The afternoon of Edinburgh’s 2007 Doors Open Day, organised by the Cockburn Association, began at the Royal Mile Primary School. With full credit to the children of the school their excellent mural (pictured below), depicting areas of Edinburgh packed full of historical references, stole the show. This is located outside the Royal Primary School, so if you’re walking by stop and have a look. Inside the Royal Mile Primary School the William De La Cour landscapes were decent, although the highlight by far was viewing the children’s creative work.
Next up was Parliament House, again on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The term Parliament House now refers to the impressive buildings associated with The Supreme Courts of Scotland. This was a very well organised affair; although the queue to enter the library was long, with entry restricted to just 10 people every 10 minutes. The large Parliament Hall is incredibly impressive, especially the dazzling great window and the intriguing timber roof.
A loose re-enactment of the Madeleine Smith trial offered some interactivity and I was randomly chosen to be a member of the jury. The defence for Madeleine Smith and the prosecutor read their opening statements to the court-room, in between narratives. It was a great way to experience the court-room, especially as it was packed to capacity (although unlike in the original trial women sat alongside men in the jury box)
A Reliance security van was situated outside Parliament House. Visitors could walk through the vehicles corridor and sit themselves in one of the tiny mini-cells. The driver of the vehicle, who had become an impromptu guide, did a great job in explaining and entertaining the audience. He handcuffed me and demonstrated to the crowd how a prisoner is loaded onto the vehicle and answered any questions. It’s enthusiasm like this by volunteers which makes Doors Open Day so worthwhile.
The final stop for Saturday was the newly renovated HBOS Headquarters on The Mound. Disappointingly taking photos was not allowed inside the building, but it was extremely well organised, with each guest receiving a leaflet packed full of professional pictures of the buildings interior. The highlight was Bryce Hall. This is simply stunning - the Chandelier (built in Italy but designed by Edinburgh based Speirs & Major) is totally stunning. With excellent views onto Princes St this I can imagine this room makes a great drinks venue for HBOS executives and guests. The views down the Mound, over Princes St or up to Edinburgh Castle are the icing on the cake of what is a palatial and extremely well designed/implemented interior. I particularly liked the use of brushed metal e.g. in lights hanging over boardroom tables and plant pots. Access was allowed into offices of some of the privileged staff - thankfully they were all neat and tidy!
That left Sunday and a visit to Gayfield Square Police Station. This was a day mainly for the kids where the opportunity to sit in a police car, on a police motorbike or stroke a police horse was given. Police dogs were also on show, but during my visit all dogs remained locked in the back of the police vehicle. The dog handler was entertaining the crowd with tales of how some police dogs are trained to sniff the batteries of mobile phones - to root handsets out in prisons. Unsurprisingly the Edinburgh environmental wardens vehicle had a shortage of visitors…
Behind the doors of Edinburgh’s Gayfield Square police station was a little disappointing. Different rooms had been allocated to different public information topics, such as “drugs awareness” or “crime prevention” e.g. number plate cloning is a growing problem. The police officers were willing to talk about other subjects though. Maybe my expectations (this being a working police station and all) were a little unrealistic i.e. for some reason I had expected to see the cells.
With such great weather and such a great variety of buildings opening their doors it was inevitable Doors Open Day would be a success. The only disappointment was the failure to see inside Donaldson’s. However, a huge thank you to all the volunteers on the day and those who organised Edinburgh Doors Open Day 2007 - I look forward to next year!