Magic & Loss

Posted by in May's Magazine

Citadel Youth Centre is a magical place. It changes all who are lucky enough to encounter its unique charm and atmosphere. It has nurtured youth right from its inception, when some of the local women decided they needed more than the adventure playground at the back of Linksview House. If you speak to Mr William Barr, who has been manager since 2003, the Citadel’s age varies depending on the situation or whether funding is involved (in which case it is always an important anniversary), but Margaret Jardine will tell you the truth.

The magical effect it has had on Leith has been felt from the beginning. A good example being John ‘Yogi’ Hughes whose Mum was one of the women who helped get things started. A couple of years back when he was still manager of Hibs he was invited to the AGM to present an award. He was asked back as a former member and to accept thanks for ensuring comp tickets for Easter Road went to Citadel youths. In his speech he said that the core qualities that made him a captain of both Celtic and Hibernian were instilled in him whilst at the Centre.


Another example of their brilliant work is the intergenerational cafe. Originally started as a project in partnership with Pilmeny Youth Centre, this has grown into something everyone wishes to continue. Initial feedback was brilliantly provided at another AGM when one of the elders in the group said that the café had not only given her the confidence to speak at the meeting but also she now had new young friends who would say hello to her in the street – a seemingly simple gesture which nonetheless helped her break free from isolation. Indeed members routinely turn up earlier on Friday afternoons to get a longer blether with each other. Another spin off has been a book full of recipes made and enjoyed by the lads and older men involved in the group. Copies can be purchased from Citadel. (Funds raised go toward group meeting costs).

The magic spreads across the city. The Young Mums group that meets here includes mothers from other parts of town who have heard about the friendly approach, support and advice the group provides. Both Mums and bairns thrive in the atmosphere provided at the group. Their work is unheralded but it is important because they sent the Citadel message of inclusivity citywide.

Personally, I love how the magic gets stronger the more work Citadel does. Music has always played a part, whether an early appearance by The Proclaimers or the ‘still in the attic’ record decks that inspired former member Warner to become a well-known DJ who, in his turn, has donated 2,000 albums to the centre. Now I have some sympathy with you cynical Smith’s fans who want to ‘hang the DJ’, but where else would a laddie fi’ Leith learn to spin the decks? Citadel being Citadel of course, they have taken this even further, with their own music DVDs focusing on authentic street culture rather than the pampered and manicured marionettes of the music industry. To check out Tear the Walls Down by DRW (Danny Wiedenhof), a beneficiary of a Creative Scotland sponsorship, just key Ragin Citadel Youth Centre into Youtube.

All of this goodwill and community spirit was amply displayed at a recent family BBQ Day. All were gathered to see the playground at Citadel renamed Sparky’s Yard in memory of former graduate Mark McKenzie who, 4 days after announcing his intention raise funds for the centre by undertaking the Tough Mudder challenge with his pal, died in a motorcycle accident. Happily, his friends and family took on the challenge for him and have done a grand job – raising just under 7 grand so far. (Funds that help the Citadel continue its exceptional work).

The barbecue was manned by legendary Choons, Chips & Chatter chefs, Dave ‘Mop Top’ Carson and (Mrs) Phil Attridge. Crombies provided a shedload of sausages and burgers and, needless to say, there wasn’t a morsel of food left by the time the redoubtable Willy ‘Filibuster’ Barr had brought the latest of his famously labyrinthine speeches to its rabble rousing conclusion.

Folks from the intergenerational cafe, the young mums and tots, the Girls group, the workers at Citadel all attended, along with Mark’s family and friends. A New Wave and Jam covers band who provided entertainment, were asked to play extra loud for the residents of Persevere and Citadel Courts who had been evacuated the day before. Calls for ‘A Bomb on North Junction Street’ were resisted but, unfortunately, Dad Dancing to Monkey Man was actively encouraged. (My spy on the day informs me the author of this piece was in fact the dad dancing – Ed).

Where else would all of this be brought together – with the exception of Leith Gala Day which is on 14th June this year readers – except Citadel. Theirs is a truly special kind of magic. We should be proud to have them in Leith.

P.S. I’ve just held ‘Sparky’s Cup,’ a glittering prize awarded annually to a youngster who ‘rises to the challenges of life while living it to the full’. I think Mark would have approved. Gordon Munro


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