summer in scotland

it’s june and the weather is… changeable…

i’ve been taking some snaps which are weather-related so thought i would share a few on here.

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By Royal Appointment… sort of!

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).

Camilla, HRH Duchess of Rothesay

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.’

Meeting GRoW Project woodworkers

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.

Meeting Joel from the Music Project

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.

HRH meeting Pat, the Textiles Co-ordinator

Revd Dr Richard Frazer of Greyfriars Kirk, HRH Duchess of Rothesay and Josiah Lockhart, General Manager of the Greyfriars Community Project

Meeting volunteers from the Herb Garden project

HRH Duchess of Rothesay

 

Unveiling the commemorative plaque

 

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creative employment

As  I was made redundant nearly four months ago, from my dream job working as Arts and Events Manager for an independent arts charity and venue – The LOT – which closed down due to lack of funding, I have spent the majority of 2011 focussing on where I go next.

What will I do? How will I be employed? Do I have any choice in the matter? How do I use the time I have at the moment?

For, whilst a lot of my time is spent filling in job applications, scouring job websites, getting more intimately acquainted with Leith Jobcentre – ‘Plus’! and attending interviews, I am no longer working long hours and late nights managing gigs, arranging art exhibitions, writing website updates for the charity or attending management meetings. I have more time on my hands to be reflective, and to fulfil some of my other ambitions.

This ‘time to be reflective’ is a double-edged sword for someone like me – there is such a thing as thinking too much and shades of my Welsh melancholic ancestry can come through when I’m sitting on my own at home, opening another rejection letter (then automatically proof-reading all their typos and thinking that they really could do with me on the team).

Constructive reflection is an essential tool for growth, however; career-wise, yes, but also in terms of assessing where I am at in terms of creative fulfilment. I have always been someone who values creativity and art very highly and I have found various ways of expressing my creativity over the years – music, writing, acting, film-making, photography, dress-making, sewing… you name it, I have probably tried it at some point. I would not say I was an all-rounder. More of a dabbler.

Working at The LOT was fantastic in that I was surrounded by artists of many different disciplines; painters, poets, musicians, actors, comedians and so on. I loved my job as I was involved in the process of enabling art and music events to take place and supporting the artists to get their work out there. I enjoyed listening to the stories behind each exhibition, the inspiration behind the songs and the banter between the Front of House staff. I was heartbroken when The LOT closed down and I’m still getting over it.

Even whilst I was still working at The LOT, however, I was aware that I have a lot of observations, creations and imagination that I have been carrying around with me for years and that I needed to find a way of expressing this that was more focussed than the hopping in and out of different creative mediums that I have been doing for years.

Happily, the week that I entered the world of unemployment, a course on ‘The Artist’s Way’ started up in Leith, run by Mary Gordon (her website is www.creativevoyage.co.uk). This 12 week course explored the book , ‘The Artist’s Way’, by Julia Cameron. The timing was an example of the synchronicity that Julia Cameron teaches you will find if you go looking for it! One of the main premises of the book is that, if you move towards dedicating your time and your self to becoming an artist, then the ‘Universe’ or ‘God’ or ‘circumstances’ (depending on how you look at it) will throw things in your way to help you along towards your aim. You could also call these examples of synchronicity coincidences. I think that is perhaps a little cynical, but however you want to look at it, being open to and more aware of the world around you will increase the options and opportunities you are confronted with, and since doing the course, many more creative opportunities have come my way.

At the start of the course, Mary asked us what we hoped to get out of it by the end of it. My almost immediate, gut reaction was ‘focus’. Creativity for me, is emotionally linked with both aspiration and frustration. I love to immerse myself in the creative work of others – visiting craft fairs, art galleries, bookshops, vintage shops and watching films, theatre and tv dramas are how I relax and gain inspiration. I aspire to create work that other people will also appreciate, and that I will be proud of. I aspire to give people enjoyment through my creativity and to feel a sense of fulfilment at completing artistic projects. I aspire to make a contribution that is worth something and says something useful. Yet I realised that I have so many different ideas buzzing around and I start so many different projects that I lack the focus that my most successful creative friends have.

