In the Footsteps of Geddes at Oudenarde, Perth & Kinross
One of the locations featured in the project is a place called Oudenarde in Perth and Kinross (not to be confused with Oudenaarde, Belgium). Perth and Kinross (Scots: Pairth an Kinross, Scottish Gaelic: Peairt agus Ceann Rois) is one of 32 council areas in Scotland and a Lieutenancy Area. It borders onto the Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Fife, Highland and Stirling council areas. Perth is the administrative centre.
One of the towns of this part of Scotland is Bridge of Earn. Bridge of Earn (Scottish Gaelic: Drochaid Èireann) is a small town in Perthshire, Scotland. The place-name is of uncertain (though probably Gaelic) origin, and may contain the element druim, ‘ridge, spine’. It is often referred to simply as ‘The Brig’ (Scots for ‘bridge’). The village grew up on the south bank of an important crossing of the River Earn, whose sandstone bridge existed from at least the early 14th century, when it is known to have been repaired by order of King Robert I of Scotland (1306–1329). Bridge of Earn’s proximity to Perth, and convenient transport links to Edinburgh and Dundee, make it a desirable ‘dormitory’ town, though its second and most recent railway station was closed on 15 June 1964, following the Beeching reforms of the 1960s.
The eastern edge of Bridge of Earn, just beyond the M90 motorway, is the location of Oudenarde Strategic Development Area. This strategic development area is proposed for 1,600 or more homes and 34 hectares of employment land. The site sits within a broad river valley, which is bounded by the Moncrieffe and Kirkton Hills to the north and the Ochil Hills to the south. The River Earn is situated along the site’s northern edge, three kilometres east from its confluence with the River Tay. Agricultural fields also flank the land to the east. Part of the location, situated to the north of Clayton Road, used to be the Oudenarde Hospital, which was closed in 1992. The railway line from Edinburgh to Perth via Fife passes through the site, and divides it into two distinct areas.
PAS was approached by two of Perth & Kinross Council’s Senior Community Capacity Builders Diane Cassidy and Tracey Ramsey about delivering “In the Footsteps of Geddes” within one of the communities under the council’s jurisdiction. Oudenarde was identified as the area for the project to be delivered in as it is a new community which has been challenged due to the stalling of its development. Since the only partial completion of the development, the new houses have been surrounded by fenced off, untidy development land and there are no dedicated facilities available to the population. This issue has been particularly felt by the younger residents, with nothing more than a grass pitch and a very basic playground to use in their spare time.
In the Footsteps of Geddes at Oudenarde Community Family Fun Day
Following a series of discussions with the representatives of Perth & Kinross Council, Hillcrest Housing Association and local councillors, the project, in a compact one day form, was incorporated into a wider community event for the people of Oudenarde – a first of its kind in the history of the development. Given the lack of an available enclosed public venue, it was decided to host the event inside a large marquee, hired especially for the occasion.
Aside from information stalls on health and wellbeing, and the smart use of energy within households as well as fun activities such as face painting and a balloon stall, there was also information about the historic significance of Oudenarde and Bridge of Earn. “In the Footsteps of Geddes” also encouraged engagement with place by providing Google Cardboard VR viewers with pre-prepared panoramic images of various parts of Oudenarde. These images, as well as local knowledge, were then used by the young participants and their parents in conjunction with the Place Standard tool. The Place Standard assisted the residents in identifying the key needs of the community and how they could be addressed. The summary of this exercise can be read here.
The young people also engaged keenly in the practical exercise of assembling the Google Cardboard viewers, which could then be taken home and used with their own smartphones. Panoramic photography training was also given and it was enjoyed by the children who took part. It is hoped that newly learnt skills and the Google Cardboard viewers will become an inspiration that encourages them to explore their place and record it with friends and family.
The project partners – Perth & Kinross Council, Hillcrest Housing Association and local councillors – have been investigating having a temporary community hub in Oudenarde in a serviced Portacabin. It is understood the Oudenarde Community Family Fun Day generated interest in this idea and some of the participants of the event signed up to a committee to take it forward.
The event was also an opportunity to learn more about the history of the area. While Oudenarde itself is a recent development, various historic locations are within a walking distance. Substantial remains of the medieval bridge (rendered redundant by a replacement, still in use, slightly upstream in 1821-22) survived into the 1970s in Bridge of Earn, when almost all the stonework was demolished, for (allegedly) being in a dangerously ruinous condition. This ancient bridge was a major landmark on the road between Edinburgh (39 miles south) and Perth (4 miles north) for several centuries. The village’s oldest houses are to be found lining the road (Back Street/Old Edinburgh Road) leading south from the site of the demolished bridge. Among them are some with 18th-century datestones.
