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In 2011, North Edinburgh Social History Group published ‘Never Give Up’, a vibrant history of social issues and campaigns in North Edinburgh over a period of 70 years.  We reviewed it in Lothian Life (, a review which excited considerable interest.
The North Edinburgh Social History Group, based at the recently refurbished and state-of-the-art Royston-Wardieburn Community Centre, now has a new venture.
Power to the People is an innovative adult education class which aims to expand from the fairly local base of the earlier publication and examine major social issues across the city, and indeed across Scotland.  It is being coordinated by Community Learning and Development staff from the Royston-Wardieburn Centre and by a member of staff from the Workers Educational Association.
The innovation lies as much in how the classes will run as in the content they will explore.
Firstly, these will be learner-led classes.  A range of topics has already been identified by the initial participants.  These include the Jacobite Rebellion, the Highland Clearances; the Chartists, the Suffragettes and the struggles for the vote; the campaign for a Scottish Parliament, and many more.  There will also however be an opportunity for class members at any point to raise issues or historical periods which they want to study and to have these incorporated into the course.  The learners also will determine for how long the classes will run.
The second innovatory aspect of this course is that as well as examining the historical material, the learners will focus on how the artists responded to or reflected these historical movements.  Drama, film, novels, poetry, photographs and song will be studied.  John Powells of Glasgow University’s Janey Buchan Centre of Political Song will bring his expertise to the group.  Scotland’s national photographic archive, SCRAN, will figure prominently.  Poetry, including inevitably Robert Burns, but also more contemporary verse, including the work of Scotland’s great miner poet and playwright, Joe Corrie, will expose how social and political movements were understood in their day and how the subsequent view of these was often shaped by such writing.
Among the characters to be examined will be Flora Drummond, a charismatic leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union, who organised Edinburgh’s first militant suffragette  demonstration in 1909.
The classes, which are free, will run on Tuesday mornings and have already built a head of steam.  As Danny Milnes, one of the aspiring students put it, “I want to study bottom-up history.”  Brian Eddington, another member of the class indicated that he wanted to look at today’s world “and see the similarities with the past”.
This is a superb opportunity to take part in making adult education history by studying how history was made and how it was perceived.  Anyone interested should contact Lynn McCabe (0131 552 5700 ) at Royston-Wardieburn Centre.
The above article was first published in Lothian Life on 18 September 2012:

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