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18th November 2020
Can you be a spyster and help save the city’s traditional buildings? That’s the question asked by children’s writer Vivian French and Edinburgh World Heritage in a brand new resource published today as part of Book Week Scotland (16 – 23 November 2020).
Supported by a grant from the Scottish Book Trust, the resource takes the form of a ‘story trail’ and is aimed at children in primaries 3 – 4 and their families. Children are invited to spy evidence of neglect on poorly maintained traditional buildings in Edinburgh and submit their ‘dossier’ to Edinburgh World Heritage.
The lack of maintenance of traditional buildings in Edinburgh is a serious issue. In 2019, Edinburgh World Heritage, together with Historic Environment Scotland and Edinburgh Adapts, published the Guide to Building Maintenance in a Changing Climate which warned property owners that damage such as blocked drains, ineffective gutters, inappropriate vegetation growth, and stone erosion can adversely affect the ability of Edinburgh’s buildings to keep out wind and water. In the same report, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings revealed that ‘every £1 ‘saved’ by not carrying out preventative maintenance could cost £20 in repairs within 5 years.’
We know that maintenance saves money, adds value to property, keeps homes wind and watertight and helps to conserve our traditional buildings, but it can be an uphill battle to get it done.
While this may seem like the furthest thing from children’s entertainment, Vivian explains that children “enjoy being asked to join in to help with adult projects.” It’s also about understanding how to use storytelling to discuss these big issues, says Vivian: “facts are more easily assimilated when presented as part of a story, whether fiction or non-fiction.”
“Children especially enjoy being asked to look out for things that adults might miss, so I thought asking them to be ‘spysters’ might be fun.” Inspired by the number of magpies in the city, and “the way they peer around in an inquisitive kind of way wherever they are,” the story also features ‘Moe the Magpie,’ brought to life along with the maintenance problems themselves in colourful illustrations created by Annamaria Nizi.
When asked about why children need to learn about maintenance, Vivian reflects on the beauty of Edinburgh’s architecture: “the magnificent buildings are an essential part of Edinburgh’s charm. I’d love for children to be aware of the beauty that surrounds them, and to think about the future . . .”
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