This isn’t the time for buttonedup formality, or gossiping by the water cooler, or flashing a Disney smile with Colgate sincerity. I tried out all these during my training. Make it less like that and more like, well, make it more like a latenight DJ, I was told. A late-night DJ it is. I say five words. Samaritans. Can I help you? The conversation that follows could be about loneliness, grief, addiction, anxiety, abuse, trauma, suicide and more. The more that comes from the lived experience. To use that anaemic phrase. The more that speaks of the human condition at its most fragile. The more that emerges like a whisper from the bottom of a well. People will share with Samaritans their deepest feelings and their darkest thoughts. The burden they carry. The broken pieces of their hearts. The troubles that would make a country singer blush. But around the edges of that conversation you might find something lighter. A clue to the caller’s character. It could be their humour, their resilience, their passion, their past, dare I say their future, if they’re able to see a future. And I’m not betraying any secrets to say I’ve had callers talk about honour among Hell’s Angels, the musical preferences of white witches, David Bowie’s film career, the words for cat and dog in Hindi, the stormy majesty of JMW Turner, showtunes from South Pacific, and the iconography of Ange Postecoglou’s jumper. After a Samaritans shift I can experience the world more vividly, more pungently, more noisily. Not unlike in the Wizard Of Oz when the film turns from black‘n’white to technicolour. My question for Judy Garland, for Oscar Hammerstein, for Bowie, for that blushing country singer, for Jarvis, would be which comes first, the music or the words? n Rodger Evans Ê Info: www.samaritans.org


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The best dystopian novels capture something of the present day, says Kennedy Wilson

T

hink of the IVF babies and Oxycontin-style ‘soma’ of Brave New World. But the novel that best reflects where we are in 2024 was set 40 years ago: George Orwell’s 1984. The book has had a chequered history yet remains on the top ‘100 novels of all time’ lists. It has one of the most chilling opening sentences in literary history: ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen’. Expressions and phrases from the book (many trademarked by the Orwell estate) have long entered the language: Big Brother, Room 101, the Ministry of Truth, doublethink, Newspeak, 2+2=5, Thought Police. 1984 has been a musical, a ballet, a radio and TV play. It came out of copyright in 2021. Orwellian is in the dictionary as an adjective describing a situation that’s destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. In the year 1984 it was made into a big budget movie starring Richard Burton and John Hurt (Eurhythmics did the theme song). Orwell’s masterwork inspired musicians from Bowie to Marilyn Manson. And 1984 was the year Margaret Atwood wrote her own dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. The same year Apple Computers’ TV commercial (directed by Ridley Scott) promised that ‘1984 won’t be like 1984’ with the Apple Mac promising to smash the Big Brother dominance of Microsoft. For decades the book has been a high school text, troubled adolescents seeing themselves in the depressed main character Winston Smith so desperate to break free from the suffocating ideology and conventions of his time. Smith’s tedious office job involves re-writing historical records and he longs to buck the system. Now, author Sandra Newman’s novel Julia (Granta) tells the story as seen from a woman’s perspective, namely that of Winston Smith’s love interest Julia Worthing. The book admirably captures the mood and feel of the original but develops the story in intriguing and enjoyable ways. The Financial Times called it ‘a richly envisaged frightening dystopia, wholly alive to Orwell’s text (Julia) stands alone as an original and deeply fascinating feminist work’. Readers who first encountered the book at school might think it dusty and dated. Orwell wrote it on the Scottish island of Jura in 1948 and it captures a lot of the austerity of bombed-out London. It also leant greatly on the totalitarian turmoil of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. 1984 and Julia have huge resonances today. We live in a world of constant surveillance, the nanny state, socialmedia pile-ons, human rights abuses, data harvesting, ChatGPT, AI, deleted WhatsApp messages, facial recognition

1984 & Julia resonate today technology, racial profiling, podcasting rabble rousers, smart sensors, shadow bans, Twitterstorms, draconian data protection laws, spy drones, cancel culture, webcams and algorithms. We have the removal of politically incorrect words and phrases from reprints of classic books like those of Roald Dahl with ugly, lazy and fat changed to words less judgemental. The cult of personality in politics in 1984 is reflected in Boris and Trump and Putin. Today’s party faithful often seem to support their political representatives, no matter what wrong they do. Countries from Xi Jinping’s China to Kim Jong Un’s North Korea to Orbán’s Hungary revel in demagoguery lifted direct from the 1984 playbook. For a time in the noughties China was relaxing its autocratic hold on its people. There was a new-found entrepreneurialism and the system allowed a certain amount of dissent and artistic freedom. Now things have changed and the country is more authoritarian than ever. Dissidents in China have nicknamed their leader Xitler. 1984’s dystopian world revolves around armies of workers in a rigid hierarchy where no-one dares speak (or think) out of turn. The system is not to be questioned. Telescreens in people’s homes drone on endlessly. The government’s Ministry of Truth

