Concerned about damp and mould? Talk to us

Aaron’s journey through Scotland’s Community history

Aaron Sheridan

At Places for People, we have a long and diverse history that we are keen to understand and preserve. To help a Community thrive, it is essential that we appreciate its heritage to support its growth and progression in the future. 

Aaron Sheridan is a PhD candidate at the University of Strathclyde who previously completed an internship with Places for People Scotland. He is now working with us to research the history of social housing in Edinburgh, helping to understand these Communities and the People that make them. 

“I wasn’t the best student to begin with, to be honest”, Aaron began, “I applied to Strathclyde for a BA in history, and I was struggling quite a lot. I got to re-sit my third year and ended up on a course on the history of technology that just made me see history in a completely different way, it made me want to keep on studying”. 

Seizing an opportunity to study Communities

While studying for a Master’s in the history of health in Scottish cities, Aaron’s academic supervisor put him in contact with Places for People. “They offered me an internship that would last a year, helping them with social research, and at the end of it I was offered PhD funding to do the social housing project that I am doing now”. 

Hailing from Hamilton on the outskirts of Glasgow, the project is something Aaron has a personal interest in. “It’s something really hear to me because I grew up in what was formerly a council house, and my mum and granny had both been social housing tenants too”. 

Promenade Sketch

Aaron is passionate about setting the record straight about social housing and breaking away from the negative stereotypes associated with it. “Growing up in a place that has quite a poor reputation, it was known as a bad area, but to me, that wasn’t reality. I had a lovely time growing up in Hamilton and White Hill”. 

Aaron’s research involves comparing how social housing and council estates in Scotland were depicted in the media in the 1980s and 90s, with the experiences and memories of those who lived there. 

“There are often social problems in these places, but the media has used that fact to denigrate the people who live there and depicted these places as ‘sink estates’, as places that people want to escape from,” he explained, “but really, this narrative is oversimplified. Yes, there are problems in these areas but there’s also a lot of joy. There are strong Communities and people working every single day to make them better”.

Getting to the heart of Community experience

Much of Aaron’s project has involved interviewing people about their memories and experiences in Communities around Edinburgh. “People have responded really well and have been happy to participate in the project and to see someone take an interest in the local area…it’s a fantastic feeling as a historian to just chat about history and uncover people’s history”. 

He has also used local archives and chatted with Community Historians to find out more about Community life in these neighbourhoods. “I’ve uncovered a lot of interesting things, for example, there was a group called the Craigmillar Festival Society which was started by local mothers and housewives in the 1970s as a response to the lack of drama and music available at local schools, so they took it upon themselves to put on plays and teach the kids how to play instruments while at the same time creating jobs for the unemployed and giving children something to do”. 

He went on to explain just why this finding was so significant. “Those people had been written about in newspapers as ‘slum dwellers’. It just goes to show that’s not the whole story. They can and they will advocate for themselves and use whatever means possible to make their Community better”. 

Uncovering History

Aaron’s collaboration with Places for People has benefitted him and us alike. “It’s been amazing to have Places for People back me because they’ve been a source of advice and support, and their funding has been invaluable to keep me stable during this PhD, I couldn’t have done it without them”. 

His research has also been of equally great use to Places for People. “Places for People put a lot of emphasis on preserving the heritage of their buildings and Communities and I think it’s important that they understand the full story of the Communities that they are involved, and of their profession in general”. 

Our commitment to Community history

Places for People has preserved many historic buildings for residential use, including Victorian miners’ cottages in Midlothian and the famous Park Hill estate in Sheffield, one of the first high rises ever built in the UK. 

“It’s important that we remember that people have lived in these Communities for sometimes hundreds of years, yet so often they are demolished. I want to contribute to the conversation around them and understand how people lived and continue to live, to preserve them for their intended use so that they can continue to thrive”.

What is Aaron’s message to any budding historians? “My advice is: go for it. These places are endlessly interesting, they have a long history that is so rich and rewarding…even if you’re not studying at university, there is so much amazing work being done by local amateur historians who are making sure that normal people’s histories and the histories of these Communities are preserved”. 

To learn about Places for People's History, visit our History and Heritage page

Read more heart-warming stories from our Customers and People

We hope you found this story inspirational. If you would like to read more stories from around the Places for People organisation, check out more of our In My Own Words stories.  

Read more