This weekend sees the UK release of T2 Trainspotting; the sequel to one of the country’s most revered cult movies. Critics anticipate that hundreds will flock to their local theatre to see how Spud, Renton, Sick Boy and Begbie have been getting on these last two decades. Director Danny Boyle deliberately held back work on this film to allow the cast to get a little older before he put his vision of Irvine Welsh’s Prono into action.
Looking back at the original film, it’s amazing to see how much Edinburgh, the centre of most of the action, has transformed itself. When Trainspotting was released in 1996, a place like Edinburgh seemed an ideal place to centre a story about a group of depraved heroin addicts. The city’s world famous castle was the perfect counter point to the suburb of Leith, a centre of poverty and social problems that is often overshadowed, quite literally, by Edinburgh Castle.
Though the sequel is set to be filled with all the heroin-fuelled antics that made the first film such a success, the city of Edinburgh itself is a world away from what it was two decades previously. A number of changes have allowed areas around the urban centre to regenerate, in a similar way that the neighbouring city of Glasgow has since the 1970s.
Cities like Detroit should be looking to the likes of Edinburgh to see what changes brought about social change and allowed this urban centre to reinvent itself. The historical city remains the same, but there are a number of projects and changes to the industry of the city that have allowed for change to be brought about. Perhaps the biggest addition to the Edinburgh city skyline has been the Scottish Parliament building.
The Enric Miralles-designed building was opened in 2004 amid swathes of controversy. The building was roughly 3 years late opening, and the hefty price tag of £414m was many times higher than the original estimates of between £10m and £40m. Despite the problems with construction and the out of control costs, the building was finally opened by the Queen, and has received international recognition for its design and architecture.
But it’s not just the building itself that has helped regenerate the economy of Edinburgh. Once the Act of Devolution was completed, and Scotland was able to open its own parliament, a lot of investment came into the capital in the form of specialised digital firms and start-ups. Big businesses have been actively encouraging entrepreneurship in the city, and along with being a centre of finance, Edinburgh boasts a high number of specialised tech start-ups.
As the industry of the city began to change beyond finance and tourism, the services that went with it changed in the city as well. 2014 saw this in the form of the European style tram system being opened from the airport into the city centre. Again, like the parliament, this project was dogged with controversy, and came in after schedule and over budget. Now, three years after completion, we are beginning to see the benefits for the Edinburgh tram project across the city.
It’s through ambitious urban projects that Edinburgh has been able to bring itself into the 21st century and regenerate its urban centres. Which makes me surprised that Danny Boyle’s sequel wasn’t called Tramspotting!