The ruined Old Bridge of Earn (and part of the village) are featured in the 1857 painting Sir Isumbras at the Ford by John Everett Millais (1829–1896), who often stayed at nearby Perth. There is also an early 19th-century lithograph showing the structure as complete in Sketches of Scenery in Perthshire by David Octavius Hill (1802–1870).
The area’s most recent history also attracted the interest of the attendees, especially due to its direct connection to Oudenarde. Bridge of Earn, and the formerly neighbouring but now conjoined village of Kintillo, have expanded significantly since the 1960s, with hundreds of new homes being built. Many more – in fact an entire new settlement called Oudenarde – have been in construction on the site of the large former hospital to the east of the old village. At the beginning of World War II Bridge of Earn was selected as the location of one of seven new Emergency Hospital Service temporary hospitals which were to be constructed in Scotland to deal with the expected war casualties. The hospital opened in 1939 and gained a Rehabilitation Unit, which was transferred from Gleneagles Hotel, in 1946. An Orthopaedic Unit was transferred from Larbert in 1947. The hospital finally closed in 1992. Its archives are held by Archive Services, University of Dundee.
Overall, Oudenarde Community Family Fun Day which In the Footsteps of Geddes was part of, was a good opportunity for the Oudenarde community to interact and engage with the organisations involved in the project in a positive way. This will hopefully form the groundwork for taking forward future projects to enable the community to take an active role in developing activities and facilities to benefit everyone in their area.
Dunfermline is a town and former Royal Burgh in Fife, Scotland, on high ground 3 miles (5 km) from the northern shore of the Firth of Forth. Figures released in 2012 estimate Dunfermline’s population as 50,380, making it the largest locality in Fife and the tenth largest in Scotland.
The town is a major service centre for west Fife. Dunfermline retains much of its historic significance, as well as providing facilities for leisure. Employment is focused in the service sector. Other large employers in the area include distribution warehouses, hotels, windows manufacturing, offshore energy and financial services. The town is well connected with the rest of Scotland thanks to major A-road and motorway connections; the Forth Bridges are nearby and are well visible from the town’s main landmark, the Dunfermline Abbey.
Dunfermline and Geddes
Pittencrieff Park (known locally as “The Glen”) is a public park in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland. It was purchased in 1902 by Andrew Carnegie, the town’s most famous son, and given to the people of Dunfermline in a ceremony in 1903. Pittencrieff Park covers the historically significant and topologically rugged glen which interrupts the centre of Dunfermline and, accordingly, part of the intention of the purchase was to carry out civic development of the area in a way which also respected its heritage. The project attracted the attention of the urban planner and educationalist, Patrick Geddes.
As part of the donation of the estate, the Carnegie Trust invited proposals for the development of the area as a civic space. Two entries were submitted in 1903-04, one of which was by Patrick Geddes. His thinking about the project was to balance preservation of heritage with regeneration – encapsulated in his concept of Conservative Surgery. The second entry was by the landscape designer, Thomas Mawson. Although neither scheme was adopted, both influenced subsequent work on the establishment of the park as it exists today. The Pittencrieff Park commission was also an important influence in the formation of Geddes’s ideas in town planning and civic renaissance; he later used this unrealised project as key part of his portfolio when advertising his skills and services during his work in India in 1910s.
Woodmill High School
Woodmill High School is located in east Dunfermline. The area is going through a period of change and opportunity, thanks to the numerous housing developments being delivered nearby. The school places great emphasis on the provision of a caring, broad-based education which encourages all of our pupils to have aspirations and which promotes an ethos of excellence, not only in the classroom, but also in the wide range of extra-curricular activities on offer.
Woodmill High’s English teacher, Ms June Bouaoun, incorporated In the Footsteps of Geddes into her class’s curriculum. The group of young people, having witnessed the changes taking place in their neighbourhood, was very active and enthusiastic from the outset of the project, whether when identifying planning-related issues they witness in their neighbourhoods, or when coming up with ideas for positive placemaking.
This project delivery took advantage of the close proximity of areas and sites closely linked to Patrick Geddes and his way of thinking about place. As part of the project, young people took part in field trips to Pittencrieff Park and to Edinburgh Old Town. Both occasions were used to test out their newly acquired digital skills and to learn more about how Geddes changed places for everyone’s benefit.
The visit to Edinburgh’s Old Town included a visit to the Patrick Geddes Centre at Riddles Court, kindly provided by SHBT. SHBT’s Learning Office Russell Clegg also guided the group through the nearby James’s Close, Ramsay Garden and Johnstone Terrace urban garden (now a Scottish Wildlife Trust nature reserve – the smallest one in Scotland). The field trip culminated in a visit to the Outlook Tower – now home to Camera Obscura. In Geddes’s day it was an education centre created by this Scottish thinker to encourage everyone to explore their places and their interconnectivity with the rest of the world through visual education, including optical illusions and the ‘camera obscura’ at the top of the tower.
