Smile please – you’re in Leith

All smiles: Maria Masur-Grieve and just visible behind her Marek Pietryzykowski

Politicians take note.  Sometimes the simplest ideas win the most hearts, minds and votes. Last night’s political drama in Fort Community Wing ended with a competition for a project to change life in Leith for the better.  And the clear winners of a small cash prize to make it happen were Maria and Marek for an idea that costs nothing to put into action.  Smiling Leith simply asks everyone to smile three times a day to a complete stranger. 

Try it, urged a smiling Maria and Marek, it can make you and someone else feel happier. It certainly seemed to work a treat for the crowd who had come to see the first night of Change, a political (with a small p) play exploring how we can influence positive change in our community.

The other two proposals are also good ideas: a leaflet campaign to promote the club for young mothers at the Citadel and a public event to excite support for the Greenerleith vision for pedestrianising the Shore. And of course they can still happen.  But it was the smile that won the day when Gavin Crichton, the ACTive Inquiry director, asked the audience to take part in an old fashioned democratic show of hands. Smiling Leith wins £50 for a poster campaign to get everyone smiling.

Gavin spent the earlier part of the evening in the role of The Joker (see right) coaxing members of the audience on to the stage to play their part in changing events.  With amazing success.

On the way into the hall Mridu said she definitely did not want to get involved in audience participation. Guess who was first up on stage after Gavin asked the audience to suggest how the main character Sophie might have done things differently to secure her dream of running a community course encouraging local people to take more control of their lives.

On the other side of me Al confided his fear of being dragged on stage.  Guess who was next up? Al improvised a scene skillfully persuading the community centre manager that Sophie might find an alternative source of funding for her project. (Later Al admitted it was very close to the role he played in getting Greener Leith started).

Playing their part: Mridu Thanki (left) of World Kitchen in Leith and Al Tibbitt of Greener Leith with Suzanne of ACTive Inquiry as the harassed community centre manager.

And by the end of the play even Leith Open Space was drawn into the action, persuading the bank who employ Sophie that they could help to make the community project happen and restore some of their bad name at the same time.

Try it for yourself – Change made its debut at Fort Community Wing thanks to the wonderfully enterprising Swietlica drop-in club. The play is now running in different venues throughout Leith during the election campaign. Next showing at Duncan Place Resource Centre, 4 Duncan Place, Leith on Wednesday 5 May 7pm.

And don’t forget to smile – ‘Three smiles a day keeps misery away”, is the slogan suggested by Mridu for the Smiling Leith poster campaign which will be launched with the help of the £50 prize awarded by ACTive Inquiry. Who knows who and what will win the next prize.  Could be you?

Teamwork: Mridu, Marek and Marcin demonstrate people power (thanks to Kasia Raszewska for the black and white pictures)


all free
Wednesday 5 May 7pm – Duncan Place Resource Centre, 4 Duncan Place, Leith
[Thursday 6 May – still to be confirmed – Out of the Blue, Drill Hall, Dalmeny Street, Leith]
Saturday 8  May 4pm – The Lighthouse, 20-22 West Harbour Road, Granton, EH5
(plus a private performance  at NEECAG (North East Edinburgh Care Action Group) Older People’s Forum, at a  sheltered housing complex).

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