My husband is a very talented screenwriter (www.mrchriswrites.blogspot.com) – he is also very driven and focussed about what he does. He loves writing and so he writes. He has thrown all of his energies into this over the last few years and it is an inspiration to me to find my own craft and work at it. Similarly, the visual artists I really admire tend to be the ones who have spent a lot of time honing their craft… whilst having something to say and making a point through art is also very important, I struggle with the some of the empty statements and lack of effort that seems to have gone into some modern art.

I don’t want to restrict myself to one creative medium, as I don’t think that that is how I’m built. But I think I need to start to work on more defined projects, with more specific goals and timescales in mind, to help me to focus and achieve my creative aspirations.

I have always loved taking photos, and took the step of buying a digital slr a couple of years ago, and doing a couple of courses in photography at Stills (Scotland’s Centre For Photography). I have been focussing on this a lot more over the last weeks and months and am now also getting to grips with lomography. I see ‘photos’ everywhere I go, and always end up regretting it if I don’t have a camera on me. Fortunately the camera on my phone is also pretty good! I want to spend more time honing my craft and technical skills and I am starting to explore new ways of doing this.

I hope to share some of my photos on this blog, and also on my flickr page, both of which I have very recently set up, as part of my response to Cameo Curio‘s ‘Month of Marks’ (a month-long creativity challenge from Tammy and Hannah at Cameo Curio to themselves and the good creative folk of Edinburgh and the interweb to ‘make a mark’ through a creative act each day) . As the Artist’s Way course finished in mid-April, and I have had a sense of impending  birthday doom (I’m another year older on the 31st May), the fact that they chose May as the Month of Marks was again good timing for me, as it has made me consider how I move my ambition into action. Procrastination is one of the big enemies of my creativity, so I decided that during the month of May I would finally get around to properly setting up that flickr page I’d signed up for months ago, set up a blog and start regularly writing again and start shooting more events. I am pleased to say that I have managed to do all of these things and have been asked to take photos at a couple of exciting events in the near future…

One of my other major creative outlets over the last year has been crafting – most of the time with a focus on cross-stitch. As a child, my Mum taught myself and my sisters how to cross-stitch, along with many other crafts. I’d not done any for years until I picked up a cross-stitch bookmark kit at the Grassmarket Embroidery Shop. Since then I have made several more bookmarks, a couple of samplers, and I am now starting to adapt designs and create my own cross-stitch designs.


I have also been experimenting with other new crafts – such as knitting, crochet (that one was a bit of a non-starter!) and felting – mostly via Granny Green’s Big Night Out , the weekly craft drop-in that I helped to set up last September. We initially met up at The LOT every Monday night, but since the closure we have moved to Fredericks Cafe on Frederick Street – which does a very addictive white mocha and a well-balanced menu of cakes and salads. Being one of the organisers of Granny Green’s Big Night Out has also kept me busy – and inspired by all of the projects that people bring along with them to work on.

Granny Greens is a free event and open to anyone who wants to come along, anytime between 6pm and 830pm on Mondays. We have a programme of workshops and discussion groups, including book, film and photography groups and knitting and social media surgeries. In essence, however, we are a craft drop-in and so every week, whether there’s a workshop or discussion on or not, people will also bring in their knitting, cross-stitch or whatever other project they have going. Its a friendly atmosphere and there’s a lot of swapping of ideas, collective knowledge pooling and opportunities to learn new skills. Another of my aims for the ‘Month of Marks’ was to learn a new craft skill and, a few weeks ago at Granny Greens, I was taught how to knit by the very patient Jane . I’ve been click-clacking away ever since, producing a probably unwearable pink scarf, but with the confidence that I could make a very pretty cushion I have seen a design for.