Wholly alive to Orwell’s text (Julia) stands alone as an original and deeply fascinating feminist work

churns out fake news. Workers have a regular, cathartic Two Minutes Hate break where they are encouraged to rant and rave, troll-like, in front of a screen. Newspeak is a category of neologisms where words are stripped of meaning or, worse, given contradictory meanings ideal for spreading confusion. It’s not dissimilar to our current culture and gender wars where there’s a new nomenclature with words like bio-cis, demigirl, brosters and where even in official circles words are changed; ‘mother’ replaced with ‘birthing parent’. Back in 2017 prizewinning conceptual artist David Shrigley saw that an Oxfam shop in Swansea had stopped accepting donations of the bestselling conspiracy thriller The Da Vinci Code. He began collecting old copies of the pulp-worthy novel with a view to repurposing them. They were duly recycled and the paper used for a limited-edition reprint of 1984. In October 2023 1,250 copies of Shrigley’s collectable special edition went on sale for £495 each in the same Swansea Oxfam shop. “I am fascinated by the power of books to rewrite our culture, something that Dan Brown and George Orwell have each addressed in their wildly successful works,” Shrigley said. Ê X: @KenWilson84 Ê Info: Sandra Newman’s novel Julia is published by Granta (£18.99) Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 15


A couple of days before going to print, I went to a talk at Edinburgh College of Art about the exhibition, Fankle, by Dunbar based John Galloway. The objects seem very real and familiar, however not all is as it seems: Wendy Law and the artist talked about how the life-like quality has been achieved using an array of different materials, chosen for their symbolic significance to the subject matter. A Child’s Combat Jacket 2022, Leaves, Size Aged 5

J

ohn Galloway was a soldier in the British Army from 1978 to 1991, a mortuary and a medical technician at the University of St Andrews from 1991 to 2005, and he has since worked with the homeless. His previous exhibition Burst is based on the artist’s lived experience and his reflections on conflict and sadness are balanced by beautiful touches of hope and peace. The accounts accompanying each work are deeply personal while also representing the the universal. Through facts and dates given in past media reportage we too

are asked to remember ‘those times’, times that resonate deeply with what is happening in our world today. An essential part of the work is the extraordinary skill involved in the process of making materials; materials are chosen for their symbolism and are sensitively ‘recycled’, newspapers are transformed in to a pair of desert camouflage trousers and a brand of soap becomes a fitting symbol for the erosion of peace. John’s unique ‘way of seeing’ continued in his latest exhibition Fankle at ECA. Wendy Law, Curator

Chain Mail

2017, Made from daisies picked on Doon Hill, 20cm x 20cm

O

verlooking Dunbar, Doon Hill was the site of two battles in 1296 and 1650, it is thought some chainmail is still buried in the ground. The handkerchief was carried by Knights in tournaments as a symbol of a lady’s favour and was also considered a symbol of wealth. they grew larger and larger until, in 1781, Louis XVI issued a decree prohibiting anyone from carrying a handkerchief larger than his own. Daisies are often used to symbolize purity and innocence. In Celtic mythology legend had it that when a child dies the gods sprinkle daisies onto the Earth to comfort the grieving parents.

Ê Info: westbarnsarts.co.uk Ê instagram: //galloway artist

The Personal &

Blades

2015, Wax and cardboard, 9cm x 22cm

I

n the early days of the ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland a favourite weapon, used by youngsters when rioting against the police and the British Army was a potato embedded with razor blades.

“Blades also relates to my time as a night worker in a hostel for homeless people in Edinburgh. I was introduced to a teenager covered from head to toe in tattoos. It was only when he came forward to speak to me that I realised that the ‘tattoos’ were cuts on his skin due to self-harming.” John Galloway


Highway of Death 2017, Matchboxes, 4cm x 40cm

D

uring the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1991, over a period of ten hours allied aircraft bombed a convoy, destroying 2,700 vehicles and killing an official estimate of two hundred people. The road became known as the ‘Highway of Death’. A photograph taken by a Reuters journalist, of the burnt body of an Iraqi soldier sitting at the wheel of his vehicle, was thought too horrific to in American newspapers but was published by the Guardian and a French journal. These matchbox coffins relate to the vehicles. In each box there are ten charred matches relating to the bombardment. The twenty coffins, each with ten matches, represent the two hundred official death toll. The matches are dipped in crude oil from Iraq.

& The Universal Member states

2020, Modelling clay, 34cm x 34cm

T

he United Nations has 193 member states and out of those there are only 22 countries Britain has never invaded. Every barb in

this work represents a colour in the nations’ flags that have been invaded. The colours of the flags are also symbolic. The red signifies the blood shed during the struggle for freedom. Blue represents the sky and sea, yellow the sun, and sand.


