The word on the street

If you have time, treat yourself to a walk through living memories today. As you walk round Leith you will almost certainly see the green ear signs marking the spot where local people tell stories that shape the character of this unique part of Edinburgh.greenear 1 2

These green ears are symbols of [murmur] a very human approach to local history which we first reported on this website in September last year (see Making History in Leith). At that time we passed on an appeal for local people to come forward with their stories. Now [murmur] Edinburgh has been launched and Leith Open Space is very proud to have played a small part in helping to make local history. Some of our supporters are among the voices on the street.

Memories of life in Leith can come to life with the help of your mobile phone. Dial the number on the sign and you can hear a story (often more than one) triggered by this location. Alternatively, if you don’t have time for a walk today, click on the [murmur] Edinburgh website, and try any of the red dots on the map.

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A sense of place: thanks to New Media Scotland for pictures

Remember when you could catch a train from Leith Central Station to Waverley? Just click here for John Stewart’s story? Or try here for Stan’s great tales of ‘the dancing’ on Mondays and Fridays when Alexander’s Ragtime Band filled the Assembly Hall with jiving couples. Then go along to Victoria Swim Centre to hear Gina remember the days when she paid six old pennies for a bath at Victoria Swimming Pool (for a whole shilling she got soap too).

The present inspires stories too. Celina Mbwiria, a founder member of our Opening Doors shadow scheme, celebrates the diversity she finds at the foot of Leith Walk. Click here for her warm memories of the welcome Leith Primary School gave her children at a time when there were no black children in the classroom. And click here to discover how Tommy Miah (who has generously donated food for our Open Space events) brings ‘fusion’ food such as curried haggis to that grand old cinema building which is now The Raj restaurant.

Supporters of Leith Open Space were among many who responded to the appeal for stories when Shawn Micallef came from Toronto last year to explore the potential for developing the [murmur] project in Edinburgh. Mary Moriarty, vice chair of Leith Festival, welcomed Shawn to meet locals at her Port O’ Leith bar with his name chalked among today’s specials on the bar blackboard. (Click here for one of Mary’s stories).portoleithjpeg

The first 20 story signs were recently launched in Leith but there will always be room for more. Shawn hopes to be back for a second launch in June when [murmur] Leith is part of the Six Cities Design Festival, and the Leith Festival.
[murmur] in Leith is produced in partnership with New Media Scotland (, which supports imaginative collaboration between art and technology. Or as Michelle Kasprzak of NMS puts it: ‘we are using the technology we all carry in our pocket as a tool to access contemporary culture’. New Media Scotland is core funded by the Scottish Arts Council, and [murmur] in Leith is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

3 thoughts on “The word on the street”

  1. I was very privileged to be asked by Shaun McAllief to take part in the Leith Murmur last September. Having already seen the results of his labour in Toronto whilst on holiday in Canada, I was thrilled to oblige. Never thought I would see the day that Leith would be his first port of call outside North America to establish a Murmur. Something to be proud of I feel.

    I have publicised this venture on my website and have received numerous requests from Leithers worldwide to push for more places of interest to be included. e.g. Leith Hospital, the Old Fort, Puddochy, Leith Police Station, etc.

    The latter was especially requested by an 80 year old ex W.P.C. (in Canada since the 1960s) who, amongst her other duties, was on school crossing patrol at Dr Bells in the early 1950s. She thoroughly enjoys the Murmur, but laughingly chastises me for not mentioning her in my piece on the school.

    If I can be of any further assistance, then I would be only too pleased to oblige.

  2. My husband and I have really enjoyed this site. It is so great to hear all the wonderful Scottish voices and to hear a lot of the stories connected to Leith.

    These sites on the Internet do wonders for the morale of the ‘exiles’ – will always keep dear memories of Leith close to my heart. It was a great place and I have no bad memories of Leith at all. The Leith folk were wonderful I think anyway (but then I am probably prejudiced). Keep up the good work!

  3. What I find interesting is the way that new technology can be used to overlay a new layer of meaning to the existing cityscape. In this way, the [murmur] project was very like the ‘Ghost’ project by Judith Adams and PuppetLab, which took place in 2006. In that project, the audience were given MP3 players and sent off on a journey into the back streets of Leith. (Judith has since done a similar project in Bradford).

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