A View from the Chair

News from our Chair and Vision Facilitator Rodney Matthews 

Something to Celebrate!


The site of Victoria Primary School IS going to become the Heart of Newhaven Community.   This time last year the City of Edinburgh Council approved our request to take over the school and reduced the valuation price by £85,000 because of what we’ve promised to do, especially for the very young, the elderly, isolated and most vulnerable.  Provided we could pay them £700,000, they would sell the site to the community.    

The Scottish Land Fund (SLF) has just given us that whole amount - and more!

 This SLF was set up by the Scottish Government to help charities just like ours working to improve local communities in the ways we have set out for the site, in order for it to become a vibrant hub of activity of people of all generations working and playing together; as we have often said, “the beating Heart of Newhaven”.

All approved.  We are now poised to sign two contracts:  one with the SLF and the other with the Council for vacant possession of the site on a date yet to be announced, dependent on the completion of building works across the road.  

 And the SLF have awarded us a further generous grant to help towards some of the start-up employment posts we will need.The total award is almost £800,000.


There will be plenty of exciting things to share to take us on through the challenge of the months ahead right through the inevitably unknown autumn and winter to come and into the spring of 2022  - when you will really begin to see things happen.  


Rodney Matthews, Chair, Heart of Newhaven Community SC049919

View from the Chair 20.04.21

Have you ever wondered what men carry in their “man-bag”?  Most of the time I have mine over my shoulder whenever I go out:   things too big or bulky for my pockets, perhaps a file I might need to dip into as I hate reading small print on my i-Phone, woolly hat if not on my head, the odd bit of shopping,   perhaps even slippers if I’m heading for my “bubble” home, possibly with some nibbles or a small plant.  Well, that’s mine and you’re welcome to have a nosey if you wish.  

But it’s the outside that’s much more interesting as a discussion starter.   Even keeping a proper distance and with mask, it’s this that prompts a friendly chat.   Like the other day….

….after getting my first haircut this year in Newhaven Road (of course chatting about you-know-what), I was coming through the clocktower arch by Welch’s when this guy, half my age, called out “It’s really great about the Heart.”  I didn’t know him and might have thought he hailed from the other side of the world until he told me:   “I’ve lived in Leith all my life and it used to be a great community.  Some of that has gone in recent years but now the community spirit is all coming back, thanks to this”, pointing to my tote bag. 

I asked him what he knew.  He knows a bit more now, after giving him my card and directing him to our website.  

If you want an ice-breaker useful for shopping too, just ask (a bargain at a fiver and environmentally friendly). 

Meanwhile an apology, if in my excitement about an architect in my last blog I half-promised an appointment  by now.   There’s nothing amiss.   We’re just taking a bit longer to make sure we appoint the one we need to inspire us with the next step forward.  

But one date is fixed and imminent.   Our charity must have its first AGM within 15 months of registration. Covid restrictions still in force on 29th April mean we’ve had to settle for a meeting of FIVE - the minimum number for a quorum.  The best we can offer is to invite over 200 members to view things via Zoom.   We would have loved to open it up to 800 supporters and still counting.   That’s too big a challenge for now, although we’re working on all options for sharing more as we venture gingerly out of lockdown.  We will, however, try to put the interesting bits on the website in due course.


Do keep clicking on all the links offered - but don’t forget to come back to the menu and try another route.  There’s much more “in this bag” than appears from the “cover”.  That’s just the discussion starter.

Rodney Matthews


View from the Chair - 20th March 2021


 Another month of progress.  We have exceeded our first funding target to help early costs to build on what we’ve already achieved.  Some of the over £6,000 (that’s once GiftAid has been factored in) will be used to engage architects we’re about to select, who will propose how we might start maximising what’s called “the asset” as soon as the Heart of Newhaven Community  gets the keys to the existing Victoria Primary School with “vacant possession”. 

The prospect of working with architects revives memories for me from before I became a minister, and then again after I’d retired.  Indulge me to reminisce and you’ll see why.

My first career was as a Quantity Surveyor - the guy who looks at an architect’s plans and works out the time and materials it will take to convert an idea into something habitable. The surveyor then invites builders to tender for the job and guides his client to choose which - possibly not the cheapest but usually not the most expensive. Fast forward to 2021 and we’re not yet at that stage.  What we must do is find the ideal architect in the first place, one who might sense what the client is after.  And in 2021 I’m helping to represent “the client” - you!   So this is at least in my ball park and I’m loving it.

The second recollection also resonates.   Twenty years ago my late wife and I bought a large field in Kintyre.   Joan planned to landscape an acre of garden.  My dream was to design and help build our own house, which would need to fit in with its surroundings.   

This became hands-on when the builder we eventually selected - another tender - scratched his head at my design for a two-way fireplace on an angle between dining-hall and lounge at different floor levels!   

