Taking change on board

When the Tall Ships sail into the port of Leith, it will be to an area revolutionised over the last decade by social change. Ellie Carr hears how some of those living and working in Leith feel about its rapidly changing image. Photographs by Chris Blott.

Steve Cardownie, Labour councillor for Fort, Leith since 1988, born and brought up in Leith. ‘Leith is distinct from Edinburgh. l think people notice a different accent. I always remember Billy Connolly saying years ago that Leith was the place most like Glasgow that he‘s ever been to. btit that was when we had the shipbuilding industry and we‘ve since witnessed the demise of that. The last thing I want to see is Leith end up like the docklands in London and everybody scattered throughout the city with all incomers moving in. I want to see Leith retain its identity. There are traditional pubs that Leithers use and so far I haven‘t seen any mass influx of new people to Leith. If they go out drinking it tends to be on the waterfront. whereas Leithers still tend to frequent the bars in Junction Street and Leith Walk where you have your traditional darts and dominoes. hot pics and jars of mussels. I don‘t think there‘s a lot of resentment. lt‘sjust that the lifestyles are different.

‘Leith did have an image it didn‘t deserve before. If anybody wanted to film an Orange march in a derelict area they didn‘t do it through in Glasgow. they came to Leith to do it. Leithers have always been proud of being Leithers. but they‘re now more proud of their town. because they themselves could see the broken-down warehouses and the derelict whisky bonds and they‘ve witnessed its regeneration. As well as being proud of being Leithers they're actually proud of Leith itself now and that‘s to be welcomed. The only thing we luck is jobs and council houses. and if we could solve that problem it would be great.‘

10 The List l4-27 Jul l995

Bob Morris, managing director at Smarts Advertising and Design Agency, based in Leith for five years.

‘Therc‘s a fairly big centre of creative excellence down here photographers.

typesetters. filmmakers. other good advertising agencies. fantastic delicatessens and wine bars.

What‘s nice for us is that we‘ve had a lot of

business from people in Leith. The old Leith has really accepted new businesses.

‘The Scottish Office building is brilliant. l‘m somebody who prefers old buildings. but something like that has to be new. built from scratch. l think it's well designed and I like the look of it from the outside. The trouble with these trendy things is I might not like it in live years. I‘m not L‘XpCl‘l enough to know how it might age. but it looks reasonably classically designed to me.

'What really needs to be done is to get this metro scheme that‘s been outlined for lidinburgh to run between Leith and the city centre. Also more people would visit the shore area if we got some leisure stuff down here. We need to get a consortium together to bid for things like the long-talked-about opera house in the liorth Ports. There‘s a huge area within the liorth Ports. and it needs a mix -- nicely designed housing. light industrial accommodation. some cultural things like the opera house. and a permanent museum.‘

Mrs Mary Moriarty, landlady of the Port 0’ Leith public house for the last decade.

‘l.eith is different from the rest of Edinburgh. There‘s more of a sense of community. People elsewhere in the city don‘t call themselves I)rylawers or (‘orstorphiners. btit here folk are l.eithers and proud of it. The changes over the past ten years have been tremendous. I‘ve seen so many developments come to fruition and let‘s face it. the area used to be a wasteland. The Port O‘ Leith has seen a lot of new customers because of the developments but no-one‘s been pushed out. All the old stalwarts are still here. On the whole. Leithers welcome the changes. btit there is a sense in which they don‘t want to

The Shore, Leith

see the old Leith disappear. This was once a very wealthy trading port and locals are still proud of that history.‘

Robert Smith, community education officer, Leith Community Centre, resident in leith most of his life.

‘We‘ve seen a lot of changes down in the docklands and The Shore. A lot of it is for the better. Obviously. some housing is lost because we‘ve got these new flats and it‘s gone upmarket. As far as the new Scottish Office building goes. we find it alright. They‘ve booked into our sports ball so they‘re already moving in as part of the community. Nobody‘s taking the bu ff because of it. Everybody has their own view on the look of the building. I think it could have been nicer. but anyway it‘s there. I think people have now got to grips with themselves to say: “Down at the docks and down at The Shore we see the changes and we‘re accepting the changes.“ If you come tip Henderson Street. coming from the docks and along The Shore past the old buroo. people are still enjoying their local pubs. So that side that hasn‘t changed. Nobody‘s getting thrown out of the area.’

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