Lochgilphead is a town and former burgh in Argyll and Bute, West of Scotland, with a population of around 2,300 people. It is the administrative centre of Argyll and Bute and it lies at the end of Loch Gilp (a branch of Loch Fyne) and lies on the banks of the Crinan Canal. Lochgilphead sits on the A83 road, with Ardrishaig two miles to the south and Inveraray 24 miles to the north-east; Oban lies 37 miles north on the A816.
As a planned settlement, Lochgilphead was created in 1790, shortly after the completion of a road from Inveraray to Campbeltown. After the the Crinan Canal was constructed in 1801, the town became more important as a link across the Kintyre peninsula. The town was connected to Oban, when a road was completed in 1830. In 1831 a pier was built, helping to link Lochgilphead with Glasgow and other major towns via waterways.
The 1963 James Bond film “From Russia with Love” used locations in Lochgilphead area for shots. The local cinema was used to watch screen rushes each day for the cast and crew. The cinema building was actually originally built in 1938 for the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow. Following the event it was disassembled and put together again in Lochgilphead. It ceased to operate as cinema in 1980s and is now home to Empire Lodge, the area’s only purpose built travel lodge.
In July 1982, Lochgilphead competed against teams from Perth and Oban in the then highly popular BBC Television It’s a Knockout, presented by Stuart Hall. The town’s team won their round and later competed in the international version of the series, ‘Jeux Sans Frontieres’, which was recorded in Switzerland.
Lochgilphead is also home to Scottish motoring heritage. In 1970s the Argyll GT sportscar was built by Bob Henderson in Manse Brae. One of the few remaining examples can be seen at Grampian Transport Museum in Aberdeenshire.
Lochgilphead’s current facilities, serving both the town and the wider region, include a swimming pool, sports centre, fishing tackle shop, three banks, supermarket, two petrol stations, three homewear and hardware shops, a car dealership, a community hospital run by the local GPs, 9-hole golf course, bowling club, a hydrotherapy pool, a regional landfill site at Dunchologan and Lochgilphead High School, operating on a new campus since 2008.
The town annually hosts the Dalriada Provincial Mod each September. The event is a Gaelic festival organised by the local branch of An Comunn Gàidhealach, which provides opportunities for people of all ages to perform across a range of competitive disciplines including Gaelic music and song, highland dancing, instrumental, drama, sport and literature. The town is also one of the venues for the Mid Argyll Music Festival, which runs for about a fortnight annually.
In the Footsteps of Geddes at Mid-Argyll Youth Forum
Mid-Argyll Youth Forum is based in Lochgilphead and is an organisation that gives young people of this remote part of Scotland a chance to have a say on issues affecting them. Debates, discussions and actions at youth forums can affect decisions made at a local level, all the way up to the highest level in government. Mid-Argyll Youth Forum meets on Monday evenings in Lochgilphead Community Centre. The Forum also organises activities during school holidays which are open to all youngsters in the area. “In the Footsteps of Geddes” was part of the Summer 2017 programme. A group of eight teenage girls and boys from Lochgilphead took part in the project which was delivered over two days at the Community Centre; a field trip to the village of Arichonan also took place.
Day 1 at Lochgilphead Community Centre
Over the course of the first day the young people discussed extensively how they find living in Lochgilphead. As the discussion progressed, they raised various valid points about the positive aspects of this picturesquely located community, while also not shying away from being critical about its shortcomings. They appreciated the variety of sport and activity groups, accessibility of nature and green, the town’s location being central to the region and resulting attractiveness as a stopover point for tourism. At the same time the group was concerned about limited opportunities available to them following high school graduation; the desire to “leave for Glasgow as soon as possible” was a common sentiment. While appreciating it as one of the main drivers of the local economy and job market, they also expressed concern over the negative impact of the increasing inflow of tourists, in particular in relation to road safety and traffic levels. The participants also referred a lot to limited connectivity with the rest of the world, be it the physical connections via the limited public transport or patchy mobile and internet network coverage.
The above feedback was put onto large posters, acting as thought maps for the area. The group was then familiarised with the Place Standard tool in the form of a booklet. The fourteen categories, used to determine the quality of place using numeric and written feedback, are accompanied by prompts designed to make the survey easier to understand. Following this, the group was able to structure their ideas and opinions and also extend the discussion over the issues not covered initially.
In a further part of the workshop the participants practiced assembling the Google Cardboard virtual reality viewer. They then learnt how to take panoramic pictures with the use of a smartphone, a tripod and Cardboard Camera app. These newly learnt skills were then put to use on the second day.
Arichonan Clearance Village is located off the remote B8025, about 30 minutes away from Lochgilphead by car. Argyll’s picturesque Caol Scotnish can be seen from Arichonan. The terrain around the village features some great forest paths and tracks. There is also a yachting harbour at Tayvallich located just a few miles north.
