Leith Community Croft - Earth in Common

Our home in Leith is one of the most interesting and diverse communities in Edinburgh. Our recent SS21 Editorial shoot was hosted in the local allotments by a totally unique and inspiring charity called Earth in Common who run Leith Community Croft. Over the past 8 years Earth in Common have developed an important community in Leith and are committed to tackling a broken food system, climate change and social inequality locally, nationally and internationally. They believe in an integrated vision of urban crofts that can help generate community solidarity and wellbeing, strengthen the local economy, and contribute to community wealth building and skill-training. They aim to help communities across Scotland reclaim derelict urban green spaces to establish urban crofts. Recently securing significant funding from the Scottish Government and Council to develop the Nourishing Leith Hub Project, the initiative is going from strength to strength and we are excited to see this group of inspiring people take it to the next level.

CEO of Earth in Common Evie Murray said:

“When one puts it in a few words – money to refurbish and extend a crumbling old tennis pavilion and install a few ancillary structures – it doesn’t seem big news. However, this is of huge significance, for the people of Leith, for Edinburgh and for Scotland as a whole.It represents backing at the highest level – The City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government – for the completion of a vision which we have been developing for years: for the first of many “urban crofts” throughout Scotland, and possibly even beyond.Urban crofts draw on elements of Scottish culture – a home at the centre of land farmed by a family, who share the labour, produce and tenure/stewardship – to offer cross-cutting solutions to societal and environmental problems, such as inequality, loss of community, a disconnect from nature manifesting as “Nature Deficit Disorder”, hopelessness and substance abuse, a food system dominated by long supply chains, agroindustry and huge supermarkets, biodiversity loss and climate change…Over the last eight years we have been building a community – a family – around two acres of what was wasteland at the northern tip of Leith Links Park. Being common good land, the council only awarded us stewardship because of our grass-roots nature: we are formed from the local community and we consult local people extensively on all we do.Together with the community, we have developed a suite of integrated projects drawing on the special ambiance and facilities offered by Leith Community Croft – our model urban croft – and we have now proven the benefits of most of these.The growing spaces we offer are shared by groups of locals, each group with its own character and aims. Our Croft Carbon College draws inspiration and resources from our urban croft to offer a wide range of accessible workshops and courses on greener living, environment and wellbeing related crafts and skills for all ages and backgrounds.

Our market garden offers training, volunteering and employment opportunities and supplies produce to our shed-based “Hingabootery” café/farm shop, which also provides volunteering, training and employment, and is at the heart of the urban croft.Until stricter lockdown closed it down, our farmers’/artisans’ market was a boon to local small businesses and an outlet for sustainable food. Our “puntastic” and immensely popular MineCroft programme offers informal adventure play and survival skills for youngsters and, speaking of children, we have run many outdoor-/environmental-education projects for them – both in local schools and on our urban croft, and we have proven the benefits of this for children affected by issues such as anxiety, suspected ADHD and substance-abusing parents.We managed all this despite not having a decent building on Leith Community Croft. However, virtually all our projects and initiatives – of which I have only mentioned some – have depended in one way or another on the use of the near-derelict old tennis pavilion there. We have been using this for vital storage and workshop space, but it is cramped and fusty, with a leaky roof, and well on its way to being unsafe as well as unhealthy.

Time has been running out, and a drastic reduction in our services has been looming…With the community’s input, and the help of Community Enterprise Scotland, and a cracking team of professionals led by architect Scott Lindsay, we developed a plan for converting the building – together with some ancillary structures – into a multi-purpose community hub, offering a welcoming seating area for a properly equipped café, a farm shop, flexible community meeting/training rooms, office and storage space, and accessible toilets.This is the welcoming home we believe our urban croft needed to become fully sustainable and the true heart of a happy, healthy and inclusive community, and a model which we believe will put Leith back on the map – not as a great port this time, but as the vanguard of joined-up policy and revolutionising the food system. With the challenges of Brexit, climate change and biodiversity loss adding to the long-running problems of inequality and hopelessness, this couldn’t come at a better time. We look forward to sharing our experiences and knowledge and helping others do what we have done.”

➝ Visit the Earth in Common website for more info.