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Small Talk on the Walk L

eith Writings edition 103 was launched in November at Out of the Blue, on the anniversary of the amalgamation of Leith with Edinburgh in 1920. The collection takes its title from Mike Cowley’s poem. He says: “I was reflecting on those cumulative acts of rebellion that take place during a thousand everyday exchanges on Leith Walk. Key to the neo-liberal project has been the forced atomisation of people and communities. Every act of connectivity, no matter how momentary, can be seen as an act of resistance in a world where collective endeavour has been in retreat for too long.” So let’s walk the Walk, talking as we go. Almost everything we see now is around 200 years old. We’ll head Leithwards from Pilrig church, the old municipal boundary, leaving behind Albert Street, named by Tory minded Edinburgh in honour of the Prince Consort. In contrast, Leith Burgh re-named Iona Street and Dalmeny Street as a compliment to Lord Rosebery, owner of the Dalmeny estate, and the Duke of Argyll, owner of the island. Both prominent Liberals. The magnificent church on the corner of Pilrig Street is not Pilrig: Pilrig Street is the road to Pilrig Park, Pilrig House, and Pilrig Heights to the north. Robert Louis Stevenson’s maternal grandparents, the Balfours, lived in Pilrig House. Spey Street, Spey Terrace and Arthur Street were all built as a housing scheme on the Balfour estate. Balfour Street is aligned as an approach to Pilrig House from Leith Walk. Jameson Place was named in honour of Dr Leander Jameson, very ambitious and well connected in the hierarchy of Empire. After Edinburgh university he became a clever medical doctor who made himself a favourite of a local king in South Africa. He betrayed the trust by aligning himself with Cecil Rhodes and gave his name to a botched military adventure. He was the model for Rudyard Kipling’s poem If. Smith’s Place is a simple description of the ownership: Mr Smith lived in the villa house at the end, and his garden was later built on. Jane Street was named in 1869 to honour the wife of a relative of the owner of the land. Manderston Street was probably named as a compliment to Sir William Miller, MP for Leith 1857-68. He was from a Leith family, and he acquired the Manderston estate in Berwickshire.

A view of Leith Central Station by Norman Oyoo

Kirk Street is not so named because of a church, as you might expect, but to commemorate a prosperous Mr Kirk, who lived nearby. Charles, 4th Duke of Buccleuch, rented a house to the east of the Foot of the Walk so he could be close to his beloved golf on the Links. The street it was on became known as Duke Street. In the early 1800s, when John Rennie’s docks were built on the west side of the rivermouth, north of Constitution Street, a roadway to Edinburgh was needed to avoid passing through the town centre. North Junction Street, Junction Bridge, and Great Junction Street delivered traffic to the foot of Leith Walk. Lots of shops quickly spilled out of the crowded Kirkgate into the west

Dr Leander Jameson gave his name to a botched military adventure, and became the model for Rudyard Kipling’s poem If

end of Junction Street which is now a centre of small shops. We can’t miss how the wealthy and powerful have their names profiled for future generations. It doesn’t mean that the ordinary people were deferential – what we have just passed and talked about shows who was powerful. On Leith Walk now, corridor for trams, buses, motor cars, cyclists and, most vulnerable of all, we the pedestrians, let’s ask who is powerful now. Is it the oil giants and the car industry? Is it the corporate chain stores, the same everywhere you go? Who or what would we honour and celebrate in this generation? The theme for Small Talk on the Walk was PERSEVERE. We have Dave Gilhooly’s good-humoured complaint about being heaved around by the physio at the Treatment Centre, the last line saying he’s off to watch the telly. We have two teenage girls, just arrived from Germany and Ukraine, finding their feet at Trinity Academy. There’s a drama script of a conversation between Nellie Gladstones, buried in North Leith cemetery, and her son John, in which she upbraids him for profiting from the slave trade. The last word on the last page is ‘Indomitable.’ The blank space below is not empty. It’s full of potential, waiting for you to make your mark. You can pick up a copy of Small Talk on the Walk at Argonaut Books, near the Foot of the Walk. It’s free, but the shop will take donations (much needed), to go towards the next edition. And it’s in Leith and McDonald Road libraries. (You can also read it online.) Later this month you can log on to to find the theme for this year’s edition. Send your entry to the link by the end of June, the launch party will be on 2 November. Communities are built, truths are found, resolutions are formed, conversations are had, whether on the street or on the page. So, Leithers, write the word. Talk the talk. Walk the Walk. n Tim Bell Ê Info: www.leithwritings.co.uk Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 19