The name Arichonan is a combination of the Gaelic “Airidh”, itself borrowed from Old Norse, “Erg”, meaning “Hill Pasture” or “Shieling”. The “Chonan” part is a personal name, also spelt as “Chonainn” and “Conan”. Arichonan therefore means Conan’s Shieling, providing summer pasture for Conan’s cattle.
The era of the Highland Clearances was a significant episode in Scottish history. Over the course of 150 years the demographic spread of Scotland was changed forever as thousands of families were forcibly driven from their ancestral homes. This was to make space for sheep grazing as it was more profitable to land owners than collecting rent from people. The abandoned township of Arichonan was the scene of a riot during the Clearances.
Similarly to other clearance areas, the inhabitants at Arichonan did not take kindly to the prospect having to leave their homes to make way for sheep grazing. When landowner Neil Malcolm of Poltalloch terminated his leases on Whitsunday in 1848, things turned sour. The determined tenants refused to budge and a riot ensued. Police were then sent in to quell the rebellion and many Arichonan residents were later imprisoned.
Arichonan was the subject of a school project done by Megan Davies, one of the “In the Footsteps of Geddes” participants. Although this part of Argyll & Bute is a recognised tourism and heritage destination, the awareness of this clearance village among newcomers and even some of the locals is low. Meghan hoped to shed some light on this place of historic significance and it was also the reason for choosing Arichonan as a place worthy a visit through the project.
To look forward one must first often look to the past. Following a short trip aboard a minibus, kindly provided by Mid-Argyll Youth Forum, the participants started the second day of the project in Arichonan. As eloquently put by Project Volunteer Michael Kordas, “being among the ruined crofts on a beautiful sunny morning brought the group together in understanding and reflecting on the sense of place which still pervades the area. This was true across both the ages since the village was abandoned and the age difference between the participants and facilitators”.
Exploration of the ruins ensued, with lots of walking, climbing and playful hiding behind the walls of the old crofts. The participants were keen to admire the views over the area from various points of the site. These, as well as architectural detail of the village, were captured in the panoramic group selfies that were taken using the smartphone technology, to be later viewed with the use of the Google Cardboard. The varied landscape of this part of Argyll & Bute – reminiscent of the Geddesian Valley Section diagram, illustrating the relationship between geography and human activity – was also admired and discussed by everyone.
Upon the group’s return to the project venue, the feedback gained from the Place Standard Tool on the first day was used in the most constructive way. The young participants discussed with enthusiasm how another element of local heritage, the former school, could be re-purposed into a community asset. The group came up with the idea of a “Gaffé” – a portmanteau of the words ‘café’ and ‘gaff’ (meaning “house”). The Gaffé would be a multipurpose place for the local youth with a community café at its heart where youngsters can gain work experience and learn responsibility. Facilities such as art room, music room with instruments, small cinema, study and meeting rooms and a large outside area for sport and other activities would form an attractive offer to the local youth. The Gaffé could be a central gathering place for the kids from the area, providing shelter from the rain, opportunities for personal development and be a nice place ‘to hang in’. The 3D scanning activity inspired the suggestion of ensuring that The Gaffé is also kitted out with up-to-date and interesting digital technology, to be used by everyone for fun and to develop digital skills.
Following this session of creativity and ideas, the day concluded with all people involved, both project staff and participants, leaving with new knowledge and appreciation for local history and the role of place in our everyday lives. The group enjoyed their time spent thinking about place in new ways, learning interesting skills and suggesting ideas that could benefit themselves and the wider community.
Possilpark is a district of Glasgow, situated north of the M8 motorway within a short distance from the city centre. The district’s main thoroughfare is Saracen Street. The area developed around Saracen Foundry of Walter MacFarlane & Co., which was the main employer for nearly a century. In the wake of the Saracen Foundry’s closure in 1967, this section of Glasgow has become one of the poorest in Scotland. Despite of these adversities, Possilpark is a vibrant area with rich history. A variety of diverse community organisations operate there, providing arts, sports, health and gardening provision and community regeneration. These organisations include YPF, The Concrete Garden, Possobilities and Friends of Possilpark Greenspace.
By 1850s, Walter MacFarlane, the owner of the Saracen Foundry, wished to vastly expand his company. In order to achieve this he purchased 100 acres (0.40 km2) of the Campbell estate on the northern flanks of the city of Glasgow.
MacFarlane renamed the estate Possilpark, which grew from a population of 10 people in 1872, to 10,000 by 1891. MacFarlane first oversaw the complete woodlands removal and the creation of railway access to his foundry. He later laid out the rest of the park land as a grid plan of streets and tenements, including naming the main street running through the new suburb “Saracen Street”.
