Researching 1950s Edinburgh & Leith

Posted by in February's Magazine

As much as we like to think of history as objective and factual, it is nothing of the sort when it comes to the multitude of lives surviving fallouts of more significant events. I am currently researching a fictional project set in 1950s Edinburgh and Leith. The story focuses on a troubled romance, and I would like to touch on communities of colour who lived in Scotland. Many publications and textbooks have put forth a single-minded narrative of this period: namely, the daily routines of a majority populace. But the stories of the minority are just as valid and deserving of being told, which is my aim. Hopefully, I will be able to accrue a notion of what it was like, and in doing so be faithful to the diverse history of a beloved time and place.

I am looking for individuals and families of colour who emigrated to (or lived in) Edinburgh during this time – particularly from Indian or mixed backgrounds. In order to understand the social climate it is important for me to explore the many reasons they had for coming here, as well as the journeys that brought them from afar. Were people of colour treated well by local Scots? Were they accepted, discriminated, glamourised or made to seem exotic?
Newspapers from the 1950s have given me a favourable impression of international inhabitants and visitors, especially during the festival, although these articles rarely dwell at length on such subjects.



Another aspect lacking in the prevalent narrative is the substance of immigrant communities, i.e., what formed the everyday texture of their lives in Leith? I am interested in discovering the shops they frequented, their careers, and what leisurely activities were pursued. What, for example, were the social preoccupations of people of colour? Did they often mix, or did they keep to their community?

As many of my questions are addressed to those who may or may not have the opportunity to read this, I kindly implore second or third generation readers to inquire of their older relatives, as it would be an invaluable testimony to my research.

Should you have any information or stories to share, please get in touch via my contact details below. I am also happy to liaise over the phone or by video call if convenient. If interested persons prefer to meet, I should be able to visit Leith itself for an interview in the summer of 2018.

Thank you for taking the time to read this! I would be incredibly grateful for any information or correspondence. Having lived in Edinburgh for four years, a year of which I spent in Leith, I can genuinely say that it is a source of great personalities. I only wish to contribute to its colourful wealth of narratives!

Nuri Tal

Twitter: @CastNuri

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