SandyCampbell

Falling into loving languages

On the Loose

T

he number of pupils in Scotland who sat a Higher exam in French, German or Spanish last year was 6,000; half of what it was 25 years ago. In the same period, the numbers of English pupils taking A level languages has shrunk to a quarter of what it was in the 90s. Across the UK just 32% of young people aged 15 to 30 feel confident reading and writing a language other than their mother tongue. In the EU the average is 89%. Across our western European neighbours, all pupils study at least one second language right up to their leaving school. In November, Germany’s ambassador met Humza Yousaf to express his country’s alarm at the seemingly unstoppable decline in language learning in Scottish schools, especially German. Meanwhile, a languages story from Aberdeen has rumbled on and on. The university is proposing to axe single language degrees, citing the current situation as ‘unsustainable’ given the steep decline in student numbers. For most of us our experience of language learning is but a distant classroom memory; usually dropped as soon as possible to concentrate on the subjects that we are told will be of use to our careers. I scraped a C pass in French ‘O’ Grade when I was 15. My mum fed me stories of her time in France after the war which nurtured a romantic fantasy about all things French. But teenage life took over and putting in the work was just too difficult. In my 20’s I spent a summer in the south of France picking peaches. I dug out my schoolboy French and dived in making some alarming faux pas along the way. Later, courtesy of a Brazilian girlfriend, I had a go at Portuguese. I took evening classes and even paid for a native speaking tutor – but again I didn’t put in the heavy lifting and so got nowhere near my fantasy of fluency. But along the way I had countless colourful and cringeworthy memories that I wouldn’t swap for anything. Now, approaching retirement, it’s back to my first passion of French, thanks to the infectious enthusiasm of my French teacher wife, Catherine. Finally, for me, the mist has cleared! It’s not about achieving some kind of accredited level. It’s about enjoying the experience of expressing yourself in unfamiliar foreign sounds that slowly, with every repeat experience, become familiar. The thrill of such encounters surpass all the trauma of classroom memories. And it’s never too late to embark on a language learning adventure in adulthood. Indeed, the benefits for brain function have been scientifically

20 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 157

documented: Improved concentration; memory, listening, social skills, and a protection against cognitive decline. Let’s now hear from Catherine at Language For Fun on the travails of teaching and the potential rewards of speaking another language: Scottish adolescents are not keen on French. The newly hatched French teacher can find herself wanting to pull the duvet over her head and pull a sickie in the face of the deafening chorus of “what’s the point of doing this – it’s rubbish”, which will inevitably assault her in the classroom. Occasionally a glimmer of genuine interest, some pleasure in the sound of a particular word, a question about what snails actually taste like, will motivate her to keep going but it’s a job which requires tremendous energy and creativity if you want to make any impact. Taking a coachload of 12-year-olds to France was what made it worthwhile for

My mum fed me stories of her time in France after the war, nurturing a romantic fantasy about all things French

me. Witnessing the audible clunk of pennies collectively dropping on that trip to the Normandy farm where a hirsute Frenchman explained to me the intricacies of artisan cider production and I translated for the pupils. “Do you understand him?” they whispered, slack-jawed with shock, finally able to see the reality of what acquiring another language might have to offer – for me, in this particular situation, free booze… Why then, in adult life, do so many people express regret at having abandoned language learning? Life experience, particularly travel, opens our minds to all kinds of things we may not have considered during our formative years. And, having the ability to communicate with people in their own tongue, will enliven and deepen our relationship with another country and its culture. Plus, I can personally testify to the fact that the provincial French, I say nothing of Paris, are frequently so delighted with you for having a go at their language, they’ll chuck in a free aperitif, find an available table in an apparently full restaurant, offer dishes that are off the menu, and tell you the sort of stuff you can do in the environs that only locals know about. In Rouen last year, left unsupervised in the vicinity of a shoe shop, I had a splendidly entertaining exchange with the chap in charge, and emerged after half an hour with some heavily discounted and totally unnecessary footwear, as well as a tangible spring in my step, born of a French speaking encounter. It is seriously worthwhile pointing out that you’re Scottish incidentally, la Vieille Alliance is alive and well and remarkably close to the hearts of our Gallic cousins. So, if you never know anything else in French - know this - je suis écossais(e) has all the clout of a loyalty card in France. ■


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Sat: 8am/2.30pm Mon-Fri: 8.30am-4.30pm inburgh EH75LG 26 Albert street, Leith, Ed 01315540533 Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 21


Ben Macpherson MSP Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Northern and Leith Constituency

“I am here to help and serve all constituents in Edinburgh Northern & Leith. If you need assistance, or if you would like to discuss any issues or ideas, please contact me or come and see me at one of my monthly Drop-in Help & Advice Surgeries.“

