Edinburgh Old Town Development Trust (EOTDT) was set-up and led by residents over ten years ago with the aim of improving life for residents of the Old Town. During this period, it has successfully carried out work around advocacy, growing and greening projects, and community publishing, as well as developing a new community hub in the Canongate.

This hub, The Crannie, in Cranston Street, is the result of several years working in conjunction with the development company building the Waverley bloc and the City Council. With funding from the Scottish Government and National Lottery Community Fund, EOTDT was able to employ staff to assist a volunteer team get the hub up and running. The venue opened in November last year and was starting to build-up room rental, good connections with the local community, and a programme of activities such as cooking clubs, music jams, and open events for residents to meet and connect with neighbours.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, The Crannie, like many other buildings, had to shut down with little warning. However, the team at EOTDT were not content to sit and wait-out the lockdown. Activities such as the weekly Wednesday drop-in, weekend Craft Gathering and Old Town Music Circle all moved online. The food and gardening sessions were not so easy to transfer, but staff continued to stay in regular touch with participants, making sure they were not left alone, isolated and without access to help. A range of new activities was developed to help people get through the crisis, including family ‘creative packs’ delivered to residents’ doors, a ‘Music for Kids’ programme and online ‘pub’ quizzes.

EOTDT also took on the challenge of helping get further resources to residents in need. This included being able to resource Helping Hands (an initiative run by volunteers to supply food to people in Dumbiedykes) and Womanzone (to help make sure women still continued to receive needed support). Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspaces Trust’s ‘Out and About’ project also received resources for its activities supporting home-based healthy living and cooking in the area.

Another key development was obtaining funding to allow EOTDT to provide people with technology such as laptops or wi-fi bundles, thus allowing them to remain in touch with loved ones, and enabling children who would otherwise have missed out to keep up with their school work. This project is expanding thanks to the establishment of ‘Digital Buddies’, a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and EOTDT set-up to give ongoing support so residents can make the most of digital connections.

A key investment EOTDT made during the crisis was to commission a full Royal Mail drop of a newsletter around its operating area with the aim of reaching people who were not already engaged, or who were not online and might be in need of support. This initiative has already produced results, with more residents now receiving much-needed community support.

It is now planned to collect information on the impact Covid-19 has had on the daily life of residents, and on the impact EOTDT’s work has had in providing assistance over the period. It is intended the resulting data will inform the organisation’s future direction, thus helping ensure EOTDT continues to appropriately serve residents’ needs and aspirations, supporting a connected and vibrant community.

(Update provided by Edinburgh Old Town DT)