:: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 ::

Save Gorgie Memorial Hall

Picture: Gorgie Mem campaigners at SSP public meeting

I lived for many years in Gorgie, a working class neighbourhood in the West of Edinburgh. It always had a mix of residents. There were those who had been there for generations, many of whom made up the hard core support for local team Heart of Midlothian.

There were also those who had recently moved in or were only there temporarily. Relatively cheap rented flats attracted students.

More recently the neighbourhood has attracted the new immigrants from Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe. You can now visit the Georgian deli, which took over the site of a sex shop in Gorgie Road a few years ago. Polish deli’s and hairdressers have joined the local butchers and fishmongers (yes the community can still support these despite the presence of large supermarkets). A Zimbabwean butcher joined the locals a couple of years ago, prompting me to make my first goat curry. Not an unqualified success I should add.

House prices have crept up over the years although Gorgie is not as expensive as neighbouring Dalry, a very similar area which just happens to be closer to town and Haymarket station.

The recession has hit Gorgie of course, as it has hit communities everywhere. Unemployment exacerbates social problems that were always there. When hard times hit, that’s when communities need to rally round. Community resources like Gorgie Memorial Hall have a special job to do, bringing people together. They provide services for the entire neighbourhood. In particular they provide a safe place for the under 5’s to play. The ‘Mem’ is also a venue that brings those from different ethnic backgrounds together, it is a place where people can get to know each other and build a community.

This is how Edinburgh council describe it “The building has a very attractive garden which is well used in the summer months, and the hall inside is utilised by a range of community groups providing a varied programme of activities and social and learning opportunities. The building comprises a kitchen, office and toilets. It is staffed by a Community Learning and Development worker, part-time clerical assistant, cleaner in charge and part-time janitor.”

You may have guessed the next bit.

Now the council, led by the Liberal Democrats with support from the SNP, are trying to close it.

Local people have rallied round the hall and are putting pressure on the politicians to reverse this cut.

The ‘Mem’ is not just a community centre, it is not just a resource. It is part of the history of Gorgie, and of Edinburgh.

As the Save Gorgie Memorial Hall website explains “The building has a very long history dating back to 1887 when it was first built and affectionately called “the little church in the field”. After the First World War, it was chosen to be the memorial for those that had fallen and renamed as Gorgie War Memorial Hall.

The memorial remains within the hall to this very day. The hall has been used as a council community centre since 1983. “The Mem” has served its community well and hopes to be able to do so for another 100 years.”

The council have vacillated over the savings put forward. They have also failed to explain how much it would cost to move the War Memorial and to mothball the hall. The dismantling and moving of the ‘Hearts’ War Memorial at Haymarket due to the tram works was a big source of controversy. Suspicion abounds that they want to sell off the land for a quick profit (not the greatest time to be selling land one would have thought).

I cannot help thinking of the farce surrounding Caltongate and the sell-off and sell-out of the Old Town. The Save our Old Town campaigners showed that fighting back pays, and makes the community stronger. I hope that the campaigners in Gorgie have the same success.


:: Alister | 5:54 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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