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The Newhaven fishwife’s lot I

n the centuries before steam trawlers came into being, most fish were caught by small sailing craft going out to sea using hook and line. Herring, though abundant, was seen as bait for larger fish such as haddock or cod. Such it was for many years with the Firth of Forth enjoying an abundance in white fish and oysters. The huge shoals of herring that had come into the area from the open seas were spasmodic and undependable. However, by the beginning of the nineteenth century, the herring had returned after a gap of about 50 years. The shoals were recognised as a worthy prey for catching, to be pickled or cured by smoking. Lines of baited hooks were used to benefit from this generous bounty. In the wee hours of the morning, when the tides were right and dawn was not far off, the fisherlassies of Newhaven would gather on Main Street to set out towards Wardie Bay and Granton. As they walked they could be heard singing softly the hymns by the popular American evangelists of the day, Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey, or sometimes favourite Scottish psalms and paraphrases. They were on their way, with creels on their backs, to harvest mussels that would be used for baiting the fishing lines for their fathers, brothers or husbands who would catch fish to earn their living. Along this stretch of coastline, to the east and to the west of the village, mussels were in abundance. There is an old Martello Tower, built at the time of the Napoleonic Wars still just about visible today half-buried in concrete on reclaimed land in Leith Docks. This used to be a significant distance offshore and was built upon Mussel Cape Rock, one of a series of rocks called the Black Rocks. Some Newhaven fishermen made their living largely by fishing for mussels. One record shows that about 30 boats sailed from Peterhead just to buy this mussel harvest. Once at their favoured spot, the women would set about collecting the mussels until their creels were full. The creels, now weighing as much as 40 Kg (88 lb), were carried home on their backs for the womenfolk and older children to then set about baiting the hooks ready for the next day’s fishing. This was called “redding the lines”, i.e. removing the old bait and replacing with new and took many hours. The length of lines would bear 1,000 – 1,500 hooks that required having the mussels fixed to the hooks in such a way

Fishwife and family baiting the herring lines with mussels

Surprisingly, while walking they often sang the hymns of American evangelists Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey

as to make the barbs hidden. The boats could have three or more of these lines that would be played out. Once baited, the lines would be coiled into the creels and each layer would be kept separated by a layer of grass from Fisherman’s Park usually collected by the younger children. It would not be the first time that these bairns would be chased from the posh gardens of Park Road or Pony Park, a small grassy field at the far end overlooking Craighall Road. Many of the fishwives had their routes that they would walk on a routine basis selling their menfolk’s catch from creels on their backs weighing up to 50Kg (112 lbs). Certain customers were called upon on certain days of the week. This necessitated travelling great distances on foot, or sometimes by tram and train. The districts of Edinburgh such as Barnton, Davidson’s Mains, Juniper Green and Morningside as well as Edinburgh’s New Town, were well served by these intrepid women. Some even travelled on the railway as far afield as Broxburn, Falkirk, Lanark, Hamilton, Burntisland, and Lochgelly. And all the time, when not actually selling, the fishwives would be knitting something for members of their family. I t goes without saying that Newhaven’s fishwives were hard working, even when they were not tramping the streets selling their fresh fish.

Since fishing boats did not go to sea on a Sunday, no fish was caught to sell the day after. Consequently, Mondays for the fishwives was spent washing, cleaning and ironing — and not just Mondays! It seems almost unimaginable just how much hard work the fishwife was expected to endure: it never ceased. Whatever the weather, they went out on their rounds carrying their heavy loads. The life was not for everybody, which is why a dim view was taken should a man marry outwith the village. Newhaven was predominantly a matriarchal society since the women had control of the purse. After all, it was they who actually sold the fish that their menfolk had caught. Research of householders from 1865 to 1940 carried out by a member of Newhaven Heritage showed that a significant number of dwellings in the village were owned by women due mainly to the perilous nature of fishing. With many of the fishwives being in the same boat (pun intended), there was a camaraderie and support network that kept Newhaven’s insular society going. When the village was eventually demolished and rebuilt, many families did not — or were not encouraged — to return. A sad end to a proud community. n Gordon Young Ê Info: Contact Gordon at newhavenheritage@gmail.com Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 23


Citadel Youth Centre has been serving Leith for 40 years writes Gordon Munro

I

nitially set up by the Mum’s of local children to provide positive social experiences as an alternative to less positive ones available in the area. It has been built up into the much-loved resource that has served generations of Leithers since. It began at the adventure playground at the back of Linksview House, before moving to its’ current home in what was once a railway station serving the docks. It has since grown in size, aim, scope and ambition but always with the aim of giving its users the skills to survive in a tough cruel world. That cruel world has just dealt the Centre a cruel blow which puts services under threat. In an underhand way a key funder, the Council, has revealed (at, short notice) that they will ‘award’ Citadel £50,000 a year for the next 3 years. That is exactly half of the £100,000 that the Citadel asked for and well short of the £175,000 received in previous years. The Citadel’s bid was reflected by the knowledge that the Council faced funding difficulties but it would appear that whilst Citadel were willing to meet halfway the mysterious decision making process run on the Council’s behalf did not and looked at figures not facts. If it had looked at the facts, which can be found on the Council’s website, it would have consideration the fact that the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) update of 2020 noted that the most deprived part of Edinburgh is the Great Junction Street area. Which is the 12th most deprived in Scotland. Citadel is in the heart of this area which is facing the brunt of the austerity we are all experiencing. This analysis is undertaken by the Scottish Government so that resources can be directed to areas of most need.

