Easter Road Game Changer

(adapted from an email from Tahl Kaminer, Lecturer in Architectural Design and Theory, University of Edinburgh)

Hibernian Community Foundation, the charity arm of Hibernian FC, has launched Game Changer, an ambitious Public Social Partnership in collaboration with many partners, chief among them NHS Lothian and Edinburgh City Council.

‘The aim is to unlock the power and passion associated with football and to make greater use of all Hibernian’s physical, cultural and professional assets, to deliver a better, healthier future for the most vulnerable, disenfranchised or disadvantaged in our communities.’

The project began in 2014 with a series of consultations, brainstorming events, and solicitation of proposals with 300 involved groups. It has now moved to the creation of five ‘task forces’, each focused on a different issue, ranging from the creation of NHS facilities and an enhanced Learning Centre at the Hibs stadium to a family centre at the Hibs training centre near Ormiston. The overarching themes are ‘wealthier and fairer’, ‘safer and stronger’, ‘healthier’, ‘greener’, and ‘smarter’.

A group of post-graduate students enrolled in the University of Edinburgh’s Urban Strategies and Design programme have been studying Game Changer and possible means of maximising the project’s benefits for the Easter Road area and its residents. At the centre of Game Changer is the possibility of provision of space in the stadium itself, and the donation by Hibs of some of its training area to social and public-interest enterprise. The students are considering these as ‘assets’, but their point of departure is an analysis of Easter Road area and identification of local needs.

In many senses Easter Road is a diverse and mixed area. While there is deprivation and hardship in the neighbourhood, it does not reach the scale of some of Edinburgh’s more deprived areas. There is a diversity of tenures in housing. There is a lack of green space within the area itself (except for parks in Montgomery St, Dickson St), but abundance nearby (Leith Links, Lochend Park). The urban block form is strong, yet there are areas of fragmentation, primarily where industry has been replaced and around the stadium. The shops at the north end of Easter Road appear to struggle, yet there are numerous opportunities for retail and shopping nearby (Leith Walk, south end of Easter Road, Duke St). There is a significant population which has been here long-term, yet also transient population (students, migrants, professionals). These diversities are the most fascinating aspect of the Easter Road area; they allow co-habitation of very different social groups in conditions of high-density. The Easter Road area is, arguably, the only area in Edinburgh in which an intense ‘urban’ condition manifests itself – a conditions which creates challenges as much as it offers opportunities. The students will develop in the next couple of months a set of propositions which will be presented to Game Changer in May. These propositions will be based on their findings and assessment of priorities based on interviews with locals and stakeholders, on data and other information they are gathering.

Please contact us with any queries: tahl.kaminer@ed.ac.uk.