Last Wednesday 1st June, I was invited by Josiah of The Grassmarket Community Project (http://www.grassmarketcommunityproject.co.uk/) to be the host photographer for a Royal visit from HRH the Duchess of Rothesay (otherwise known as Camilla).
This was something new for me – not just doing a Royal photoshoot! – but also being trusted to take photos for an event that was quite so high profile. Being briefed about the schedule for the morning alongside The Scotsman photographer and reporter by the Press Officer for Clarence House was a little surreal. As I was full of a persistent and horrible cold at the time, I was relying on adrenalin and Berocca to get me through.
The Grassmarket Community Project is a fantastic initiative – it is actually more of an umbrella organisation for a collection of projects – a good summary of what they do is given on their website –
‘Throughout the week the Grassmarket Community project offers a variety of workshops aimed at developing people’s self worth, social networks and skills.
Craft, art and community are all central themes in our work. Participants have the opportunity to join in with GRoW wood workshop, the Plough to Plate cookery and gardening program, the Grassroots Textiles workshop, Greyfriars Herb Garden or one of our many arts and education activities.
Although primarily aimed at individuals facing deep social exclusion, the Grassmarket Community Project encourages members of the local community to join in and work side by side with participants from all walks of life.’
I really admire the ethos and inclusive approach that the Project takes. Craft, art and community are major preoccupations for me and I resonate with the values and themes that run through the Project’s work. When I worked at The LOT, formerly at the other end of The Grassmarket, we partnered with the Grassmarket Community Project and showcased creations from the GRoW wood workshop, and hosted fundraising events.
Although I have visited the Project before on a number of occasions, I hadn’t realised quite the extent of the work that they do. As I was shadowing the Duchess throughout the visit I had a great opportunity to see all of the different aspects of their work and I was impressed by the passion that everyone involved seemed to have for their crafts and for the community as a whole.
One of the challenges to this visit as a photo-taking assignment was weaving in and out of the vast numbers of people who were gathered there; and then staying out of line of the photos that the guy from the Scotsman was taking. I was doing a lot of ducking and crouching and standing on tiptoes, and was glad that I’d gone for the sensible converse option with my smart dress (even if it raised a few eyebrows amongst the officials).
I enjoyed the visit so much that I stayed around afterwards to find out more about the Project and got chatting to some of the ladies who are involved with the Textiles group, Cloot. As well as commissioning their own Greyfriars tartan, the group have done all sorts of textiles-focussed crafts – knitting, embroidery, weaving, bag-making, needle-felting and many more. I am now planning to join in with the group and hopefully pick up some new craft skills. They are always on the look out for new members of the group and for volunteers who can help with specialist crafts. They are also currently on the look-out for a volunteer who speaks Polish. To find out more about any of the craft groups, have a look at their website, or drop in some time; everyone is very friendly.