So I made a scale polystyrene model as a teacher might for the pupil.    I imagine that today the fire burns for the current owner of Wester Lodge as it did for us. 

So perhaps you can understand why I watch the progress on building the new school with impatience while waiting to get our hands on the site of the current VPS just as soon as we can.   But long before then we must have a clear idea of how we’ll occupy it from day one.   I hope in my next blog I’ll be able to tell you about the architect we’ve chosen - with money you’ve helped raise - as the excitement grows.


Rodney  Matthews

Chair and Vision Facilitator

View from the Chair - 20th February 2021

UPs and DOWNs

My blogs around the 20th of each month are intended to be upbeat.  At the launch of the Heart of Newhaven Community I promoted the idea that I might be Vision Facilitator in addition to the more prosaic Chair in order to keep our ultimate dream in focus when dealing with the details and small print immediately in front of us. This monthly blog prompts me to comment on the Big Picture.

So my first comment is VERY UPBEAT!   Put the flags out.  After less than a week we are already two thirds of the way to our first target!

That’s incredible and it’s given an enormous boost to those working their socks off to meet a huge challenge.

If you’ve given already you’ve inspired others to follow. 

Please keep up the good work.     

I used to begin our Steering Group meetings with a challenging BIG PICTURE before we got down to the nitty-gritty of immediate business.   We all need 20/20 vision.  It’s little use being good at reading if you lack imagination.  Keep looking to the horizon of your dream and then focus on how to get there.  

View the mountain before setting out.   But be ready for ups and downs on the way.

We all have our lows as well as highs.  Despite the Crowdfunding euphoria I certainly suffer from mood swings for no apparent reason.    The increasing frustration of the pandemic is that it limits us.  We get fed up with it all.    I’m bit like a yo-yo, which takes me back to my childhood to remember the trick.  You have to give a little flick every now and then as it unwinds to the bottom to spin it back up.  Do nothing and it will grind to a halt.    But even a tiny flip can change the mood.

We are inventing all kinds of ways for everyone to keep their spirits up and care for one another. We were glad to have the chance to appeal for digital devices for the school to help those most disadvantaged.   The result has been great and much appreciated, which adds a glow of satisfaction.    We’ve recently revamped this website and if you click at each point that appeals, it will take you on an adventure of discovery to help you sense the great progress we are making towards our dream.  

We dare to hope that this time next year the Heart of Newhaven Community will be up and running where Victoria Primary School is now, getting back on track with its full programme.

I’ve recently been reminded of a daily blog I wrote over twelve days last April when we had little idea how challenging this pandemic would actually be.  

It was based on a diary I kept more than seven years ago when I was going though a greater life-changing trauma than I realised at the time.   There were certainly ups and downs and an unexpected outcome.  

If you get bored try reading this as you might a bedtime short story in twelve short chapters.    Click here


Rodney Matthews 

A View from the Chair - 20th January 2021

I am very fortunate.   I make no complaint whatever of the literal view from my chair during lockdown.   When those who have never visited me ask, “How close to the sea are you?” I reply “Very close”.  Sitting on my settee is like being on the bridge of a cruise ship.

I take hundreds of photos, each with a subtle difference, from sunrise to moonlight and with a panoramic sweep through almost 360 degrees taking in these recently snowcapped Lomond Hills and the Bridges, round to the Pentlands, the Castle, Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat and - of course - Newhaven itself.

My current limited exercise is often along the seashore (having to remind my sister in Kent that it is not a river!) to the Harbour and across into Victoria Park and around but also even closer to home with what was once wasteland that has been converted by the swans into a new bird sanctuary:  a small reminder of the potential to turn past into future.

On my walks I look with constrained impatience on the inevitable delays in the building nearby of the new Victoria Primary School, with its knock-on effect on the timing of our plans to adapt the current site into the Heart of Newhaven.   But I am very glad to report that progress on this is continuing steadily.   Our plans for “meanwhile use” when we first get occupation, are also developing, so we will hit the ground running.  But we are already engaging fully with the community itself in ways that are illustrated elsewhere on this website.   Those on our mailing list who receive regular Mailchimp updates will have been directed for example, to the engaging audio clip of our lockdown, socially distaced choir with a haunting version of Auld Lang Syne https://heartofnewhaven.co.uk/Newhaven-Sings.php 

There are now many activities in progress as volunteers with a range of ideas sign up to demonstrate ways in which we can support each other and especially help those who are most vulnerable, particularly in the conditions in which we are all having to live. Of course this all helps give meaning to the idea of Community.  Involvement is the key and so I encourage you to pass the word around your friends.

As an older person now into my eighth year of living alone in Newhaven, I have lost count of the number of people who have become my friends here.  

