Helen Martin: Meadowbank must not turn to dark side

Caitlyn Stewart and Amy Stewart dress up as a pair of Harley Quinns for the sci-fi convention at Meadowbank. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Caitlyn Stewart and Amy Stewart dress up as a pair of Harley Quinns for the sci-fi convention at Meadowbank. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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QUEUEING in McDonald’s between Princess Leah and a Jedi, with a trail of Harry Potters behind, 
was a surreal experience.

On the other hand it was only to be expected when the Sci-Fi convention came to Meadowbank recently. Stormtroopers and a couple of yowling Chewbaccas, Iron Men aplenty, Dr Whos, Bat and Spider Men, film props, Ewok bikes, a Tardis, actors signing photos, traders selling everything from magic wands to Lego X-wings, all attracted fans from across the country.

The BBC Scotland HQ at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

The BBC Scotland HQ at Pacific Quay in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

And best of all, the proceeds went to CHAS, the children’s hospice charity.

But will this ever happen again after Meadowbank Sports Centre is “revamped”, or as most critics would say “shrunk and belittled”?

While the convention taking up three halls for two days did a roaring trade over the weekend, there was still enough room for sport and fitness activities, classes and games to take place in the centre.

When it comes to folk young and old being active and taking up sport, Meadowbank is the jewel in Edinburgh‘s crown. So it’s hardly surprising that there are many protesting against it being flattened and rebuilt to a fraction of its current size, with the rest of the land being given over to housing.

Challenge the council over this and they say the housing will offset the costs of the new sports centre. The alternative might have been for the council to spend money maintaining the existing, much-loved centre rather than leaving it to deteriorate over the years. It appears our city “mothers and fathers”, prefer new, shiny buildings which they might be able to claim as “achievements”, rather than the more boring and less glorified job of properly maintaining such social assets so that people can continue to enjoy them.

The crucial point is that the new centre will be significantly smaller than the existing one. Yet the current centre is usually full to bursting at weekends with a huge variety of activities and events going on. Finding a space in the car park is tougher than spotting a cloaked Klingon warship.

While government and councils claim to be encouraging activity, praise the (fictional) legacies of sporting enthusiasm they expect from Commonwealth and Olympic games, and insist how important it is to promote exercise among a population growing in obesity and sedentary lifestyles, their actions don’t back that up. The numbers of those engaged in sport and exercise are falling.

Private gyms, health clubs and sports centres may have a different tale to tell but when it comes to council facilities and opportunities for those who can’t afford commercial monthly membership fees, everything seems to be going downhill.

And reducing the size of Meadowbank won’t help. Glossier, more modern and upgraded doesn’t work as an “achievement” if it offers lower capacity and fewer options.

A big centre such as Meadowbank can be more varied in its offering. It doesn’t have to focus only on elite, mainstream or Olympic approved sports and has the space to offer dance classes, baby gear markets, cheer leading, antique markets and trialling new sports, (not to mention sci-fi conventions) all of which draws non-sporty people in and introduces them to all the activities on offer.

Surely that’s its job – not merely to preach to the converted and cater only for those already dedicated to sport or hooked on exercise?

Beeb move may be a bit of a boob

THE BBC’s new Scottish television channel will certainly be good for journalism and hopefully will showcase Scottish production.

It also helps Scotland reclaim part of its licence ‘over-payment’ by guaranteeing £30 million of that will be spent here.

But how many Scottish viewers will it lure away from BBC1? In a globalised world with instant online coverage we’ve been edging away from parochialism. And, though I admire both Glenn Campbell and Shereen Nanjiani and the other broadcasting work they both do, I have to admit that if the new Timeline format on BBC2 is anything to go by, the new channel may not make compelling viewing for me.

Many other Scottish-made BBC2 programmes to be transferred to the new station are based on nostalgia – not always a winner in the 21st century except for older generations. This could be embarrassing.

Balloon ban to be welcomed

THE gradual ban on Chinese lanterns and helium balloons across Scotland, because of the damage they do to animals and the environment, is wonderful news. I pray it will eventually extend to fireworks.

It should be you – and you and you

AM I jealous of the Shipley woman who won £14.5million on the Euro Jackpot, or the Sunderland pals who scooped £15.3million on a Lotto lucky dip?

Well of course I am, who wouldn’t be, apart from Donald Trump?

But just as some fat cats are paid too much, or gain fantastic bonuses simply for doing their jobs, it’s arguable that in the current economic situation, lottery prizes can be too high.

Not only can too much money in one fell swoop ruin people’s lives, but we have a vast wealth gap, people working a 40-hour week and still depending on tax credits, growing poverty, and a young generation with no apparent hope of buying a house.

Wouldn’t it be fairer if the big lottery operations spread it around by creating almost 30 millionaires last weekend rather than two multi-millionaires? And wouldn’t every “normal” person be overjoyed to win “just” one million?