The grid layout of Possilpark was described by the then Glasgow Town Council as: “… [o]ne of the finest and best conducted in Glasgow, and the new suburb of Possil Park, laid out by them with skill and intelligence, is rapidly becoming an important addition to the great city.”
The Saracen Foundry became known for its decorative iron works, railings and water fountains to park bandstands. These were exported all over the British Empire, and can still be found in abundance in many parts of the city. In its later years, the foundry was one of five foundries casting Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s classic K6, the iconic red British telephone box for Post Office Telephones.
In the post-war period, a vast decline in orders for Saracen’s standard cast iron designs was experienced which was the result of a combination of the collapse of the British Empire and the adaptation of new designs and materials. After a takeover of the company in 1965, the works closed and the infrastructure was demolished in 1967.
Following the closure of this major employer, Possilpark experienced an increase in serious social issues such as unemployment, crime and drug abuse. This was similar to many other parts of the country which were experiencing the negative effects of deindustrialisation – the disappearance of heavy industry. According to the 2012 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) data, Possilpark is the second most deprived area in Scotland. Large portions of the district, including red sandstone tenements, have been demolished after their residents were forced to move to other areas. One of these areas is now subject to a draft masterplan for 600 new homes.
Saracen Street remains the main area for shopping and services. Some parts of the district have been undergoing redevelopment since the late 1990s, which has seen many new houses being built and some public space improvements made. There has also been an increase in the amount of small local businesses are appearing in Saracen Street. The old foundry site is now occupied by a number of commercial firms, including Allied Vehicles, UK’s leading provider of cars adapted for the needs of people with disabilities.
In the Footsteps of Geddes in Possilpark
The project was delivered as part of a community event “Our Hammyhill”. Hamiltonhill, affectionately referred to by locals as “Hammyhill”, is the westernmost part of Possilpark, located near the Hamiltonhill Claypits Local Nature Reserve. The reserve borders on the bank of the only remaining part of the old Monklands Canal, now an extension of the Forth & Clyde Canal. The aim of the event was to the enable the local community to start developing ideas in anticipation of a consultation around a draft masterplan for 600 new homes.
In order to enable a wider cross-section of the community to be included in the process, In the Footsteps of Geddes was delivered to two groups of young people from the neighbourhood over two days. The event was publicised and delivered with the help of PAS Volunteer and local activist Paul Ede, also heavily involved in “Our Hammyhill”; project staff, other PAS Volunteers and volunteers from the project area also assisted.
Paul’s summary and reflection on the whole experience in the form of a blogpost can be read on the website of SURF – Scotland’s Regeneration Forum.
The participants first mapped their knowledge and opinions about Possilpark using a relief map of the area. They were then trained on how to create digital panoramic photography, following a practical exercise in the assembly of the Google Cardboard virtual reality viewers. Both groups then went on a walkabout of the area, interacting with the key public spaces and landmarks by creating visual images and also thinking on the potential areas of improvement.
Upon return to the local community hall, the participants engaged for the first time with the 3D digital technology by taking 3D selfies with historic objects linked Possilpark and just themselves for fun. This direct interaction with 3D imagery enabled the group to understand better its significance in analysing and working with space and places as well as heritage objects and areas.
The groups also used the Place Standard tool to assess the quality of the area with focus on seven of the categories. This feedback (as well as other outputs of the groupwork) was later presented at the main “Our Hammyhill” event and was discussed alongside the issues and hopes raised by other members of the community in the context of the proposed major development.
In the Footsteps of Geddes was delivered at the establishment’s Learning Centre to a group of six young individuals from various parts of Scotland. The workshops focused on mapping the knowledge and opinions of the group about the areas they come from and places elsewhere that they visited. The Geddesian principle of visual education was used by having the group engage with the Valley Section [illustration below] as well as contemporary and past images of the areas of their origin in order to discuss the changes that occurred in the townscapes of Scotland over the last century and their bearing on the economic opportunities for the communities.
The young men also used the Place Standard tool to learn about and understand what determines the quality of place. They then applied the fourteen categories to various aspects and experiences of living in the HMP&YOI Polmont establishment, creating a written record as well as a numerical graph of their opinions.
As part of one session the group was also visited by guest speakers – Scottish Historic Buildings Trust Learning Officer, Russell Clegg and PAS Volunteer and planning researcher, Jenny Wood. Russell presented visual materials showcasing the history of Riddle’s Court in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Young people were then able to learn about various building trades involved in the recently completed restoration of that building, which could become potential career paths in their lives in the future.
Russell felt that the young men engaged very well with the content of his session, were curious and asked many pertinent questions relevant to his work and the Patrick Geddes Centre project. Russell was even challenged on the value of spending £6 million on a building as old and difficult to work with from the modern point of view as Riddle’s Court, when a new building could be constructed at smaller cost. This question has been interpreted as proof of high engagement with the session’s content and their critical thinking. The issues of value of architectural heritage and various interpretations of what elements of built environment are important and worthy of preservation were raised in the ensuing conversation between the participants, learning centre staff and the project staff and support.
