Edinburgh visitors donate history tours to city residents

New project aims to ensure local people at risk of being excluded are given the chance to explore their city.

A new initiative has launched in Edinburgh offering visitors the chance to ‘pay it forward’ and donate history tours to local people.

The ‘Our Stories, Your City’ scheme offers guided access to sites such as the castle and various museums, while also supporting some of the city’s most vulnerable people.

The partnership between Mercat Tours and the Grassmarket Community Project aims to give everyone the chance to experience the city.

“Vulnerable people can feel excluded from their city and their past,” said Kat Brogan, managing director of Mercat Tours. “They live here, but it’s not theirs.

“Being cut off from their culture holds them back. Their confidence and a sense of ‘home’ need rebuilt. Stories are powerful, and help heal. That’s why this project will make a real impact.”

Offering everything from woodwork classes to meals for those who are homeless, the Grassmarket Community Project aims to create a community and provide sanctuary for those often excluded.

Some members have been coming to the community project for ten years.

“Being here, it’s changed me an awful lot,” said Steven Scott. “I’m a recovering addict and this place has literally saved my life three times.”

Steven has dedicated himself to woodwork classes, as well as IT and reading programmes. It has also, in times of greatest need, provided him with hot meals.

“This is the only place that I eat properly, it’s my safe place,” he adds. “They’ll do as much as they can for you here. They’re not superhumans – but they are to me.”

Steven and others at the project will now also be supported to access the new tour initiative.

When buying their own tour, visitors to Edinburgh can then donate a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Gladstone’s Land or the Georgian House.

The team at the Grassmarket project then make sure that their members are supported to access the gifted experience, helping their members to reconnect with their own city through historic sites.

Jonny Kinross, CEO of Grassmarket Community Project, said: “We’ll make sure that the people who would like to go get lots of support so they do go, because some people, even people my age and beyond, it might be the first time they’ve been in that building, even if they’ve lived in Edinburgh all their life and were born here.

“We can help make sure that everybody’s included in the city and everybody’s included in accessing these visitor attractions.”

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