The sound of the local paper dropping on your doormat is a joy if you’re isolated - and thanks to The Bingham Blether and My Magdalene it’s one that people in the Edinburgh suburb hear once a quarter.
When Mark, 73, and Hugh, 71, are on their paper round they’ll always stop for a chat with locals.
They’re two of the core team of four, along with 71-year-old Sandra and Tracey, 60 who meet up each week and produce the paper.
Bingham Blether goes out to 600 homes and My Magdalene reaches 900, as the two are produced for the neighbouring suburbs, which also have lively Facebook groups.
Bingham was built post-war, when the local council provided a housing scheme and some residents have lived there ever since then.
Other, younger residents have moved further afield as there are few job opportunities and it’s been listed as one of the top places in Scotland for multiple deprivation.
Although the suburb has its problems, there’s a sense of community, as Tracey explains.
“My neighbour, who’s in her 80s, told us that she used to produce an A4, black and white typed newsletter, so in spring 2018 we thought it would be great to revive that,” says Tracey.
“Bingham is a small community, with around 600 houses and the paper gives them a place for residents to have their say about issues that affect them, like fly tipping, and find out about events in the area.
"The Facebook page is also a hive of activity and if you really want to know what’s going on, you’ll find it there.”
During lockdown the newsletters merged and the team got together with local churches to send out a form to their readers to make sure no-one was isolated.
The publication is welcomed by locals and running it helps the staff feel part of their community too.
“I joined at the beginning of the pandemic,” says Hugh. “I’ve never been involved in anything in the community before, but I found The Bingham Blether was almost a lifesaver at that time. It was the only thing that was actually happening in the local area because the community centres were shut.
“It’s like going back 60 years when Mark and I go and do our paper round in all weathers. We stop to chat and we do get a lot of positive feedback from people.” Those chats on the paper round might only take a couple of minutes, but they’re worth so much as a way of combating isolation.
“It’s useful for some people who live on their own just to have a few words when we knock on their door,” says Mark, modestly.
“Mobile phones are all very well for keeping in touch, but some of our readers haven’t spoken to anyone for quite some time, so to have somebody coming around with a paper gives them something to talk about.”
The team are conscious that with younger people moving out since Bingham lost its primary school more than 20 years ago, the population is becoming older so they’re determined to keep a sense of community.
“We’re always looking for a story!” says Tracey.
“We’re sometimes based in Bingham Community Centre, which has a cafe, so we try to engage with people who come in for a breakfast roll after a meeting.
"We are hoping to get an oral history of the area and we’re also putting on a photography exhibition. We saw during Covid that when the community’s backs are against the wall, that’s when you find the strength in coming together.”
With The Bingham Blether/My Magdalene backed by funds raised through The Health Lottery which help towards the cost of printing, paper and production, the team want to thank every single person who buys a ticket.
“Your money goes to an excellent local cause which really connects people. It’s something that has an impact on the local community,” says Mark.
“Bingham and Magdalene are deprived areas and we sometimes feel like we’ve been forgotten, so it was really important for us to pull something together in a publication that people could connect with and feel inspired because we all care about it.”
For the team, nothing beats the thrill of seeing the finished product.
“I think the community centre, the paper and the community garden all draw strength on each other and we pull it all together,” says Tracey.
“People now look to The Bingham Blether/My Magdalene to find out what’s going on. They come to us and none of that would be possible without that funding raised through The Health Lottery, because it wouldn’t exist.”
Blingham Blether Factfile
The Bingham Blether/My Magdalene: spreading the news in the local community
Quarterly free newspaper
£10,000 for a two-year project funded through The Health Lottery
Bingham Blether Facebook