It would appear that arithmetic is more important when deciding to direct resources through a deliberately obscured decision making process which hides how, who and why funding decisions have been made. This does not reflect well on all involved. It can also be remedied. It could be remedied by the Scottish Government fully funding Edinburgh so that cuts are not made. Edinburgh is the lowest funded per capita of Scotland’s major cities. The Scottish Government allocates funding per citizen to Scottish Councils with Dundee receiving £2467, Glasgow £2426, Aberdeen £1921 and Edinburgh £1781 in 2023/24. Edinburgh has been bottom of the table in the allocation of funds for several years now. Audit Scotland, reporting on the finances of Scottish Councils has pointed out that the system and method of this calculation is both unclear and outdated in its methodology. What they are saying is there is no rationale for the huge difference in funding between Dundee and Edinburgh of £681 for each man, woman and child. Elected on a promise to reform Council Tax funding in 2007 the Scottish Government are yet to deliver on that promise, despite issuing the ‘Just Change’ report in 2015 that promised change to tackle the instability of Council

Willy Barrs’ note says: “I believe now is the time to… #InvestinYouthWork”

funding. This instability is such that the cuts to Citadel are part of a package of £5.9m by Children and Families to make up for a funding gap of £21m for 2024/25. These cuts will be made year on year, as Edinburgh faces a total funding gap of £143m, until 2028/29. Failure to deliver on the promise of 2007 or the report of 2015, means change will not happen. But some form of action could still be taken. For example, they could make up the shortfall from the £321m capital underspend by the Scottish Government in 2022/23. This will happen either as they’re being ‘prudential’ or making ‘difficult decisions’ or that other spin doctor favorite, ‘saving for a rainy day’. They can even fulfill their promise to return 85% of the business rates collected in

The Citadel is Leith’s heart 24 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 157


These acts of altruism show the true worth and value of Citadel to Leith and its citizens in a way bean counters can’t Edinburgh for the Scottish Government to Edinburgh, which is short changed each year, but again this will not happen. Blame will be allocated to others but responsibility will be shirked. The remedy could come from the Council itself. Along with being open, transparent and accountable as to who has been funded and why, they could campaign on full and fair funding for Edinburgh. They might ask local MSP’s to put the case for Edinburgh in budget and council funding debates in Holyrood. I recall Margo Macdonald doing this and succeeding. It could be done again. The Councillors could interrogate the decision making process and bring it out into the light, basing their decisions on facts rather than reports that deliberately leave out what has happened and why. They are elected to hold officers to account, to make decisions based on policy and also, of course, to clarify the facts. But action can be taken now. Why do we spend money on buses (some from private providers) for home/school transport when every child in Edinburgh can travel free on public transport? One local school where this occurs receives circa £250,000 for a fleet of nearly empty vehicles that clog up Tennant Street every school day. How much is spent on taxis that take kids to school and still get paid, even if there is a no show? These bills are paid not just by the Council but also by those that lost out in the opaque and obtuse decision that short-changed Citadel and others.

In the end, as always, it will be remedied by Leith itself. Concern for Citadel has seen approaches made by former users, near neighbours, and local businesses, asking what they can do to help Citadel at this time of crisis. Ranging from a local citizen offering to raise over £1,000 with a cycling challenge to another neighbour, Michelin starred chef Tom Kitchin, offering to take over Citadel for a night for a 5-course meal at top dollar to raise funds from those that have funds, for those that don’t have funds, and use Citadel’s services. These acts of altruism show the true worth and value of Citadel to Leith and its citizens in a way that the bean counters at Holyrood and the Council ignore at their peril. The reservoirs of good will built up over 40 years by its work shows the true value of Citadel. The platform of Council funding enables it to leverage in funding from other sources. Citadel will survive this cruel blow but its ability to shield those most in need from a cruel world will be curtailed and diminish if not tackled head on. All have a part to play whether that’s Holyrood, the Council or you and I. Citadel was born for a reason. That reason, the need and the demand are still there. It may be late in the day but the funding gap can still be filled. Do it. Do it now. ■ Gordon Munro was a board member of Citadel Youth Centre 2004-17 and Labour Councillor for Leith 2003-2022 Ê Info: friendsofcitadel.com

Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 25


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Lost, deep in Ocean Terminal T

he power was off and nothing stirred; disconcerting noises emanated from the gloomy fringes. A sharp chord was played in a distant corner, resonating around the gaping darkness. The last vestiges of a winter’s afternoon illuminated the centre. As I stepped lightly towards the light, an escalator appeared from the luminescence, stuck and going nowhere. I had arrived, seemingly, in a dressrehearsal for the apocalypse. Or, reality was on the blink again. Post-apocalyptic spectres were all around. Was it 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, or The Road? Take your pick. A fevered vision of the Boston Globe HQ in The Handmaid’s Tale came strongest to my mind. ‘Offred’ sheltered in their abandoned offices for several weeks, away from the eyes of the Eyes (and Guardians). As in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian tale, the whole feel of the place suggested a rapid ending; things left in stasis, with entropy gradually taking effect. Truth be told, I was in the old Debenhams store in Ocean Terminal which had, after closing, become the home of community projects such as the Museum of Memories. The abandoned emporium is now in its final months, with demolition due early in 2024. It had also housed one of the three existent Pianodromes.

