Thursday, 1 September 2011

Canongate Venture Opens....but for how long?

At last we finally saw some enlightened thinking from the Council with respect to the use of Canongate Venture this summer. After years of enforced vacancy the building was let to a London based group for an Art exhibition during The Edinburgh Art Festival 
Tamsyn Challenger's 400 Women exhibition finishes on Sunday 4th Sept so if you haven't had a chance to visit during the fringe, you still have a few days left.
In addition to the thought provoking work displayed a visit to the exhibition also provides an opportunity to visit this important but neglected listed building and consider what other uses could be provided for in the community. Although the playground has been cleaned and locked (pedestrian gate open from 11am -7pm during exhibition) and all guerrilla gardening removed the curators have chosen to leave the internal condition as they found it showing the damage caused by neglect and enforced vacancy over the last few years.

Recent research on the cultural heritage of this local school has found that it played a key role in the development of public education policy in the UK. The poverty and poor health of the children attending in the early 1900s prompted investigations by a Commission which led directly to the Education Act of 1908 called “the Childrens’ Charter”.
In 1918 it was visited by Abdul Baha, the son of the founder of the Baha’i faith who was impressed with the dedication of the teachers.

Many local groups have already shown an interest in using or supporting the reuse of the building for cultural and community uses, including Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust, Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, Remade Edinburgh, SOOT Edinburgh Cockburn Association Old Town Community Council 

Lets hope the Council are finally considering responding to demands for the reuse of this building expressed most recently during the consultation by the Council on the Southern Arc Development Framework which looks at the wider area around the Old Town and how to improve the environment for the whole community. 

During the last charette of this consultation suggestions for temporary projects included the use of empty buildings and the gapsite for festival fringe venues, events and markets, artisan workspaces, art projects, graffiti walls and garden festivals.
To date no decision has been taken regarding these but the opportunity now exists to express support for the retention of this community asset. 

What would YOU like to see happen at New Street - the revival of Caltongate for a new developer or the retention of Canongate Venture for community use and a range of temporary uses for the gapsite whilst a more appropriate new development can be agreed? Please leave comments and suggestions below.

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