Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust has has just published its proposal for the Word Bank. Described as “a publishing, literacy and writers’ centre with a distinctive community focus”, the Word Bank would include affordable office space for individuals and organisations broadly involved in publishing, writing, book production, writing programmes and literacy; communal meeting, exhibition, rehearsal and performance space; and a base for a range of community activities including publishing, local history, arts and cultural heritage projects. For more information see the Projects page.

The Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust has just completed a study into the architectural and historic significance of the former North Canongate Infants School on New Street (now known as the Canongate Venture). The study has considerably enlarged our knowledge of the significance of this building, which was slated for demolition as part of the ‘Caltongate’ project.

Commissioned as part of the overall feasibility study for a new literature centre the work was carried out by Adam Dudley Architects and also included an assessment of the building’s structural condition. The work was funded by a grant from the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust.

Download a copy of the Trust's press release about this study, released 12 October 2011 here.

Many prominent figures were associated with the school’s history, including Patrick Geddes who commissioned a painting for the school from Stanley Cursiter. The installation of the picture caused such a controversy in the correspondence columns of the Scotsman that the picture had to be removed, and Geddes’ whole scheme abandoned. Cursiter’s picture now hangs in the Canongate Kirk.

Adam Dudley Architects found that the building was in good condition, with only superficial damage to the external stonework, and other general minor problems resulting from the lack of maintenance over the last few years. The study also shows that some simple energy saving measures such as insulating the walls and adding secondary glazing to windows would substantially reduce future running costs. They are confident that the school’s design allows flexibility for a variety of possible uses, already demonstrated by its life history - a school followed by a vegetable market, building trades college and latterly as the Canongate Venture, housing workshops and offices. A community arts centre focussing on the written and spoken word next?

Download a copy of the Trust's press release about this study, released 12 October 2011 here.

A Patrick Geddes-style seminar was held in Riddle's Court, Edinburgh on Oct 2/3, 2010 on the theme of 'Re-thinking the City'.

Organised by Friends of Riddle's Court Edinburgh (FORCE), with the support of City of Edinburgh Council and the Open University, it brought together 80 delegates to discuss and debate issues around sustainable city living.

For further information click on Friends of Riddle's Court.

One of the Trust's board members, Jim Johnson, has co-authored a book on the Old Town with Lou Rosenburg. Renewing Old Edinburgh: the enduring legacy of Patrick Geddes was published in November 2010 by Argyll Publising in association with the Scottsh Centre for Conservation Studies based at Edinburgh College of Art.

Jim Johnson is an architect and former Director of the Old Town Committee for Conservation and Renewal.

Lou Rosenburg is currently a Senior Research Fellow attached to the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies.

For more details, click here.

The Old Town Development Trust, in conjunction with partners such as Edinburgh World Heritage, have been developing plans to transform the Canongate Venture Building on the corner of New Street and East Market Street into a Literature Centre. The council now see this proposal as the best way to bring the building back into productive use.

This Scotsman article has more details: Former school set to book a place at heart of city's literary quarter.