curiosity about the ways of the world

Category: Community politics (Page 1 of 3)

Power to the people?

Schools ahead of their time – and ours

What will the future bring? Children at my sons’ primary school down the road had bright ideas nearly twenty-five years ago. 

“…a robot teacher in every classroom, ‘see-through’ classrooms made of glass, blackboards rubbed clean at the touch of a switch and electronically operated toilets.”

The school of the future hasn’t turned out quite as pupils imagined in 1996 though ‘see-through classrooms and electronically operated toilets’ could come in handy to combat Covid-19.  The centenary book my sons and I helped to produce turned up in a lockdown study clear-out. A bit of a museum piece, Broughton Primary 100 casts not always favourable light on the present.  

Writing this for Sceptical Scot’s last issue before the holiday break, I was struck by a cruel irony we had never anticipated at the parent-teacher-pupil editorial meetings 25 years ago: the school of the future would have much in common with the school of the past.  In the late 19th century medical officers of health were acutely aware of the links between ill health, mortality and poverty.  That harsh reality reinforced again by the latest National Register of Scotland report of deaths involving Covid-19:

“People in the most deprived areas were 2.1 times more likely to die with COVID-19 than those living in the least deprived areas.”

National Register of Scotland July 2020

A crucial difference between then and now – in the 1890s local medical officers of health had the power to take pre-emptive action where and when it was needed. 

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Leith: where local needs are global

Another important thing…we need to know how power works, how politics works. You can’t just order democracy online and get it delivered the next day!

Jane Jones

The place is packed. The hall is fairly humming with that unmistakeable sound of people getting properly engaged. All ages. Busy tackling the big issues of local life. So why are we worried about who is not here?

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In memory of Kerry Napuk

I am very sad to report the death of a good friend, Kerry Napuk.  He was the inspiration for a community venture in Leith which survives as a testament to his vision, leadership and constant cajoling. This is one of those times when there is no clear dividing line between my private and public worlds so I am recording my memories of a remarkable man. Continue reading

All the world’s a market place

“I hope you don’t mind”, says Kerry, “I’ve put you down for leading a workshop on Open Space Community.”  I’ve just arrived at the conference and within minutes I find myself sitting with a microphone in my hand in a circle of people of all ages from all over the world inviting them to join ‘my’ workshop. What on earth am I doing here?

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Into the unknown

Another step into the unknown, I’m on a train hurtling south from Edinburgh to London. Of all unlikely things I find myself an ambassador for Leith Open Space on my way to take part in an international conference of open spacers, more precisely the World Open Space on Open Space (WOSONOS) for participants of this defiantly participative process which – in theory anyway – gives the floor to the audience rather than the organisers. Round about York I’m casting my mind back to how it all began.

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Into the unknown

Our first Open Space event took place in a very open space, a cavernous place, at the top of a shopping centre overlooking Leith harbour, one cold Sunday in November. There was no heating, no lighting, no floor covering but there was a fabulous view of the Forth. It seems a good place to start.

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Anyone for the Big Society?

activelyinvolvedHarder than it seems, members of the audience get involved in Change earlier this year (picture by Kasia Raszewska)

At the dress rehearsal I find myself on the edge of my seat. Why is Alice not gathering information and support from her local councillors, MSP, housing associations, neighbourhood groups? Who the hell is funding this supposed empowerment project? I want to shout out, “For goodness sake, find out how the system works!” and in the end I do, though I try to put it a little more politely than that.

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Travel the world without leaving Leith

Who says multicultural Britain is broken?  On Facebook I am invited to a ‘Migrant Drop In Night’ where an open stage invites migrants, travellers, refugees and local people to celebrate Edinburgh “As a welcoming & safe environment; where all new arrivals feel empowered, accepted & integrated & able to contribute to our community.” Continue reading

Broughton awaits Tesco Express


Welcome to Broughton Street, open for business despite the tramworks. It’s the place to come whether you want a leisurely meal or a quick coffee, whether you are looking for upmarket sausages or  good wines, second hand books or frilly knickers, organic  fruit, vegetables or ( ahem) erotica.  On a wet March morning there is  a buzz in the air but a big cloud on the horizon.  Tesco Express is coming. Continue reading

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