‘Meanwhile… in Leith’ Project

Containers and people in the space

Meanwhile… in Leith: reclaimed space for the common good

Welcome to the ‘Meanwhile… in Leith’ Project which is an exciting opportunity for the people of Leith to come together to regenerate a large piece of wasteland and build a bustling new hub for the community, by the community.

Since April 2018 until 2021, Out of the Blue have been working with project partners from the The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC), Hub South East Scotland, Civic Soup and Reiach & Hall Architects, alongside the people of Leith to transform the disused former Tram Depot site at 165A Leith Walk into an ever-evolving, community-run space.

Together, we are creating a vibrant and welcoming social enterprise and creative arts hub that puts community collaboration at the centre of developing plans and offers the perfect place to meet, eat, have fun and share ideas in a communal space in the heart of Leith.

This exciting, new space consists of upcycled shipping containers housing artists’ studios, a skatepark (by Leith DIY), a community garden and a number of wooden market stalls to be re-configured by local groups. The site hosts a variety of individuals and groups with a focus on gardening and growing, food and drink, exercise and play, arts and education, social and small business enterprise.

Out of the Blue and the local community are intent on influencing the City of Edinburgh Council’s plans for the future transformation of the site into housing and community amenity.

+ Our Mission

Our Mission is to create a multicultural, intergenerational, green and open arts and healthy living space which inspires new ideas and creates a community hub combats loneliness and social isolation. We want to ensure that “Meanwhile…in Leith” becomes a creative, participative place in which everyone is able to access the spaces and resources they require to pursue their own creativity, no matter who they are and what form it may take. Our mission is to provide a new affordable space AND THE resources, projects and opportunities for the residents of Edinburgh to be creative. We seek to make this diversity of creativity more visible and in doing so, support the creation of cultural, social and economic value within the city.

The project supports the aforementioned themes in many ways, the most relevant being in helping to:

● build a better understanding of the needs and aspirations of our communities.
● deliver the kind of area that everyone wants to live and work in.
● adopt a person-centred, people-centred and place-centred approach and ensure that health and wellbeing is at the core of everything we do.
● ensure children, young people and families are more meaningfully included in their communities.
● Increase access to high quality affordable play and leisure activities.
● Developments are better managed and reflect the needs of our communities.
● Increased community ownership of local assets The project will enhance the work.

Out of the Blue is doing to engage with individuals and groups, especially those with protected characteristics, to fulfill Scottish Government and CEC Placemaking policy to create “quality places which support communities both socially and economically and promote health and well-being. Good placemaking involves working together to create places that work and this has to involve the valuable knowledge held within communities about their place”

The project will widen and deepen the communities participation and help inform and plan wider funding proposals from Government and Lottery sources. They would be integral to demonstrating engagement, need, decision making, participation and ‘piloting’ community involvement in the future project development.

+ What we have so far

The old building, near the foot of the Walk, at 165A has been upgraded for use by public sector bodies, voluntary organisations and small businesses.

Behind it is a vast piece of concrete land, the size of 2/3 of a football pitch that is developing as an outdoor community-run space.

After the old tram depot was demolished, 7 shipping containers were brought into the site and were upcycled and turned into artists’ studios – each decorated in different colours and designs, with the artists and community having decided on the style. They are 40ft long by 8ft wide and are insulated and waterproof, fitted with plumbing and electricity, and were fitted with secure windows and doors.

15 wooden huts previously used at the city’s German Christmas market on The Mound, which have been in storage for several years are being refurbished and made fit-for-purpose depending on their proposed use – e.g. studios, retail space, workshops, social enterprise initiatives.

The back of the site is to be used as storage for the future extension of the tram network along Leith Walk.

+ What we would like

We want to start spreading the word that this is your space, your blank canvas, your place to share stories and ideas, your chance to build a vibrant and welcoming space in Leith where people from all walks of life can come together to enjoy shared passions in a supportive and collaborative environment.

Our local area is full of talented people, bursting with great ideas. We have a huge opportunity to create an amazing space in a great location, that is affordable, inclusive and celebrates the spirit and unity of our community, whilst bringing new growth, opportunities and vibrancy to the area.

Out of the Blue are working with organisations and individuals from the Leith and its wider community to work out how to make best use of the site and create opportunities for involvement.

We want the local people to take the lead in how we approach and build this Hub and communal space in the heart of Leith – socially-minded people with talents, contacts, businesses or even the start of an idea for events and projects in the previously mentioned areas: Garden and Growing, Food and drink, Sports exercise and play, Arts and education, Social and Small Business Enterprise.

We want to create a local hotspot that benefits the whole city, where we fuse art, food, fun and community, whilst helping ideas and local businesses to flourish.

+ Leith Chooses acknowledgement

Thank you for voting for Out of the Blue to create ‘Meanwhile at Persevere Square’. We were successful and your support is very much appreciated. This project is a new opportunity for the people of Leith to come together to regenerate a piece of wasteland and build a bustling new hub for the community.

This exciting new hub now consists of upcycled shipping containers housing artists’ studios, as well as a number of wooden market stalls to be re-configured by local groups. The community are focusing on activity around Gardening and Growing, Food and Drink, Sports Exercise and Play, Arts and Education, and Social and Small Business Enterprise.

The funding from Leith Chooses has helped establish the infrastructure to develop our plans. Thank you!

+ Feedback

Gavin Barrie, the council’s economic development convenor, said: “The business units and street market will create a real buzz on Leith Walk and will address the critical shortage of space for artists and other creative entrepreneurs in Edinburgh. “The community hub will deliver vital services to people in Leith Walk and the wider Leith area, which is one of the most densely populated and fastest growing places in Scotland.” 

Local government minister Kevin Stewart said: “The Leith Walk area will benefit from this injection of funding and the exciting plans look certain to support the regeneration of the area.

Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP Ben MacPherson said: “It is fantastic to see Out of the Blue receive the support they need to develop Leith Walk Studios and turn the entire area into a hub for the whole community. It is such a great location.

We are currently recruiting volunteers to become “Friends of Meanwhile…in Leith”.

There are many opportunities to volunteer for this Meanwhile Use Project and other Out of the Blue projects – in the office, the café or with any of the exciting projects happening in the building, Dalmeny Street and beyond. If you’re interested to giving some of your time to this vibrant community, please complete our Volunteer Application Form.

Donations of time, money, useful items and skills are always welcome and we can be contacted via: outoftheblue.org.uk/about/want-to-help.

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