Culture & Business Fund

COMBINED ARTS | GALLERIES | INTANGIBLE HERITAGE | MUSEUMS | VISUAL ARTS

The Wee Hub… where big things happen

Culture partner | Living Memory Association

Business partner | Ocean Terminal

SOCIAL, CIVIC & ECONOMIC VALUE

Community & social empowerment | Education & learning | Equality, diversity & inclusion | International engagement | Health & wellbeing | Older people | People with disabilities | Tourism | Young people

BUSINESS PARTNER BENEFITS
Business and/or brand name awareness | Corporate social responsibility (CSR) | Creative development | Developing community links | Enjoyment | Entertainment | Image enhancement | PR opportunities

 The project

In 2021, the departure of Debenhams from Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre in Leith left almost 6,000 square metres of retail space empty on the building’s top floor. Keen to develop their offering far beyond shopping and hospitality, Ocean Terminal invited The Living Memory Association to devise and deliver a creative, community engagement project in return for in-kind sponsorship, in the shape of rent-free use of the empty spaces.

Thanks to match-funding from the C&BS Fund, over the course of 2021 The Living Memory Association transformed the entire top floor into The Wee Hub – Where Big Things Happen, a fabulously busy and buzzing home to a wealth of arts, music and dance based creative projects. With a stunning range of partners, The Wee Hub delivers the widest possible range of activities, free to everyone to use, providing a joyful, vibrant community hub in the heart of Leith. Without the support of C&BS, this incredible opportunity would have been lost.

 The partnership

Established in 1986 as a reminiscence project, The Living Memory Association gained charitable status in 2001 and has was first offered a pop-up space in Ocean Terminal in 2015. The charity was founded on the belief that reminiscence brings people together, regardless of their age or background, and sharing memories allows people to learn about the lives of others; some life experiences are unique, others common to all. The charity also runs a Wee Museum of Memory reminiscence centre in Livingston, West Lothian.

Ocean Terminal is Edinburgh’s unique waterfront shopping and lifestyle destination, offering an exciting mix of coffee bars and eateries, shops, gym, cinema and skatepark, as well access to one of Scotland’s top tourist attractions, The Royal Yacht Britannia, accessed via the Britannia Visitor Centre. Opening in 2001, in a building designed by Sir Terence Conran, the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre occupies a site between the ports of Newhaven and Leith and was developed as part of the revitalisation of the whole Leith waterfront area.

A positive, xx-year long relationship already existing between the two organisations, thanks to the Wee Museum of Memory in the shopping centre. For the charity, extending this relationship provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand their activities, and reach and engage with more people, while for the business, it was a chance to give back to the community they are proud to be part of, as well as create new and meaningful reasons to visit Ocean Terminal.

The positive outcomes

In the first year of taking over the empty spaces at Ocean Terminal, The Living Memory Association welcomed 120,000 people – a staggering increase in footfall.  Just under 11,000 people have engaged directly with the charity with a further 10,000 engaged through PR and marketing activities. The Living Memory Association also delivered 15 training sessions, online and in person, to 102 people who benefitted from developing skills in reminiscence, interviewing and recording. As a result, 21 new people started volunteering for the charity and the memories of over 200 people have been recorded and shared through podcasts and videos.

In its first year, The Wee Hub delivered work through creative partnerships with organisations and individuals including Pianodrome, Tinderbox Collective, Alan Armstrong (a neurodivergent artist making abstract zero waste art from plastics left behind by Debenhams), Newhaven Heritage, Edinburgh International Jazz Festival, Thistle Model Railway Makers, Squids – Queer Joy for Kids, Think Circus, Salle Hollywood Fencing, Onisis Latin Dance, Forget Me Notes Dementia Choir, Jonathon Elders, Citadel Youth, Inspiring Leith Remakery, Hannah Evans (a young neurodivergent artist) and David Hutchison (an artist, writer and filmmaker). The space provided a platform for a series of exhibitions too, including Our Queer Stories (LGBTQI history), Sikh San Jog (Sikh stories) and exhibitions on Phoenician Culture, Venezuela and the SS Explorer, Leith.

The Living Memory Association has its own heritage area in The Wee Hub too, full of changing exhibitions, and the charity provides a free children’s play area and dance floor, the latter uses for free lessons as well as ballet performances, ceilidhs and tea dances for older visitors. From Edinburgh Zoo using The Wee Hub to paint tmodel giraffes for the city trail to St Columba’s Hospice running a fashion show, and from art workshops delivered for Ukrainian refugees housed in the docked cruise ship to weekly knit and crochet groups and a staging of Forth Children’s Theatre free pantomime, The Wee Hub is truly living up to its name as a place ‘where big things happen’.

Bringing an empty urban space into community use to encourage creativity, partnership, collaboration and opportunity has increased footfall in the Centre and spending in retail outlets, cafes and restaurants, but it’s at a community level that the impact of the partnership is most profound. Through continual evaluation, the Living Memory Association know that their work helps to raise self-esteem and confidence, increase quality of life and lead to friendship and support, both decreasing loneliness and giving people the chance to continue to learn and to lend their skills. “I feel I have real friends now. I would come in seven days a week!” said one user of The Wee Hub. Another, caring for her husband living with dementia, commented: “This place is a life saver for me. I know you treat [my husband] with respect and are interested in him as a person. Just to have a walk round the Centre myself while [my husband] is with you makes all the difference to me. I come when it suits us. No other organisation does this for me”.

This has been a phenomenal partnership and the C&BS Fund made it possible. It has raised our profile, led us into new areas of work and allowed us to support a whole range of fascinating artistic and heritage endeavours. It has meant we can support individuals and groups to showcase and develop their work and bring them into direct contact with the public and work with older people to record their memories and value their life experience. All activities are free, taking art and heritage straight into the heart of the community.
Mark Hayward, Director | Living Memory Association
We could not have believed that this partnership would be so socially and economically beneficial to the Centre and we hope to be able to further develop this collaboration going into the future, incorporating this work into the new developments currently underway at Ocean Terminal.
Michelle McLeod, Manager | Ocean Terminal

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