Jenny talked with the group about children’s rights as laid down by the UN in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This related to her PhD research, in which she worked with 6 to 12-year-olds to talk about their local area and ideas for a local park restoration. The participants of “In the Footsteps of Geddes” were shown some of these outputs, and the mapping exercises used to gather data. A discussion ensued about how conflicts often exist in parks between younger and older children, as well as older members of the community.
Different people with their experiences and ideas about place and how these do not always get listened to in the planning process were another subject matter. This led to the important conclusion that although planners are increasingly trained to involve a wider group of people, regardless of origin, social status and age, there still remains the need for greater inclusion. This is important for making better places in the future.
Jenny also talked to the participants about her experience of performing stand-up comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the impact it can have on others. The participants also showed interest in Jenny’s current research on homelessness. Some of the group members had thoughts on and experiences to share about homeless people they’ve encountered and the respect deserved to everyone no matter their housing status.
The project participants were engaged in the topics and expressed interest to find out more. In their feedback some of the participants stated that they had benefited from the experience. One reported that before his participation in the project he never realised that people cared for the environment they lived in. PAS hopes that by working with these individuals their appreciation and understanding of place and its role in determining the quality of living and a person’s life chances will develop further in the future.
Article 12 is a Stirling-based organisation active throughout Scotland. Their key mission is supporting some of the most marginalised young people, such as young Gypsy/Travellers, care experienced young people, young people with disabilities and young people experiencing poor mental health.
The name of the organisation is taken from the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UK signed it in 1990, and it came into UK law in 1992. It consists of 45 articles; the twelfth article, quoted below is the inspiration for ‘inclusive engagement’ – key mission for Article 12 as well as PAS – focuses on enabling ‘seldom-heard’ groups to share their views and have them considered with seriousness.
Article 12 (respect for the views of the child):
Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. This right applies at all times, for example during immigration proceedings, housing decisions or the child’s day-to-day home life.
Article 12 believe that governments, professionals, and the wider community all have a role to play in building an environment that respects, values and validates the contributions of young people.
Their work is underpinned by the principle of free participation: the right to participate as equal citizens at all levels of society without fear or favour and a process that facilitates the participation of all young people on their own terms and according to their own realities. It is a principle that, if realised, facilitates informed choice, freedom, dignity, respect and demonstrates an acceptance that young people – regardless of their background and personal circumstances have the same human rights entitlements as adults.
Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland
The origins of the Scottish Gypsy/Traveller community remain disputed. However, there is a degree of acceptance that this group of people has roots in a Celtic nomad population in Scotland. Historically, there has been some inter-marriage as well as social and trading networks with the Roma, a nomadic population that has likely migrated from India through Egypt and Eastern Europe to Western Europe. There is written evidence of the presence of the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland dated as 1505 in an account written up by the then Lord High Treasurer of Scotland.
The Scottish Gypsy/Traveller community is now recognised by the Scottish Government as an ethnic group in its own right. This recognition acknowledges that it is a community comprised of several distinct groups, each with its own cultural origins, histories, traditions and language. The Equality Act (2010) provides the legislative framework which protects this community (and other ethnic groups) from being discriminated against on the grounds of ethnicity.
The modern identity of Gypsy/Travellers has many forms. Some families spend all of their time ‘shifting’ (i.e. travelling), some only travel during certain parts of the year and others live in ‘bricks and mortar’ houses. Nevertheless, regardless of lifestyle and upbringing, Gypsy/Travellers share a strong sense of cultural identity. This identity lives on and thrives through traditional crafts and fairs as well as storytelling and music.
Workshop in Kinross
A one-day workshop was delivered at the end of June to work with a group of young Gypsy/Travellers. Some of them were local to the Perth & Kinross-shire; they were joined by another group of youngsters from Edinburgh. Prior effort was me to build connections with and gain trust of the aforementioned young individuals by visiting them at their respective areas of residence with the help of the Article 12 staff. This translated into good numbers of participants involved in the project.
The participants first populated maps of Scotland with various information, stemming from their experiences of living in and travelling through many parts of the country. They tested and improved their geographical knowledge by identifying major cities and geographical waypoints. This information was then accompanied by their opinions about particular areas and sites, as well as memories and personal experiences lived in them.
The Valley Section was then used to identify historic trades and professions. This resource, linking geography and different landscapes with human activity in rural and urban settings, resonated well with the group, as many traditional and modern activities associated with the Gypsy/Traveller community are interconnected with land and nature and the rhythm of the seasons. The group then considered which of the jobs have disappeared since the times of Patrick Geddes in the last 100 years and what they have been replaced by.
