Transforming an old railway tunnel into a co-created outdoor photography exhibition of individuals' treasured city places as part of City Link Festival 2015. 



HERE+NOW worked with local neighbourhood groups and partners to transform the former railway tunnel at Rodney St, in Canonmills, Edinburgh, giving it a new lease of life as home to an open air public community art exhibition. The exhibition was developed, built and co-created with local stakeholders with the aim of acting as a catalyst to kickstart local regeneration and build social capital in the neighbourhood.  

The project has since won a Regional Award for Scotland as part of the Planning and Placemaking Awards 2016, and both the Regeneration and Chairman's Award 2016 as part of the Scottish Design Awards.

HERE+NOW winner Planning and Placemaking Awards 2016

From 24th September 2015, this month-long outdoor photography exhibition was open in this unique outdoor tunnel location, featuring photographs from local individuals in the four twinned City Link Festival cities - Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Istanbul and Hamburg as part of the Hold Me Dear project.   

Inspiration for this outdoor exhibition came from previous community engagement in the Canonmills neighbourhood by HERE+NOW earlier in 2015, where innovative engagement techniques including a ‘PEP Talk’ were used to develop a ‘community brief’ for neighbourhood regeneration. Rodney Street tunnel was identified by local residents, businesses and organisations as a perfect initial catalyst site that could be transformed from a ‘scary tunnel’ into a creative destination along the cycle path.  Based on this community appetite for change, HERE+NOW instigated the Hold Me Dear exhibition in Rodney St tunnel as a pilot project to inspire, bring local stakeholders together around a key neighbourhood space, and together catalyse further action and regeneration using a bottom-up met with top-down approach.

We held a launch event for the Hold Me Dear exhibition on Sunday 27 September from 12noon til 2pm in Rodney Street tunnel and King George V Park featuring cycle tours, live local artists painting, talks from local partner organisations and relevant inspiring regeneration projects, and a live jazz concert.  Check out the STV video feature below showing footage from the launch event and an interview with Jenny and Liz of HERE+NOW.


Exhibition launch event

The exhibition opened on Thursday 24th September and was open 24 hours a day for one month until 20 October.  The launch event on Sunday 27 September invited people from the local neighbourhood, broader Edinburgh city and international guests to bring a picnic and come together for a series of talks, live music from Jazz Danmark, a free bike maintenance workshop from Grease Monkey Cycles, live mural painting from local artists, and free cycle tours of the local area and cultural venues as part of City Link Festival thanks to MyAdventure and Sustrans.  

The “Hold Me Dear: Four Cities, [Extra]ordinary Places” exhibition offered a chance for local people to share the places they treasure in their city through an open call to submit photographs and stories behind the places that have personal meaning to them, beyond the usual tourist landmarks. Selected images were printed for the Rodney Street tunnel exhibition with all showcased on the Hold Me Dear website.  You can view the gallery of photos submitted here.


Featured artists who painted live at the launch:  

Fiorella Modolo is a designer and illustrator based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Fiorella graduated with a BDes (HONS) in Interior & Spatial Design in 2015 from Edinburgh Napier University receiving a ‘Best In Show Award’ for her final year project on Pedestrianism in Venice. Her main interest are urban design and place-making.

Federica Lucia Vinella is an Italian artist, living and working in Edinburgh. Federica works prevalently on the body, exploring the feelings and the forms of the human beings from the pre-natal stage to death.

Graeme Mackellaig will be using Rodney Street tunnel as inspiration for his sign-writing inspired artwork.

Yasmine Akamune-Miles, Timothea Armour and Esme Armour will be painting taking visual inspiration from Phoebe Traquair's local mural art at Mansfield Traquair Centre together with bat symbolism in Chinese decorative arts to make an abstracted map of Edinburgh's waterways and cycle routes that are home to various species of bats.

Talks at the launch event were from:

Jenny Humberstone, Liz Thomas, HERE+NOW, will give a background to this Hold Me Dear exhibition curated by HERE+NOW, an Edinburgh-based co-design studio.

Sara Melson, Givrum, will talk about City Link Festival, the four day festival hosted in Edinburgh this year which the exhibition forms part of.

Sustrans' National Director, John Lauder, will speak about the tunnel and the work put in to re-open it, as well as brief background to Sustrans. 

Innes Shirreff, Sustrans, will speak about Sustrans' place-making work and creating friendly spaces in cities for pedestrians and cyclists.

Gözde Sarlak, Local Co-ordinator of NextIstanbul, Gözde is an urbanist, researcher and academic based in İstanbul and Berlin. Her practice aims to expand interdisciplinary exchange between urbanism, architecture and arts. 