And I tell my more distant and necessarily separated family and friends to whom I recently sent seasonal greetings that I would not want to live anywhere else.

And this time next month there should be even better news to share.

Rodney Matthews

Chair  and Vision  Facilitator

20th December 2020

Originally I started to write to you with a regular Mailchimp update every twenty days or so. Now we have a regular monthly newsletter dealing strictly with our news, so I am going to continue to connect with you as Vision Facilitator around the 20th of each month, to keep that 20/20 vision idea going of both the distant view and those things that are in close-up focus.  

This time last year we had just had an extremely successful stall at Victoria Primary School Christmas Fair.  Lots of you joined us as supporters at that stage as you got to hear about the exciting proposals of the Heart of Newhaven Community. Since then even more have signed up, some as a result of our postcard delivery some because of other community activities as more and more ideas take wing. 

And very recently, as the latest Newsletter indicated a few days ago, we now have many volunteers enthusiastically following up the latest ideas. Whatever the challenges this Christmas time we have lots of activities on offer at the end of this unique year.

I’m sure you’ve finished sending out Christmas cards but I wanted to share this one with a delightful design by talented Uma Scott-Behm of Primary 5, one of our Young Hearts, with you.  My guess is that we will see more of this design in the coming year as our plans continue and progress.  Who knows what the position will be at Christmas 2021.

First Inspiration:   However, before moving on to next year I would like to go back to the very beginning in 2018 and add my own personal tribute to Joan Davidson whose death at a tragically early age has been announced.   Joan inspired me!   It was Joan who shared with me the exciting ideas produced at the first public meeting.  Then, at the first creative meeting of the Interim Steering Committee in December 2018 I looked to Joan to produce some iconic graphics of Victoria Primary School as we identified this as the Heart of Newhaven. I endorse all that has been written in tribute to Joan.  May it inspire others.

Joan Davidson

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas whatever your circumstances and we are full of confidence that this time next year will witness the Heart of Newhaven Community at its best.

                                                                                                                        Rodney Matthews

Chair and Vision Facilitator

It looks promising but when will it be ready? 

Anyone’s guess. 

The children of Victoria Primary School should have moved in last August. 

Like us, they are still waiting.    

Except that they are not just waiting.  

Covid 19 has not stopped them being what they are and doing what they do, getting on with school where they are now.   

In my last Update I emphasised what we are doing NOW, promising to share details as we get on with being what we are and doing what we do.  We are organising lots of exciting activities to help meet the challenge of living with the effects of the pandemic no one envisaged would have such a profound effect on everyone.  

Our ❤️ is beating steadily and we want to make sure you benefit from the energy pumping. 

We are working with organisations we call our PARTNERS and local businesses and enterprises we call STAKEHOLDERS all sharing our vision of the Heart of Newhaven Community we launched nearly two years ago.  

Of course we all want to move into the place that has become our icon; but everyone can see the reason for the delay. ❤️

The Scottish Land Fund to which we have applied for a major grant to help us, is to consider in more detail our Stage Two Application next year when we are closer to removal date.  Because they exist to make awards for what we have set out to do they are continuing to fund our preparation to make an even stronger case by allowing us to include all the things we are developing now to build on the reason the City of Edinburgh Council has approved our plans and also continues to help us ‘for the benefit of the Community’.

All of which means we have a golden opportunity to demonstrate what we already are by doing what we can do now.       

No need to wait.             

Here’s an example.                      

Picture this. ❤️

Hallowe’en.  My doorbell rings.  Trick or treat?  I open it to find on my doormat Frank Manclark’s Early Morning Newhaven and a retreating pumpkin costumed Young Heart (and her dog dressed to match!)  

More treat than trick.  It turned out that at Leith Market that morning P7 had been selling things they had made to raise money for a camping trip.  On another stall she spotted this and bought it for me knowing my vision because “I thought you would like it!”  But the story isn’t over. I want to get it framed for my study.   Who would like to do that for me at the going rate?  You or perhaps someone you know?     Tell me.   

In fact whatever it costs I will pledge the same amount again to help Heart of Newhaven Community funds because it’s a very good cause.

Do you see what it’s all about?   

Culture & Heritage     

Learning & Enterprise   

and definitely  

Well-being in the Community.     

And it’s intergenerational activity.   All coming from thought and generosity.

So do join us in 

Newhaven Neighbours 

For this campaign we have already teamed up with like-minded organisations who care about the heart of our community, young and old,  and by working together we can help others, increase well-being in the community, especially in the run-up to what seems as if it might be a very different Christmas. 

Help us keep the heart of the community beating stronger despite all the blips. 

Help us make this a better Christmas for everyone. 

Go to our volunteer page on the website and sign up to become a Newhaven Neighbour. 

You can read all about it here.

 Rodney Matthews

Vision Facilitator