The Capital publishing house with a difference

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ITS Sixties concrete high-rise homes sit in harsh contrast to the neighbouring shiny office blocks, a four-star hotel, luxury apartments and the edgy modern facade of the Scottish Parliament.

Dumbiedykes might have one of the best outlooks of any Scottish council estate, but for many the natural rugged beauty of Salisbury Crags and the historic splendour of the Queen's Edinburgh residence simply serve to draw attention to its grim "Stalinist" housing blocks.

Certainly at first glance the 700 houses crammed onto its half-mile area don't seem to be much worth writing home about.

But now a group of talented residents has revealed an unfamiliar side to the estate - and uncovered its surprisingly wacky, sometimes provocative, and at other times deeply melancholy character.

Dumbiedykes "Gadgies" Writing Group launched its first book this week, a collection of stories, poems and reflections that reveal the heart and soul of an Edinburgh estate which was previously better known for those reinforced concrete blocks, dubious design, vandalism and crime rates.

And far from a morose reflection of the brutalities of a council-built "sink" estate, its pages reveal a string of wry and quirky tales - some deeply thoughtful, others surprisingly funny - of everyday life in all its curious glory.

Such as the poem which reflects on the horrors of ending up with a vicious cat that hisses wildly at her demented owner, making her wish she'd just bought a dog. And one writer's sorry lament over the state of Edinburgh trams which shares space with a scathing put-down that sums up one contentious celebrity in just a few carefully chosen words.

Elsewhere within its pages are powerful and distant memories of long-lost loved ones, poignant observations and shrewd reflections of Edinburgh life.

"There's a lot more to Dumbiedykes than what people see from the outside," says one of the six-strong group of contributors, Isa Duncan, 71, of Lochview Court. "There's a great wee community here and some right characters.

"This is just our attempt at showing you don't have to be a brilliant writer to put something down on paper."

The group was struggling to survive until funding arrived from the South Central Neighbourhood Partnership to help it create a series of community newsletters and to publish its first book.

"It was a bit intimidating at first," agrees Isa, "but once we got into it we ended up with enough material to print a second one.

"We discovered each of us has a different way of writing. Some are naturally good at putting down on paper funny things that have happened and writing them in a way that they're hilarious to read.

"Others are a bit more serious, maybe a bit less confident, but once they get started it's surprising how much they have to say."

Isa and two fellow writers' group members, Liz Mulligan, 53, and Marion Bradley, 67, both of Dumbiedykes Road, were among those at the book's official launch at the Braidwood Centre, a community base housed within a once-grand Victorian mansion at the heart of the estate, on Monday.

Joining them for the Dumbiedykes literary event of the year were fellow group members and specially invited guests.

And just as many of the quirky tales in the book illustrate, they refused to let themselves get too serious about the launch.

"There were boxes of wine and food from Iceland," says Isa. "And plastic wine glasses - the posh ones with a wee stem on them - so if the folk that came didn't like the book, they could throw their glasses around and they won't break.

"It was brilliant day - really great fun."

Limited copies of Stories, Poems and Memories by the Dumbiedykes Gadgies are available, free, from the Writers' Group, Braidwood Neighbourhood Centre, 69 Dumbiedykes Road.