 

The ‘Month of Marks’ is drawing to a close, but I feel hopeful for the community of creatives in Edinburgh – it feels to me like there is a current common longing for more collaborative ways of working. Too often creatives can get competitive with one another – its tough in the arts, particularly at the moment; there are only so many opportunities, so many bursaries, so many paid jobs. It has encouraged me, therefore, to read and take part in the Month of Marks, the 48 hour film project and Granny Greens Big Night Out. All of these are about the spirit of collaboration and sharing skills and challenging each other to imagine and create, and celebrate each other’s achievements. I want to continue to live out my creativity in dialogue and community.

 

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daytrippin

Every once in a while I think its healthy to get out of the city. Even if it is just swapping one city for another.

So today I accompanied the husband as he went on a work trip through to ‘the other place’ – Glasgow.

I’ve not spent as much time through in Glasgow as I’d like so I jumped at the chance to do a bit of exploring.  We visited the Gallery of Modern Art  and looked around the British Art Show 7, which opened today and will run until 21 August. It is a sample of some of the most highly regarded British contemporary art of the moment and is on tour around various British cities, but Glasgow is the only Scottish gallery showing it. The show as a whole probably deserved more time than we were able to give to it today, but we both really loved the film by Elizabeth Price; ‘User Group Disco’. Perhaps partly because of the inclusion of A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’ in the soundtrack (also part of the soundtrack at our wedding disco); perhaps because the language used in the narrative reminded me of the tone of the King Of The Cosmos in the amazing game Katamari Damacy . Also, it was a beautifully edited film, which poked fun at the establishment of the art world, consumer culture and itself, whilst also being a little bit earnest. Or maybe I just read it wrong – but I appreciated being made to laugh in an art gallery. Especially a modern art gallery.

'Exotic' cupcakes

We later explored the treasure trove of vintage emporiums, foodie shops and craft boutiques of the lanes and arcades around the West End. We ended up in an amazing little cafe on Byres Road, called ‘cup‘ – specialising in (you guessed it!) cupcakes! We shared an ‘Exotic’ cupcake of lemon and lime with a cactus dark chocolate on top. Normally I’m a little dubious of the proportion of icing to cake on a ‘proper’ cupcake, as my tooth is not really sweet enough to enjoy half and half of each. Usually I have to scrape a bit of the icing off (a travesty to some of you I’m sure) as I just can’t manage that much sugar in one go. The icing on the Exotic cupcake was just the right combination of sweet and tart, however, and the dark chocolate set off the citrus flavours beautifully.We had some home-made, good old-fashioned lemonade along with the cake which was definitely a good choice.

The staff at cup were really friendly and helpful, and very happy for me to take photos of all of the sparkly (edible glitter – oh yay!), colourful cakes that were on display. I loved the vibrance of the display and the concoctions that they had put together. I was also impressed by the reasonable prices.

Another reason I liked ‘Cup’ is that it is hosting a fundraising event for the Scottish Epilepsy Initiative, a charity close to my heart, as a person with epilepsy. They will be holding an accessories swapshop at the cafe next Thursday 2nd June, between 6pm and 8pm. Details on where to get tickets are available on their website.

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48 hour film project – ‘builder’s brew’

Last night was a nerve-wracking one for myself and my fellow film-makers as we bundled into the Cameo Cinema to see the fruits of our labours from last weekend, up on the big screen.

The 48 hour film project returned to Edinburgh last Friday evening, with representatives from around 40 different film-making teams gathering in the Grassmarket to await further instructions as to the components of our films-to-be. Each team had to pick a genre out of a hat (with the option of returning it for a wild card genre if they really weren’t happy with it). Our team, ‘The Procrastinators’, picked dark comedy, which we were pretty happy with, having a collective twisted sense of humour.

