Communities join forces to revive gala 30 years on

Sandra Ruthven being crowned by Mrs H Mitchell in 1961
Sandra Ruthven being crowned by Mrs H Mitchell in 1961
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A CIVIC festival which was last held more than 30 years ago is being revived this summer as part of a bid to bring communities together.

The annual gala day at West Pilton was scrapped in 1981 due, it is believed, to a lack of interest and funds.

It is being resurrected this August following a drive from community stalwarts who plan to co-host the event alongside neighbouring Muirhouse.

In just three weeks the civic-spirited team have formed a committee, drafted a constitution and booked a raft of entertainment to breathe new life into the long-forgotten festival.

Organisers said the aim of the West Pilton and Muirhouse Gala Day was to provide an enjoyable occasion for local children and to encourage further integration between the two communities.

Gala Day chairman Sean Gardiner said: “This was done to break away some of the local stigma that West Pilton and Muirhouse are two separate communities, when in fact all that separates the two is Pennywell Road.

“As a result we decided it was going to be an annual event for the area as a whole instead of encouraging segregation and making it a West Pilton event. To make sure things were kept as equal as possible we also ensured we have committee members from both areas.”

He added that the gala would allow different communities and people of all ethnic backgrounds “to come together and break down some social barriers in a fun and happy environment”.

Centred on West Pilton Park, confirmed entertainment includes bouncy castles, giant slides, face-painting, a fire engine, army assault course, balloon modellers, tea cup rides, a children’s roundabout, toy stalls and trader stalls, while several community groups will host information stalls.

A huge PA system will also be installed for music.

Alex Macleod, vice-chair of the organising committee who runs an entertainment business alongside Mr Gardiner, said they expected up to 2000 people to attend the event on August 26 with scope to increase capacity in the years to come.

He said: “Next year we plan to involve all the schools in the catchment area to form a proper court that is representative of the two communities.”

He added: “This shows that people here care enough about the community to bring back a gala day for the community. It should help bring communities in West Pilton and Muirhouse together.

“A long time ago it used to be there were two areas that lived separately and there could be some issues between them. We hope this will help to bring more integration if there is still some segregation there.”

Ward councillor Cammy Day said the revived gala day was an achievement for local residents who took matters into their own hands.

“It will be a fantastic event and is going to bring the north Edinburgh community together, which I hope will be replicated across other communities and the rest of the city,” he said. “Well done to the residents involved. I think it will be the first of many events like this in the Forth ward.”

A planning session open to community groups and organisations is being held on Tuesday, June 19, in Muirhouse St Andrews Parish Church.

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