Craigmillar has an extraordinary history, and a local team are developing a public archive dedicated to it. They received a University grant in 2020, so we caught up with Founder, Rachel Cloughton to hear about the progress.
"Craigmillar Now is a new arts and heritage organisation dedicated to supporting extraordinary artistic talent in the greater Craigmillar area – both past and present. In November 2020 we moved into the former St Andrew’s church on the corner of Fort Kinnaird Retail Park in East Edinburgh, opening the building as a cultural centre for the Greater Craigmillar community.
Creating a publicly accessible home for the local archives was part of Craigmillar Now’s founding mission. Despite the area’s rich history, until now there has not been a dedicated place to house this fascinating resource. When we got the keys to the Craigmillar Now building one of the first things we did was move a key collection – the records of the Craigmillar Festival Society (CFS) – out of temporary storage and into the space.
Over the last few months we have been very excited to work with a team of Craigmillar residents who have volunteered to help develop the archive, ensuring this resource is truly community owned. The group has started training sessions led by professional photographers and archivists to gain the skills needed to categorise, digitise and share materials.
This work has been funded through the generous support of a community grant from The University of Edinburgh. The project aims to preserve and celebrate the area’s pioneering history and create a resource that is locally led and nationally significant.
Due to social distancing guidelines the group is currently small. However, the members – Billy McKirdy, Johnni Stanton and Heather and Kevin Henderson – have been able to identify every person in the photos we have come across, including their younger selves! When it is possible, we hope more local archive enthusiasts will be able to join us."
Edinburgh’s history: the Craigmillar Festival Society
The Craigmillar Festival Society is one of the most important community arts projects of the 20th century, not just in Scotland but internationally. It was founded in the 1960s by a group of pioneering local women who wanted to start a festival that celebrated the creativity of Craigmillar. The impetus for this – a mother with a child who was denied violin lessons – is the stuff of local legend.
The Society quickly became a ground-breaking, community-led organisation that used the arts to tackle a range of social problems. It created new and meaningful opportunities for people within the area. The impact of the CFS was huge: people came to Craigmillar from all over the world to learn from this grassroots approach. It even inspired the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival.
In 1976 the CFS secured a £750k ‘Anti Poverty’ grant from the European Union (then the EEC). This enormous sum of money helped the organisation to further realise their ambitions. The CFS could now afford to take on more staff, becoming the largest employer in the area. It also allowed them to secure more premises for community use, including St Andrews which they leased from the Scottish Episcopal Church and converted into an arts centre. Here, the CFS team created a darkroom where local photographers could develop images – which they would later publish in the community-owned newspaper The Craigmillar Chronicle. It is this same building that Craigmillar Now calls home. Returning these items to the place where they were created feels very special.
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