IT was a week like no other. Ten years ago, the world came to Edinburgh, and the city responded in the only way it knows how. With open arms.
The G8 summit may have been held at Gleneagles but in all other respects it was Edinburgh’s G8. As the Make Poverty History movement grew bigger and bigger, focus quickly turned to the capital.
Bob Geldof initially said he wanted a million people to converge on the city. He was later persuaded that such a number was not a great idea from a safety point of view.
In the end the Make Poverty History march saw more than 225,000 protesters take to the streets, and the images of peaceful demonstrators were beamed around the world. The city was rightly proud.
For Labour stalwart Frank Russell, 67, a retired former councillor from Broomhouse, it was a family affair, with his wife, two children and four grandchildren all taking part together.
He had been on dozens of marches, big and small, but this one was special – and not just because he was charged with pushing perhaps the youngest attendee there that day – three-month-old Jasmine Walford.
“My youngest granddaughter had only been born in April, so I was pushing her around in the buggy. She must have been pretty close, if not the youngest.
“The thing about that day was the real feeling of optimism,” he says. “People felt as if we could actually achieve something. It was a really pleasant day, full of optimism. I think it left the city with a great image. The gathering on the Meadows and the march itself, there were so many people there, and it showed the city and the country in a great light, pulling together behind the cause.”
Fellow marcher Charlie Gilhooley, 35, an illustrator, remembers: “My friends and I, and the whole crowd, were in a great spirit. We marched and there was a great atmosphere. Everyone was wearing white and sporting the Make Poverty History wristbands.”
The march passed off peacefully, with a small group of troublemakers identified by police beforehand and quickly isolated from the march. “The police handled that superbly and made them look like a bunch of silly schoolchildren,” former city leader Donald Anderson recalls.
But the euphoria of the weekend was soon shattered as Monday brought the challenge of the so-called Carnival of Full Enjoyment. Now the images being beamed around the world were of anarchists battling police on Princes Street. There were tense stand-offs as groups of people, many entirely unconnected with the protests, were “kettled” or held in side streets. Officers drafted in from around the country formed impenetrable lines in the face of flying cobbles and bench battering rams.
The appalling scenes of that day led to 100 arrests but, much to the relief of city commanders, no loss of life. Where Edinburgh had responded so positively in welcoming the tens of thousands of genuine campaigners to the city, it was well able to deal with those intent on causing chaos.
Former assistant chief constable Tom Halpin recalls: “We saw park benches being thrown, and rocks… it’s easy to be seduced by someone dressed as a clown or fairy for a picture, but when the reality is that smiling face is accompanied by a kick in the ankle, you need a robust policing operation to maintain public safety using lawful tactics.”
Then, of course, there was the Live8 concert at Murrayfield and the galaxy of stars jetting into the city.
It was billed as the billed as The Last Push – a final blockbuster concert on the first day of the G8 summit.
A crowd of 50,000 people crammed into Murrayfield to watch acts including The Proclaimers followed by the likes of Wet Wet Wet, McFly, the Sugababes, Feeder, Youssou N’Dour, Texas, Snow Patrol, Travis and The Corrs. It overran by two hours yet not a single complaint was received from local residents.
It was quite simply a surreal week. “All of the women of a certain age at the council managed to get time off and get down to Princes Street Gardens when George Clooney was supposed to be there,” Mr Anderson remembers.
“Unfortunately, because of a demonstration on Princes Street, he was shut in his hotel.
“They were all heartbroken.”