IT was a photo of a boarded-up flat window that prompted the revival of Langlee, according to Judith Cleghorn, chair of its residents’ association.
Poverty, higher-than-average unemployment and last year’s high-profile drugs raids meant Galashiels’ largest housing development remains a no-go area in the eyes of some.
However, Judith and her team of helpers are starting to change opinions, prompted by the picture published in the local media four years ago which resulted in the resurrection of Langlee Residents’ Association (LRA).
Along with the Waverley Tenants’ Organisation (WTO), the volunteer groups have since created three community gardens, won more than £100,000 in funding for a new play park, print quarterly newsletters to all 1,200 households in the scheme and set up Langlee’s first community choir.
They have even planted an orchard. Funded by Langlee Community Centre management committee, it is expected to yield apples, pears, plums and blackcurrants in coming years – not exactly in keeping with the stereotypical view of the estate.
There are also plans to start up a credit union to provide financial help during tough times, as well as a cycle path and multi-use games area.
Judith told TheSouthern: “We are building a sense of community, which was sadly lacking. One thing that has brought that home to me is the play park. At 11.30am when the wee kids come out of the nursery, the mums take them up the play park and can sit and chat to each other, which they did not do previously.
“That old-fashioned community spirit is coming back again.”
The play park seems to be the volunteers’ biggest achievement so far. It cost £104,000 and the majority of funding was achieved through a £84,000 application to the Big Lottery Fund last year by the WTO.
Judith added: “One day myself and Gerry [Moss, chair of WTO] stood outside the primary school and spoke to every mother who came out to ask what they wanted in Langlee. Everyone without fail said they wanted somewhere for their kids to play.
“We did some more investigation about it and went for funding.”
Galashiels councillor John Mitchell, who has worked closely with LRA, added: “There was a previous play park on the same site at Beech Avenue, but it had to be pulled down for health and safety reasons.
“There was also another play area in Langlee, but that was wrecked and saw a lot of fighting.
“However, the current lottery funded play park has been a success.”
Gerry told us: “We have also added a £3,000 football wall paid for with pay-parking money for older kids.
“Previously they would batter footballs against the nearby garage doors and Waverley Housing would have to replace one a month.”
Another unlikely triumph has been the community garden spaces in Larch Grove and Beech Avenue.
Judith said: “We thought the gardens would be wrecked the next day, but they weren’t and haven’t been. We have also had the primary school kids involved in working on it.
“The same people who said it would be ruined are now putting spare plants in the garden.”
And then there is the choir. Inspired by Gareth Malone and his Military Wives Choir, Judith approached professional musician Chris Achenbach a year ago with the idea of setting up a community singing group in Langlee.
“We had 18 on the first night and now have 52 members,” said Judith.
“They are all ages and from all walks of life. Not all of them are from Langlee, but the majority are.
“I think it is a achievement that we have attracted people from outwith the estate to come to Langlee to join the choir. It has given them a different perspective, rather than thinking they cannot wait to get out of Langlee.”
Langlee Community Choir performs with the Border Strathspey and Reel Society on Saturday, March 9, at 7.30pm in the Focus Centre, Galashiels.