Karen Koren paints a picture of Scandinavian life in Leith

Katy, my daughter, gave me beginner drawing and painting classes for my birthday at the beginning of the year. It was a full day drawing class and a full day painting class.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 8:00 am
The Leith School of Art in the former Scandinavian Lutheran Church

Due to Covid, the classes were delayed by quite a few months. I eventually did them before the summer and really enjoyed the process.

I used to draw a bit many years ago and I’m sure Katy thought it a good idea that I find a hobby to continue through my old age. I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed it.

The classes were held at Leith School of Art, in the former Scandinavian Lutheran Church erected in 1868 - it was run by the Norwegian Seaman’s Mission.

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My brothers and I were christened there as well as my son.

My grandfather was an elder there, my grandmother was head of the sewing bee the Norwegian wives started to make things for their annual sale of work at the Norwegian Christmas Bazaar, which was held in the little hall at the back of the Church.

This was where the Norwegian community would gather for coffee mornings and chit chat!

Sadly, the church was closed in 1985 and sold on, due very much to the demise of shipping in Leith and there no longer being a demand for sailors popping into the Church.

For many years it had been a haven for stranded sailors, visiting ships’ companies and Norwegian families in Edinburgh and Leith.

It became an important meeting place during the second world war for exiled Scandinavian families.

It was quite poignant, therefore, for me to go to art classes at the Leith School of Art who moved into the Church in 1987. I had a good snoop around – after all it was my childhood memories.

The most obvious change I noticed was how small the rooms were, I realised I had been much smaller last time I had been there.

It’s sad to see the church so transformed, but amazing that it is being used for the creative arts.

I have signed up for evening classes throughout the winter and am very much looking forward to learning what I am capable of artistically. It’s an extremely relaxing way to unwind.