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.
It seems odd reading that now, I wrote it almost five years ago when both my blog and Leith Open Space were very new. At that time I had no idea how much my life was about to become dominated by a voluntary involvement that would lead me into unexplored territory and – as poor Ray now knows only too well – swallow evenings and weekends whole and then come back for more.
On a personal level I do not regret it for a moment, I have met some fantastic people and made some great friends. On a more political level I know the journey is far from finished – there is a huge amount of work to be done in enabling talented groups to fulfill their potential to enrich society. My opening blog now seems a little idealistic.
I plan to use this space to explore a different kind of politics, and to tell some of the stories that rarely get into the newspapers. But first of all here is an account of a first small step towards better human understanding. For me, it offered a brief insight into the kind of multicultural community we could and should enjoy building. Full of human challenges, fears, hopes and opportunities. Just like an open space.
But there are causes for celebration on the fifth anniversary of Leith Open Space. Since November 2005, as I am about to record over on Leith Open Space, our still tiny community group has come a long way. Our two best achievements (I think) are the Opening Doors Shadow Scheme and our active involvement as founder members of World Kitchen in Leith. Both ventures have grown from the first meeting in that cold space in Ocean Terminal – the shadow scheme because participants in Open Space said it was time ethnic minorities became more involved in politics; World Kitchen simply because we discovered that the multicultural lunch was the best part of the whole day (not least because the inimitable Shaheen Unis brought a huge box of pakoras and samosas).
Interestingly that space at the top of Ocean Terminal is now a brilliant place for young people: the Transgression Skatepark. Now that is progress.