Another part of the workshop involved the use of the Place Standard tool to assess the quality of the sites currently occupied by the young people and the wider area. This element of the session was co-delivered with the Article 12 staff as part of their programme of supporting the literacy skills development of those young individuals. By looking at the quality of place following the Place Standard’s framework of 14 categories, the group was able to understand better what makes for a good place and identify areas which could do with some improvement. The Place Standard’s structure also enabled justification of one’s opinions through prompts linked to each category.
The feedback on the quality of place varied, possibly due to the fact that the participants came from different areas (Kinross and Edinburgh). One part of the group indicated public transport, natural space and play and recreation as areas requiring the most improvement and work and local economy, facilities and amenities and traffic and parking as deserving of positive scores. Another one considered natural space and play and recreation as scoring well, alongside moving around, while traffic and parking, housing and community, feeling safe and care and maintenance as scoring below average. The last part of the group felt that traffic and parking, influence and sense of control, traffic and parking and housing and community as scoring below average; social interaction, feeling safe and moving around had little room for improvement, accordingly to those participants. This varied feedback shows the diversity of views and issues experienced by young Gypsy/Travellers in their areas. It is hoped that giving consideration to what determines the quality of place and discussing the issues will lead to enabling the individuals in question to building confidence and capacity to take active part in discussions about the places they live in and spend time in.
The set of participants also engaged well with the 3D scanning exercise. Similarly to other project groups, it was their first direct interaction with this exciting technology. Items chosen from the souvenir shop at the Huntingtower Castle were used in the creation of the 3D selfies, which can be viewed below.
Huntingtower Castle (formerly known as Ruthven Castle or the Place [Palace] of Ruthven) is located near the village of Huntingtower in Perth & Kinross. It is near the city of Perth on the main road to Crieff.
Huntingtower Castle was built in stages from the 15th century by the Clan Ruthven family and was known for several hundred years as the ‘House (or ‘Place’) of Ruthven’. In the summer of 1582, the castle was occupied by the 4th Lord Ruthven, who was also the 1st Earl of Gowrie, and his family. Gowrie was involved in a plot to kidnap the young King James VI, son of Mary, Queen of Scots. During 1582 Gowrie and his associates seized the young king and held him prisoner for 10 months. This kidnapping is known as the ‘Raid of Ruthven’ and the Protestant conspirators behind it hoped to gain power through controlling the king. James eventually escaped and actually forgave Gowrie, but after a second abortive attempt by Gowrie and others to overthrow him, Gowrie was finally executed and his property (including Huntingtower) was forfeited to the crown.
As well as seizing the estates, the king abolished the name of Ruthven and decreed that any successors would be ineligible to hold titles or lands. Thus the House of Ruthven ceased to exist and by royal proclamation the castle was renamed Huntingtower. The Castle remained in the possession of the crown until 1643 when it was given to the family of Murray of Tullibardine (from whom the Dukes of Atholl and Mansfield are descended).
John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl resided in the Castle, where his wife Lady Mary Ross bore a son on 7 February 1717. The Castle began to be neglected and after Lady Mary died in 1767, it was abandoned as a place of residence. It would be then occasionally used by farm labourers for accommodation. The last inhabitants were the family of the castle custodian Niel Cowan. The Cowan family of Niel, Margaret, Alexander and Lorraine left in late 2002.
Today, the castle can be visited by the public and is sometimes used as a venue for marriage ceremonies. It is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, who enabled the group of young participants of “In the Footsteps of Geddes” to visit the site and explore from the ground up to the roof level.
The youngsters were keen to inspect every nook and cranny of the ancient building while learning about what various rooms were used for back in the day. While the layout and form of the building was nothing like any kind of modern accommodation, be it bricks and mortar or mobile, many of the functions were recognisable (kitchen, dormitories, storage areas etc.). A particularly interesting feature was a secret cavity in the wall of one of the rooms, historically used for safekeeping of valuables – equivalent of a modern safe.
The group used the panoramic photography technology extensively throughout the site, capturing both the interiors and the exterior of the castle, as well as some of the views stretching from the rooftop.
Situated in west Fife, and surrounded by beautiful rolling countryside, Cowdenbeath is a town which sits within the wider civil parish of Beath, containing a population of approximately 14,000. The word ‘beath’ is known to mean ‘birch’ in Gaelic, and P.W. Brown suggests that the word also means ‘abode’ or ‘settlement’. The Beath kirk represents the first sign of focused settlement for the surrounding area and dates back to 1429, although the earliest written record of Beath (Beth) can be dated back to 1178. Originally famed for farming, its emergence as a long standing settlement and the nickname ‘Chicago of Fife’ was precipitated by the establishment and subsequent boom of coal mining from 1850 onward.
