A New Life for Dr. Bells

Posted by to The Blog on June 7th

The first steps to transforming the former Dr. Bell’s Swimming Pool in Leith into a national centre for arts and culture took place on 6th June at the ground breaking ceremony for the new Himalayan Centre for Arts and Culture. This represents the fruits of 20 months of planning and fundraising by a small group of dedicated volunteers, and the start of the building phase of a project which will breath new life into a much-loved, at-risk, Victorian listed building at the heart of Leith, saving it as a community asset for future generations. The Himalayan Centre will be a unique combination of a community hub and international arts and cultural venue.

Every year, in their 10-year history, the Nepal Scotland Association has organised several cultural events that bring together people from across Scotland. However, the lack of affordable, culturally suitable venues has made it difficult for NSA, and other diaspora communities, to organise these colourful community celebrations. After the 2011 Edinburgh Mela, NSA members Charan Pradhan, Bimal Giri and Gopal Lama came up with the idea of purchasing the former Dr Bell’s Swimming Pool and converting it into a Himalayan centre for arts and culture. Gopal led the negotiation with the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) to purchase the property, and has continued to be the driving force behind the project.

At a community meeting in December 2011 lenders pledged financial support to cover the purchase of the property, and the offer was accepted by CEC. Over the next 20 months the HCE company was established, and the founding directors were joined by Rob Munn, Bhola Khanal and Bimal Giri. With strong support from the Nepalese community, the vision was developed into concrete building plans, room layouts, functions and activities, underpinned by a robust business plan to make the operation self-sustainable and a successful major fundraising campaign was conducted. These initial phases are now complete, and in six months time the Himalayan Centre will open its doors to the ethnic minority and wider communities in Leith and Edinburgh, providing specialist services and fulfilling the long-felt needs of these communities.

The Himalayan Centre for Arts and Culture will be an inspirational beacon for Edinburgh that brings together local and diverse communities, particularly addressing the needs of minority groups in Edinburgh, supporting artists and also encouraging visitors and artists from around the world. The Himalayan Centre aims to promote well-being, greater awareness, connectivity and understanding between communities, encouraging community participation, a wide range of public engagement in the arts, celebrating difference through the sharing of the diverse arts and cultural heritage of the Himalayan region.

They will offer a curated performance programme including dance, drama, music, visual arts and cultural celebrations. Leith Festival 2013 opens today and the Himalayan Centre looks forward to playing its part as a venue for this festival in future years. Raising awareness of the challenges we face from our changing climate, and what we can do to respond, will be a major focus of their activities, supported by a major grant from the Climate Challenge Fund.

Suresh Chalise began:

“It is indeed a matter of immense pleasure for me to see that recently appointed Honorary Consul of Nepal to Scotland Mrs Sunita Poddar has donated the historic Dr. Bell’s Swimming Pool (…) has been a part of Edinburgh life for about one hundred years, to the Himalayan Centre! This marks the beginning of her righteous deeds for nurturing the relationship between Scotland, Nepal and the UK as a whole. I am also confident that The Himalayan Centre shall protect and promote Nepalese culture and help encourage the process of acculturation among various Asian communities in Scotland. I sincerely look forward to it!”

Humza Yousaf said:

“The historic Dr Bell’s swimming pool has been a part of Edinburgh life for more than a hundred years and I look forward to that continuing when it reopens as the new Himalayan Centre.

“Edinburgh is home to one of Scotland’s largest Nepalese populations and the Centre will be a real asset for that community – a place for Nepalese people from across the city and across Scotland to come together and celebrate their culture, heritage and traditions.

“I am sure, though, that the Himalayan Centre – in the heart of Leith – will have much wider appeal. It is a facility for the whole community, for people of all cultures and faiths, reflecting modern Scottish society.

“The Scottish Government values the contribution the Nepalese and other communities make to our nation. We are grateful for the important role they play in shaping the Scotland we wish to become.”

Sunita Poddar talked about:

“Donating this stunning example of Victorian architecture, which I believe will be an inspirational beacon for Scotland that will bring together local and diverse communities, a real multi-cultural community centre. The Himalayan Centre aims to promote well-being, greater awareness, connectivity and understanding between communities.

“The Himalayan Centre for Arts and Culture will play a key role in inspiring our children and future generations with the fundamental values which are so integral to their future. Being surrounded by the rich traditions and culture of the Nepalese community, will give them a greater sense of community responsibility and appreciation of family values. It will also help to empower Nepalese women to come together as a unifying force to help and inspire each other to achieve their full potential.

“The centre will be most importantly a vibrant cultural space where people can celebrate their heritage and will be recognised for its approach in bringing people together to share cultures through a creative arts programme. Integral to this programme will be a high quality creative learning programme and a curated performance programme which will bring some kind of vibrancy to this part of Leith and so contribute to Edinburgh’s vision to be the world city of festivals.”

Info: www.himalayancentre.org





One response to “A New Life for Dr. Bells”

  1. Soosie says:

    The title is somewhat misleading. I came here to read about the transformation story of Dr. Bells. I thought he was a genius. But soon I realized that it was a swimming pool. Notwithstanding this, I enjoyed reading it because it is factual. Projection Glass

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