top of page

Concrete Designs to Thrive  >  6 Designs on Recreation

Walk by Design - 6 Designs on Recreation

PLAY - Part 6 of CONCRETE Designs to Thrive 2021


A Walk and Talk with Kate Foggo, Jog Scotland coach and member of LGBTQ club, Edinburgh Frontrunners.

PLAY, an exploration of Pavilions and Parklands

Dumbiedykes, Edinburgh

with Kate Foggo, Edinburgh Frontrunners


John Ennis, curator producer Journeys in Design, tells the story of the redeveloped Dumbiedykes area of Edinburgh’s Old Town, while strolling through the nearby ‘green corridor’. Meeting with Kate Foggo in front of the mighty Salisbury Crags and a local skatepark, the pair discuss the Frontrunners community approach to exercise in the urban landscape, referencing ‘Couch to 5k’, Jog Scotland and international partners.

Here you can watch the full video, and you can read the full text adapted from the transcript of the conversation below.

Introduction: Welcome to Concrete Walks by Design 6 - "Play"

John Ennis: Hello and welcome to the penultimate of our Walk By Design encounters in central Edinburgh; a part of our Concrete Designs to Thrive programme. We've been theming each of our encounters and tonight's theme is Play. We'll be looking at places and spaces for living well, relating to recreation in the urban landscape.


Tonight we're in Dumbiedykes, a rather special little place in Edinburgh. We've just walked through a managed green space maintained by the city of Edinburgh council. You're going to hear basketballs, footballs, bikes, scooters and whatever sounds all around us as we walk down from that managed green space. We are very close to the Canongate, and Dunbar's Close, where we were last night. I'm looking forward to showing you the geology of Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat. These volcanic gifts to the city that loom large over Edinburgh. Let's first of all think, what would Patrick Geddes have said? 


Sir Patrick Geddes (the late 19th century town planner, ecologist, polymath as he's been called on our on our trip so far) might have said Dumbiedykes is an interesting part of Edinburgh.


The original tenements that were built in Dumbiedykes around the 1820s - 1840s had pretty poor foundations. They were not well built and were largely occupied by the workers of the breweries in the Canongate. Between the wars they were really dilapidated and by the end of the Second World War there were there were stretches of tenements completely unoccupied. So Dumbiedykes was a part of the city ripe for change.


There's a famous story called the 1959 Penny Tenement where an owner of one of the tenements realised it would be far too expensive to repair the building, so he tried selling the whole tenement block to a local MP for a penny! Within a year there was still no action on these very dilapidated tenements and tragedy almost struck. An entire gable wall on the tenement block collapsed. On that November evening residents were in bed on one floor, and awoke later to find themselves two floors down. Miraculously, all 17 families managed to get out of that tenement with relatively few injuries.

But that was a cue.


Patrick Geddes was fond of what he termed Conservative Surgery. He preserved much of the slums in Edinburgh's old town as we've seen, and redeveloped them. No such thing for Dumbiedykes. The entire place was bulldozed and people were decanted to new housing on the periphery of Edinburgh. Meanwhile through the 1960s Dumbiedykes was developed as a housing quarter. Two 11 storey high rise blocks and a series of four or five story tenements were built. These had a contemporary design - brutalist in some people's eyes.

Fifty years after they were built, some cracks and stains were appearing. There was a cosmetic attempt to improve them - coincident with the building of the new Scottish Parliament. I was a GP for Dumbiedykes at the time and a number of patients had more than a rye smile on their face when I would ask how the improvements were going in Dumbiedykes. However that's unfair because there has been continued regeneration of the area and it's now like anywhere it has some housing problems and difficulties but it's a much more popular area to live. Not least of which because of that magical little green space, the corridors through the green, and the maintain maintenance of these wonderful trees and green banks that give the urban landscape so much richness. We'll come back to the notion of biodiversity tomorrow and I hope you'll join us then.

Now we're approaching the dramatic view of the geology which contrasts to the built environment you can see behind us. We're coming upon some more evidence of community-based play in in the urban landscape. I'll just point out a wonderful Crags Basketball Centre and here Skelf who have, from the ground up, produced a fantastic bike and skate park. All comers use it; kids, adults, adults with their children. It's a great resource. You'll hear and see some of the bikes in the background.