The arrival of the Oakley Iron Company (to be taken over ten years later by the Forth Iron Company and later by the Fife Coal Company in 1896) around that time was to have a long-lasting impact upon Cowdenbeath and make the name synonymous with coal-mining for almost a century. By the turn of the century there were nine coal pits, making it one of the largest coal-mining areas in Scotland. The dramatic increase in mining activity led to the doubling of the population of Cowdenbeath from 4,000 to 8,000 in the 1890-1900 period (for comparison in 1820 only 120 people lived there). Various related industries and facilities were also created, including the Fife Mining School, which shut down in 1976.
Since the coal industry’s departure in the 1960s and 70s, Cowdenbeath acts as a local centre for several nearby communities, providing shopping, education and leisure facilities. The town benefits from the proximity of major transport links (A92 and M90) and its own railway station on the Fife Circle. Its High Street is like no other thanks to the recent beautification programme – a collaboration between Fife Council, police, local businesses and an artist which involved decorating the shopfronts and especially their shutters with artworks reflecting the business’s profile.
Beath High School
Beath was established in 1910 as Beath Higher Grade School. The school was often chosen by pupils who were hoping to progress to higher education. Over the years the school continued to grow in size. The ever-increasing number of pupils and changing expectations of education facilities eventually necessitated the construction of a new building. In 2003 Beath High moved into a new building with state of the art accommodation for all pupils and staff, including an all-weather pitch.
In the Footsteps of Geddes at Beath High
A group of ten Beath pupils, boys and girls from Cowdenbeath and surrounding villages, participated in In the Footsteps of Geddes project in the last quarter of 2016. The project was interweaved into the SQA Scottish Studies Course Level 3, specifically the Business, Industry and Employment Unit of this qualification, focus of which was on Travel and Tourism.
The group considered the role of heritage as a potential stimulator of local economy and creation of jobs. By using the Scottish Government’s Place Standard tool, the participants identified the strong and weak aspects of the area and the role of placemaking in the process of creating better communities which are attractive to locals as well as tourists. The group also developed skills in thinking about making inclusive places by assessing the local high street with the Place Standard tool from the perspective of people with movement difficulties.
The project participants also learnt how to use Google Cardboard, take panoramic photographs and create 3D scans. This development of digital skills resonates with the Scottish Curriculum of Excellence and was thoroughly enjoyed by the group. The new abilities were later used in and outside of the classroom.
Aberdour, also in Fife, is a scenic coastal village located on the north shore of the Firth of Forth, situated between Burntisland to the east and Dalgety Bay to the west. The place name is Pictish and its suggested meaning is confluence (aber) of water (dour). The harbour of Aberdour has been a focal point of the village both being used as a transportation point for nearby collieries such as Cowdenbeath, and latterly as a destination for pleasure steamers from Leith. Notably an area of historical importance, Aberdour is in close proximity to Aberdour Castle, St Filian’s Church, and consists of buildings of the 17th-19th century vernacular. Other geographical features include Aberdour’s two beaches, Silver Sands and Black Sands, and nearby Incholm Island which was inhabited by monks as early as the 12th Century.
Aberdour Castle, a Historic Environment Scotland site, dates from around 1200, making it one of the two oldest datable standing castles in Scotland, along with Castle Sween in Argyll, which was built at around the same time. The earliest part of the castle comprised a modest hall house overlooking the Dour Burn. Over the next four centuries the castle was successively expanded according to architectural ideas of the time. The hall house became a tower house in the 15th century, and was extended twice in the 16th century. The final addition was made around 1635, with refined Renaissance details, and the whole was complemented by a walled garden to the east and terraced gardens to the south. The terraces, dating from the mid-16th century, form one of the oldest gardens in Scotland, and great views across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh can be seen from them.
The castle is largely the creation of the Douglas Earls of Morton, who held Aberdour from the 14th century. The earls used Aberdour as a second home until 1642, when their primary residence, Dalkeith House, was sold. A fire in the late 17th century was followed by some repairs, but in 1725 the family purchased nearby Aberdour House, and the medieval castle was allowed to fall into decay. Today, only the 17th-century wing remains roofed, while the tower has mostly collapsed. Aberdour Castle is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.
The historic site was the focus of the field trip of Beath High pupils. This visit was made possible courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland. The group, led by two teachers, project staff and volunteer and a Historic Environment Scotland employee explored the historic ruins, learning about the past and present significance of the castle. The young participants engaged with place via the medium of digital panoramic photography and Google Cardboard. The group also conducted a Place Standard assessment, analysing both the historic site as well as the neighbouring community.
The Aberdour Castle trip can be viewed in the video here.
Pop-up exhibition at Cowdenbeath Library
The project culminated in a pop-up exhibition, hosted by the Cowdenbeath Library. The participants were able to present their findings and knowledge. They also engaged with members of the public by showing them how to use Google Cardboard and helping them fill out Place Standard questionnaires. The findings of this exercise, conducted by the project participants, can be viewed in the document here.