Councillor Lesley Hinds

Convener of Transport and Environment & Labour Councillor for Inverleith Ward, The City of Edinburgh Council


Locally Loved Routes

What place in your neighbourhood do you love? Over the weeks and months before the Hold Me Dear exhibition and launch event the HERE+NOW team talked to a large number of local residents and volunteers to develop a series of four walking and cycling routes taking in the spots the locals love!  

Explore one or more of these four walking and cycling routes which each loop to start and end at the exhibition at Rodney Street and get some local insight on the places nearby the locals love! More about Locally Loved Routes including full route maps here.  Postcards with more details of each route are also available from the Hold Me Dear exhibition to take with you as you explore. 

How did people get involved?

Friday 21 August - drop-in workshop to map your favourite local places and find out more about the project

Weds 2 Sept - 10am - 12noon - Join us to walk or cycle the local area, recording the local routes and places you love. This will be synthesised and transformed into a series of walking and cycling routes from the exhibition in Rodney St tunnel from 24 September.

Friday 18 Sept - 10am onwards - DIY building day to build and paint the exhibition boards! All welcome. Meet us at the King George V Park end of Rodney St tunnel at 10am!

Weds 23 Sept - 9.30am onwards - volunteer day to install the exhibition in Rodney St tunnel!

Tuesday 20 October - volunteers helped deinstall the exhibition and relocate this to its new homes at Broughton High School and Royston Wardieburn Community Centre


Who could submit a photo?

Anyone! Of any age, living in Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Hamburg or Istanbul.  Entries have now closed to be featured in the physical printed outdoor exhibition in Rodney Street tunnel, which will be free to view by anyone walking or cycling through this popular local route from 24 September until 20 October.  However, the website is still open for you to submit your photograph and 50 words about a place in your city you personally treasure, and the story behind why until 20 October.  Check out the gallery of images already sent in by people or submit your own!

How did this come about?

HERE+NOW’s first engagement with the Rodney Street tunnel began back in April through an engagement project with the local community. The tunnel became the venue for their first ‘PEP Talk’ - a community place-making event, engaging with local people to give a voice to aspirations for the local area.  The ‘community brief’ that resulted from this ‘PEP Talk’ was to turn the Rodney St tunnel into a creative destination as a community focused improvement to this walking and cycling route.  With this September exhibition, HERE + NOW will deliver on this brief, creating exhibition boards for reuse by the community for future creative exhibitions and long-lasting impact in the neighbourhood.

The exhibition builds on the broader Hold Me Dear project HERE+NOW curate, which openly invites submissions of photographs and 50 words about the places individuals worldwide treasure, to reveal and share these personal insights with one another.

What was the impact?

The HERE+NOW team recognise the importance of reflecting on how a project has gone, so that we are constantly learning and improving, and can also share our findings and best practice with a broader audience. To do this, throughout the project, from the volunteer days and workshops through to de-installing the exhibition at the end of October, we were constantly monitoring and evaluating how the project was going, collecting as much data as we could.  

Want to find out more about the impact the exhibition had? Take a look at our Monitoring and Evaluation report, including photographs, quotes and data about all aspects of the project from start to finish or get in touch the HERE+NOW team for even more details about how this worked and the budget involved.

Following the exhibition and engagement, a number of other groups - including artists and markets - have started enquiries and plans to also use Rodney Street tunnel as a future venue for events and activities.  As such we feel pleased to have kickstarted this regeneration process by working with the local community to reveal the potential of a local neighbourhood space.

Thanks to our Main Sponsor and Partners

HERE+NOW have been working with the exhibition’s Main Sponsor - Sustrans - as well as other Supporting Partners including the local community group ‘Friends Of King George V Park’, the City of Edinburgh Council as part of the Smarter Choices Smarter Places initiative and Inverleith Neighbourhood Partnership to deliver this event.  Many thanks to them for their support in enabling this exhibition to happen.

   Special thanks to Sustrans, the Main Sponsor for this exhibition


Special thanks to Sustrans, the Main Sponsor for this exhibition

      Thanks to the City of Edinburgh Council, a supporting partner 



Thanks to the City of Edinburgh Council, a supporting partner 

This exhibition curated by HERE+NOW is part of City Link Festival 2015

This exhibition curated by HERE+NOW is part of City Link Festival 2015

Thanks to Inverleith Neighbourhood Partnership, a supporting partner

Thanks to Inverleith Neighbourhood Partnership, a supporting partner

HERE+NOW curate the wider Hold Me Dear project, of which this exhibition is part.

HERE+NOW curate the wider Hold Me Dear project, of which this exhibition is part.


Thanks also to OPEN who provided two of their talented staff for a volunteer afternoon working with HERE+NOW to design some of the locally loved cycling and walking routes from Rodney St tunnel that you'll be able to find out more about and explore during the exhibition.

Take a look at other examples of our work and projects.