Pianodrome on a visit to Leith Theatre

Pianos are in some sense living instruments, affected by their surroundings

The Pianodrome has become renowned as one of the most interesting cultural projects in the city. It represents the desire to reuse rather than discard and look for creative ways to do so. In their case, making use of pianos ‘intercepted on the way to landfill’. There is a profound harmony between the cultural and the environmental aspects of the project. The most obvious manifestation of the project has been the creation of ‘unique playable, communitycentred sculptures made entirely from otherwise disused pianos’. The potential these have as performance spaces was evident at the Pianodrome Resonancy events at the Old Royal High School in the summer of 2022. These featured a variety of artists, representing a range of musical genres. All appreciated the novel acoustics of the Pianodrome. The wood absorbs the sound and allows it to pass around the little timber amphitheatre, Prior to venturing into the forsaken parts of Ocean Terminal, I had been at the Pianodrome HQ; the Warehouse on West Harbour Road, Granton. There, pianos are dismantled to be repurposed; others are restored to be played again as musical instruments. Those slivers of wood that can’t be reused or readapted make their way into the stove; a repurposed gas container

with a wonky looking ‘chimney’ striking out of it. On my last visit there was snow on the ground. Those who had turned up huddled round the stove, contentedly sipping hot drinks and tucking into ladles of hot pea soup. The event had the feel of a cultural picket. Some had turned up as part of the Pianodrome’s scheme (‘the best thing for an old piano is to find a new home’), while others were there for a Piano Share session, hosted by two young piano teachers - Sasha and Shona. Everyone (who wished) took their turn at the piano, playing a short piece. It was delightful to see some of the youngsters perform as they made their very first, tentative steps with the instrument. The Piano Share sessions provide a great opportunity to play in a friendly, non-judgmental atmosphere. Some of the efforts were adventurous and dynamic, several participants performed impressive self-composed pieces. The engaging character of the performances and the interactions with the two hosts helped keep everyone going. These were not polished and final performances but works in progress with ‘bum notes’, false starts etc. But that’s how you improve in any sphere; constantly pushing yourself beyond what you’ve mastered before. In the unheated space, each performer had to vigorously warm their hands before striking the first key. Not only does such cold weather make playing the piano difficult, it also makes the instrument itself a little harder to play. Changing temperatures can cause issues: wood expands and contracts causing loose parts and the odd wobbly key. Pianos are in some sense living instruments, affected by their surroundings and the way they are cared for. The Pianodrome Warehouse is a captivating, cavernous place. In every corner, nook and cranny there is stuff going on, involving various implements and different parts of pianos. You need to stay alert with sharp cutting blades located everywhere. As well as repairing and disassembling the instruments those working at the Warehouse have, ingeniously, used parts of pianos to strengthen the building. In addition, a group of students recently used piano parts to form a sculpture; reincarnating the instruments as art, rather than seeing them go to waste. As with many such projects, a sense of precariousness permeates it - alongside that, comes the promise of possibility. The Pianodrome has now made it’s way across ‘the pond’, earlier this year the organisation oversaw the installation of a Pianodrome in a ‘a beautiful octagonal brick-work church’ in Charlotte, North Carolina. Where next for this singular project? n Charlie Ellis writes on culture, education, politics and sport. He thanks Eva Vaporidi and the SICK Writing Group for their comments on this piece. Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 27


