A local park in Edinburgh has provided one woman with the space to fulfil a lifelong dream and a new career.

Iga Sobieraj first learned the art of fire spinning at the age of 17 whilst at a summer camp in Poland. 

“We had salsa workshops, drumming classes and circus workshops – and within circus workshops I learnt stilt walking and fire spinning. The camp finished with me and two of my friends making a little show,” Iga recalls.

Fire spinning did not make it beyond a summer hobby then, and it was another six years before Iga’s passion for the art was relit after seeing a group of fire dancers on a beach while on holiday in Thailand. 

“I remembered the summer camp experience I had and when I came back, I really wanted to continue dancing with fire. I joined Edinburgh fire club which is still happening on Mondays in the Meadows,” Iga explains.

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For Iga her connection with the park is the reason she is supporting a campaign to raise £1million and is one of the faces of Park Portraits - a digital photo gallery telling stories in image form of the roles parks have played in people’s lives.

Aimed at safeguarding Scotland’s parks and greenspaces for the future, it is the first ever of its kind and The Herald is backing it.

Launched exclusively in The Herald, Parks4Life is set to be Scotland’s first fund for parks to provide an endowment to provide funding for Scottish greenspaces.

The fund, which is organised by Scotland's parks and outdoor charity, greenspace scotland, aims to raise £1 million by the end of the year.

The capital’s Meadows, arguably one of Scotland’s best-known green spaces, was the place that gave Iga the opportunity to finally pursue a passion that had previously been confined to holidays and travels.

“People were really talented there from my beginners perspective, and I wanted to be good too. So I started to practise more,” Iga says.

This practice began in Iga’s local Pilrig Park, setting her on her way to a new career: “Pilrig Park is the park near me, and it has a special place in my heart. This is where I went to practice by myself, in the sunset rays, learning new tricks and recording myself for the feedback - so I could get better.”

Fast forward six years, Iga is a professional performer and spinning teacher. Though she teaches out of the Meadows due to its central location, she still sometimes takes her students to the old spot she used to practise, at Pilrig Park in Bonnington, south of Leith and north of the city centre. “It always feels so nice to bring back those memories," she says. 

“I have my own workshops and run my own business the best I can. I feel that Pilrig Park will always be special for me because of the memories I have there, and how it contributed to the place I am in right now in my life,” Iga says. 

Read more: Scotland's parks: Fund launched to safeguard green spaces

Last week The Herald announced it was backing greenspace scotland’s fund to safeguard Scotland’s parks for the future. 

With the aim of raising £1 million by the end of the year, Parks4Life fund hopes to protect Scotland’s green spaces so they can continue to provide opportunities for local communities and people like Iga.

The first fund of its kind in Scotland, Parks4Life hopes to provide an endowment for funding for Scottish greenspaces.

Julie Procter, Chief Executive of greenspace scotland, said: “Greenspace is a universal service for all of Scotland’s urban residents – we know that access to these spaces is a massive factor in quality of life, and can be a game changer in creating healthier, happier and stronger communities. 

“The Park Portraits project has allowed us to tell the real stories of everyday park users, from those with fond family memories to the volunteers that enable these greenspaces to provide an oasis for their visitors. It’s been an absolute pleasure to hear how many people have a deep connection with their local park and are keen to share their stories.

Parks4Life is asking people to donate online or by texting PARK to 70450 to make a one-off donation