Speaking of recreation in the urban environment, I'm delighted to introduce my friend and former running mate Kate Foggo of Edinburgh Frontrunners. Kate it's great to see you. Would you like to tell us a little bit about your story in Frontrunners.

Kate Foggo: I joined Frontrunners about five and a half years ago. At that time I was looking for a 'couch to 5k' program, where I could join with other people and do some running. That's absolutely what happened.

John: Yes, the key thing is that you get a bit of fellowship with a running club. Frontrunners is a community based running club with an LGBTQ+ basis but it's there for all comers. I think mixed ability would be a fair way to describe that.

Kate: I would completely agree with that. We've had a strong walking strand within the club for many years as well as our 'Couch to 5k' learn to run program - which I have been the development leader of. We have stronger runners as well, who are able to come to get a social run in.

John: I remember my Wednesday evening runs, starting outside the 'Commie' Pool at 7pm. My Saturday mornings down at Glenogle in Stockbridge. People who know Edinburgh will know those those names. I remember Fraser who's now joined London Frontrunners. He whips round a 10k while the rest of us are still plodding on! Right to the person who was using walking support.

Kate: Yes, we have one user who uses a tricycle bike! 

John: So you mentioned "Couch to 5k". That's now been adopted by the NHS. In terms of running training, can you tell us a bit about Jog Scotland?


Kate: Jog Scotland is a body affiliated with Scottish Athletics who provide training and support for groups such as ours who are looking to develop casual running groups, for people who just simply want that bit of support to run together in a group. They have been supportive of Edinburgh Frontrunners.

John: We're doing a little riff on someone called Patrick Geddes who was a town planner in late 19th century. He was also an internationalist and I love that Frontrunners is an international organisation. Can you tell us a little bit about how Frontrunners established internationally?

Kate: The first Frontrunners club was in San Francisco way back in the 1970s. They were an LGBT running club. The name is based on a novel (Patricia Nell Warren's 'The Front Runner'). From San Francisco, clubs started sprouting up across the United States and from there it's gone around the world. It's a great thing having that network. You could go to any almost any major city around the world and you'll be able to find a Frontrunners club.

John: It's fantastic! Just bring your trainers! You've been abroad and had a chance to to run internationally.

Kate: Yes I've actually been to San Francisco. I visited them in 2018 and they were amazing they are one of the biggest clubs i've ever seen. They give a massive welcome. You can turn up and then they will show you where they go afterwards. There's a big thing in Frontrunners about going out for something to eat after your run.

John: Not just eat as I remember! ...another part of the of the whole bonhomie. So what an amazing experience that must have been in San Francisco, the home city of it all, and elsewhere...

Kate: We actually represented the club at the World Pride in 2017 which was held in Madrid. It was absolutely roasting! Hydration required. We met with the Madrid Frontrunners, also the Frontrunners from Newcastle joined up. The Glasgow bunch are very active as well. They're the biggest club in Scotland and they're very active. They have an annual race in Glasgow at Kelvingrove Park in August.

John: If someone wants to be a Front Runner, how do they go about it?

Kate: Look us up online. We have a website which has all of our information. We still meet twice a week. We've just come back from lockdown - unfortunately we were unable to meet during lockdown.

John: Can we pause and just talk about that? During lockdown I actually repeated the coach to 5k. Believe me I needed to start on coach and I needed the coach at the end of the run! It was great to get back into it and I was actually able to keep in touch with you guys using the Frontrunners Facebook group and I found that was quite supportive, even though we were online and distanced. So now you've come back from that and you're meeting again.

Kate: Yes, we meet at six o'clock on a Wednesday just around the corner in Holyrood Park, and then at 10 am on a Saturday morning in Inverleith Park.

John: It feels like a new season upon us. What's what's coming up?

Kate: We're just getting back into the swing of things. We've got a capacity for everybody to come now. We're inclusive to any speed. On Saturday we've actually got our Pride Run. We'll be running from Inverleith Park to Edinburgh Castle. It's quite a challenge - it's all uphill. But what a what a beautiful route. We don't mind how long it takes you. We reckon we're probably going to have some power walkers.

John: So what if I wanted to to come along . Where would I pitch up? Do I register as a normal runner?

Kate: 10 a.m Inverleith Park. You can just turn up. We do have a sign-up sheet - have a look at the website.

John: Tomorrow night, 6 o'clock we're going to be down by the parliament, and our theme is "Vote". Look forward to seeing you then if you're able. Good night.

bottom of page