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TracyGriffen

Seeds of Hope

Writer without portfolio

I

t’s the new year and we’re still the same old people – no new year, and no you reinvention. Which is a good thing, as if we were all brand new, where would the old us be? Whilst we may feel the need to reinvent, what is more realistic is to work on doable goals for 2024. Winter can be a drudge as we wait, wait, wait, for the days to get longer and lighter. The warmth won’t come for a few months yet, however we can get planning for it. As a Leither, one of the most empowering things I’ve learned recently is the power of organic growth. That is both as a business owner and as an urban gardener. There is so much potential around, any patch of bare earth can bear fruit (brambles count!). At the end of last summer husband Andy and I visited Lynbreck Croft in the Highlands for their day-long ‘Living Off the Land’ course that included bee-keeping, chickens, kitchen garden, animal husbandry and tree planting. It was a total inspiration, so I was chuffed to keep in touch with farmers Lynn and Sandra. Every big move is a culmination of mini-steps. Here’s their story: “Nearly a decade ago, my partner and I quit our jobs and moved to Scotland, desperately trying to escape the busyness of the south east of England for a more tranquil life where we could reconnect and rebuild our relationship with a more natural, seasonal pace of living. It was all very bucolic and perfect in our minds. After two years of searching, we bought a small croft and moved to the Cairngorms. The day the deal was done and we arrived at Lynbrook Croft, it felt like our ‘New Year’. A moment in history we were looking forward to as a point in our lives when everything would change for the better. This was it. From this day on life would be perfect. We had arrived at the dream. It took just 24 hours for that whole mirage to disappear, the storm clouds of life gathering above us as the thunder of reality began to rumble. Those resolutions we had made for big life changes blew away like leaves on a windy day, as reality hit us like a lightning strike. We had no idea what we were in for and no real clue where to start. Nearly eight years on, we can look back and reflect on that ‘New Years Day’ from a much happier and healthier place. Lynbreck has been transformed into a vibrant and diverse hub where food grows in abundance, nature thrives and people come to experience and learn from what we do, leaving with full hearts and minds. The storm of eight years ago has weakened its grip as more sunny days punctuate the grey. Whilst many marvel at the big achievements and hard work, the real change has come from the micro shifts

Lynbreck Croft and Lynn & Sandra

Lynn and Sandra have produced the roadmap for those who wish to follow in their footsteps

we’ve made in our own lives, where the biggest life lesson has come from learning how to farm successfully.” Find your ‘Ikigai’, it’s a simple word but a powerful concept. Ikigai is a Japanese phrase for your purpose, your calling, your mission. Daydream a little, what would you like the change to be? Could you be the change yourself? It might take a little work, but starting small at the start of the year could lead to bigger changes down the line. For instance, by the end of 2024, I should have an RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) certification in Plant Horticulture. Though in truth, I have no idea what I’ll do with it. My hope is for Griffen Fitness to adopt and help maintain a Leith Walk planter (specifically the Arthur Street box), and to grow more sunflowers in unexpected places. I’m not sure why, it just seems like the right thing to do at the moment... Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, and Lynn and Sandra approached the “learn how to be regenerative crofters” situation methodically and with open minds. It’s okay to work things out as you go along. We might not know all there is to know about growing food, but we can all at least try, and see what happens. With the publication of Our Wild Farming Life (Chelsea Green Publishing £18.99), Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer have produced the roadmap for those who wish to follow in their footsteps. We too can sow the seeds of hope. ■ Ê X: @tracygriffen Ê X: @lynbreck_croft Ê Info: www.lynbreckcroft.co.uk Issue 157 | leithermagazine.com | 29


CrosswordNo.132 across

1 Lag iron dry with one used at wedding (8) 5 Great quantities of chopped pasta (6) 10 Country gangster the rate changed and was shown here (8,7) 11 Inform a very soft incline (7) 12 A rough pot made in the year then (7) 13 Brilliant bet Len did (8) 15 Homes like Cannes, Tsar stayed in (5) 18 Worth a chuck (5) 20 Ape, doggy threw for the principles of teaching (8) 23 Line a torque destroyed (7) 25 Saint threw up and did time (7) 26 Found in 28 (5,3,7) 27 Southern idols smashed and reformed (6) 28 Oral case out in Pacific (5,3)

down

1 Twitty or Russ (6) 2 Peron tape shredded on this? (9) 3 Undone tie move to arouse strong feeling (7) 4 Selling craft (5) 6 Defeat in cricketing terms (7) 7 Fastening in flat chest (5) 8 Toughest sea eagle between two streets (8) 9 Was there and waited (8) 14 Left late (8) 16 Seen apparently (9) 17 Southern hair grave and acute (8) 19 Observed clock with journalist (7) 21 Liar log off, ape (7) 22 Certainly not on land (3,3) 24 Normal American posh gangster (5) 25 Sound furtive go to Irish place (5)

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Sit in @ 29 Haddington Place, Sit in @ 29 Leith Walk Haddington Place, Leith Walk Sit in @ 29 Haddington Place, Leith Walk

answers: crossword 131 across

1 Bookmark 5 Prefab 10 Fifth columnists 11 Linacre 12 Unguent 13 Cinnamon 15 Eat up 18 Tagus 20 Galloway 23 Austria 25 Descent 26 Green peppercorn 27 Topped 28 Three nil

down

1 Baffle 2 Offending 3 Mohican 4 Rhone 6 Renegue 7 Fosse 8 Bus stops 9 Autumnal 14 Migrates 16 Trade down 17 Straight 19 Strange 21 Observe 22 Atonal 24 Sleep 25 Depth

winner crossword 131 Billy Buck, Dundee

30 | leithermagazine.com | Issue 157

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