Listen up for the lowdown on some memories of Leith

STIRRING memories of old Leith can be heard as part of a street art project that has seen giant green ears erected throughout the port.

The exhibition, entitled [murmur], has recorded the memories of scores of Leithers which can be accessed by ringing a phone number displayed on the ear-shaped signs.

People use their mobile to call the number and then listen to somebody's memories of that particular location.

Organisers hope the project, the first of its kind in the UK, will help bring Leith's historic streets to life for residents and visitors.

More than a dozen ears have already been put up and more are set to be added throughout the exhibition, which runs until February next year.

The brainwave of Shawn Micallef and Gabe Sawhney from Toronto, Canada, [murmur] has already been expanded to several North American cities.

Work on the Leith exhibition began in September last year when volunteers began scouring the area for local stories.

Michelle Kasprzak, programmes director of New Media Scotland, which is helping to fund [murmur] along with grants from Heritage Lottery Fund and the Esme Fairbairn Foundation, said: "They liked Edinburgh as a whole, but they felt that Leith was ready for the project.

"Whenever they told people in Leith about what they did, people would say 'oh, I have a story for you'. The Leithers were on the wavelength of the project."

She said they had decided to run the exhibition for 12 months so as to avoid the need for permanent planning permission for the ears. Content will be archived online and will be available on CDs.

Ears can be found at various places in the port, including Duke Street, the foot of Leith Walk, outside Leith Primary School and on Leith Links.

Each ear has a special code and access to the [murmur] memory is granted by phoning the main number and entering the code.

One of those who took part was Dolly Agrawal, who has lived in Leith for two years.

The 31-year-old paediatrician's story can be heard at the foot of Leith Walk, near to where a friend used to live.

She said: "I talk about a very close friend of mine who lived in a first floor flat and the window that you look at was her living room. It was always full of warmth, happy people and the smell of cooking.

"My friend became unwell and returned to India but she showed how welcoming Leith households could be."

Mary Moriarty, landlady at the Port o'Leith Pub for the past 23 years, has also recorded a story for the project.

She said: "My memory is about my pub and how long I have been there and what life was like when I first came to Leith.

"When I first moved here, the streets were a mess, but a lot has changed since then. I've been in Leith since the 1970s. In 1984 I came to the pub and I absolutely love running it."

Leith historian John Arthur said schemes such as [murmur] would help make people aware of the history around them.

He said: "You can be in a building or look at an area and not know what has happened there. It's far better to know a bit about where you are.

"You can make history as dry as dust, but if you do history in a certain way then you can make it come alive."

And he added: "Leith is in many ways more historical than Edinburgh, as it was the principal port for Scotland from 1296."

The main [murmur] number is 0131-510 1111 and location codes are available on each ear.