A few days ago a busker started playing at 2.00 pm outside our flat in the Grassmarket.  The wailing of his vocal cords, which emitted more of a glissando of whines than any recognisable notes and his slow-strummed guitar, both amplified to an excruciating volume, echoed through our rooms so neither of us could think, work or listen to any entertainment of our own, let alone enjoy peace and quiet.

I went down to ask him to stop. He refused, saying the rules of the Council allowed to play as loud and as long as he liked. I said I’d have to call the police. He just shrugged, muttering something about me being free to do whatever I wanted (except, obviously, listen to him).  I rang 101 and was told the police would attend.

A grueling hour later, no police had come. I rang 101, to be told they were on their way. Another ghastly hour, I rang again, only to be told that the police who were attending had been called away, but others were coming.  Thirty minutes later, I went down to answer an enquiry at the main door, and happened to see two police standing nearby looking at the busker.  I asked them if they’d come to stop him.  They said they had a complaint, but had no powers to stop him, and anyway he wasn’t making too much noise, was he?  I explained that sound rose, and in the flat above his din echoed through every room.

They then said they’d have to take my details since a woman had complained about this busker, not me.  They asked me how long I’d lived here. I said 25 years. They replied that I must be used to this then.  But I explained that amplification had made this nuisance unbearable now. They then asked me if I was born in Scotland.  Isn’t this racist?   Eventually they went over and asked him to stop, and then came back, smiling, to tell me he’d agreed to go. They thought they’d done a good job.  They didn’t see the smirk on the busker’s face as he looked at me, scooping up his very considerable takings after playing unstopped for two and a half hours!  

Everyone has a right to peace and quiet in their home and place of work.  Edinburgh is currently failing to provide this for its inner city residents and workers.  

Julian Spalding



Grassmarket, Edinburgh, is currently the focus of a litter picking project, Neat Streets.  

CEC, Grassmarket BID, Keep Scotland Beautiful and a London Base Social Enterprise called Hub Bub have come together to encourage the people who live and work here to tidy the place up for the visitors.... As a long term resident I feel a bit miffed at the idea of locals being asked to look after the place for anybody but themselves and all the more so because in Grassmarket the people who create the most mess and litter are the businesses and the visitors! If proof were ever needed, read on.

Read more: Not so Neat Street



An Exhibition by Robert Davies in Ocean Terminal


‘I set out to record the changing coastline of a city, and found a landscape in limbo, of stalled developments that had little connection to history and community – a landscape of unfinished visions of its future’.

From Robert Davies photo essay of Edinburgh’s coastal communities, Granton, Newhaven and Leith  in Volume 2 of The Evergreen: A New Season in the North.

OPENING: FRIDAY 19 FEBRUARY 2016 6pm – 8pm



Interview Room 11 (IR11)

Ocean Terminal Level 1

Ocean Drive

Edinburgh EH6 6JJ







Anna Blair discusses art, craft and city planning in Edinburgh’s Cowgate and Kings Stables Yard

What a transformation to see the sober in droves in the Cowgate last Saturday afternoon venue- crawling to pop-up markets in some of the dingiest pub and club venues in the city.

It was sweetness if not always light, with the dark, cavernous ethos of most of these venues retained. Fine for late-night whatever, this was less suited to appreciating the wide range of arts and crafts on sale at dozens of stall staffed mainly by the under 30s. It was refreshing to go to the Cowgate, now far less staggering but infinitely more sociable, a far cry from the place the city abandoned to late-night drunkenness when thirteen years ago they banned traffic from the area between the hours10pm and 5am.

So , the Old Towners are saying, What’s popping up next? Surprises aren’t always as welcome as the Cowgate experience. What the arts collective Hidden Doors has in mind for Kings Stables Yard next month is a case in point. I’m sure there will be worthwhile art and drama on show but what’s also likely is that it will extend the standard anti-social Grassmarket mayhem by another 300 yards along KSR, closer to where hundreds of folk live (Kings Stables Road, Portsburgh Sq and Webster’s Land) – and for a further 9 days in May! As if the residents haven’t enough to contend with.

The arts fraternity must wake up to the fact that they now have an established urban planning role in making unpopular developments more palatable to planners and an un-enquiring public.  While the dressing of art and festival will fade along with the locals’ sleeplessness and the revellers’ hangovers, what developers have in mind for the city will not be sorted by an afternoon power nap or the hair of the dog.

Anna Blair

Image of the Cowgate Pop-Up Market from Edinburgh Markets' photostream on Flickr used as per Creative Commons license and with thanks.

A recent event in Braidwood Centre saw the Word Bank revive an important film about Dumbiedykes made in 2000 by Pilton Video in partnership with the Workers Educational Association.

Dumbiedykes: a Community Worth Preserving was made at a critical time for the community, right in the middle of the new development of Holyrood South with the Scottish Parliament under construction. Built to replace slum housing in the 1960s, Dumbiedykes now saw itself on the verge on becoming a slum once more with a growing backlog of house repairs and housing stock transfer from the Council on the cards.

The mood of the film is largely pessimistic but there’s also ample evidence of a community resilient enough to fight for a better future. And while the pessimism about the future of Dumbiedykes as a community has not been fulfilled, some of the old problems (such as poor public transport) persist and changes in the residential population have brought new challenges.

A report on the discussion which followed the film is available here.

Most importantly, it includes suggestions to help revive the fortunes of Dumbiedykes. If you have a contribution to make to this discussion we would like to hear from you.

Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust, 8 Jackson’s Entry, The Tun, Edinburgh EH8 8PJ