Once every team had been assigned a genre, the common ingredients of all the films were unveiled: each film had to include –

the character: Willie or Wilma the Builder

the prop: a salt shaker

and the line of dialogue: ‘Quit your havering!’

These necessary ingredients helped to focus our ideas for the film in the very short time we had to come up with an idea and work out how we would execute it, but it was also quite a challenge to include them all without them looking totally shoehorned in!

We got to work straight away on Friday, brainstorming all of our ideas on a blackboard in Anita, our Director’s, kitchen. Because dark comedy is quite a broad genre, there were a lot of potential different stories we could have told and different ways to approach it. One of my ideas was to have the characters’ interior monologues at complete odds with what they were actually saying – Peep-Show inspired, I guess. This was incorporated into our film – ‘Builder’s Brew’ – which ended up being centred around a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, with a variety of characters with different issues sharing their stories with the group. We planned to layer the sound of the stories being told to the group with the interior thoughts of the other characters, who, instead of listening, were going off on a variety of tangents in their minds. That isn’t the whole story; but I don’t want to spoil the twist!

Zoe, our producer, managed to corral a number of friends into acting as our NA group members, plus found some fantastic actors on Gumtree. We also had our own sound guy and a dedicated composer, which was fantastic.

On Saturday, we spent about 12 hours shooting the film in an unlikely location – the Museum in the School of Geology at Kings Buildings! It took quite a bit of set dressing, but it just added to the surreal nature of the weekend that we were filming next to ancient fish fossils and huge crystallised hunks of quartz.

As we were filming we realised that what we were trying to do was actually quite complicated – with a large cast, filming in the round and trying to cover both interior and exterior monologues for every actor – without a proper script. If we were doing the 48 hour film project again, we would probably choose a slightly simpler idea! The actors were fantastic – especially considering that most had never really acted before – and threw themselves into improvising dialogue for the basic character outlines we had given them. They came up with some great lines and it was a shame that we couldn’t fit all of their stories in to the final edit as they were very funny.

Once we’d finished filming, a small group of us headed back to Anita’s kitchen to press on with the uploading of the footage. We then faced the first of our many technical problems! There were numerous issues with the editing process, partly due to shooting on two different types of camera; partly on tape and partly on memory card. We spent the majority of Sunday huddled over a computer, thrashing out the edit. We missed the 730pm deadline, which means that our film isn’t eligible for the judges’ awards, but it is eligible for the audience award, so we still have a hope of maybe winning something!

We all gathered to watch the ‘finished’ film last night – it was the first time that some of us, including me, had seen the final edit. It was nerve-wracking to watch it on the big screen and Anita, Zoe and myself all went into hyper-critical mode as we watched it, as the mistakes were obvious to us; but it got a lot of laughs and the audience seemed to respond well to the ending. A number of people came up to us afterwards to say that they’d enjoyed it, which was great to hear. It’s always really scary to put your work out there, especially when you know that there is so much more you would do to make it better if you only had a bit more time! But that was part of the point of the whole exercise; to see what you could do in a weekend; to see if you could tell a story; in our case to make people laugh, and to work together to create something in collaboration. It might not have been the most polished film that was shown last night (there were some amazing ones!)  but I’m proud of some of the ideas that went into it and that we actually made something, rather than just thinking about maybe doing it, sometime… We may have been The Procrastinators, but we made a film, and that’s something.

The final collection of films from the Edinburgh 48 hour film project 2011 will be shown at The Cameo tonight, from 6pm.

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back to blog

I haven’t blogged for some time, but have often had the urge to over the last couple of years… I want to use this space to share some of my thoughts, observations and recommendations and to join in with online conversations about some of the things I’m passionate about; which are pretty diverse.

My background is in arts admin, events management and community and charity work, but I’m also a photographer, film-maker and crafter. I’m also into travelling, reading, vintage shopping, craft fairs, reading, writing but not really arithmetic.

All of these things tend to feed into one another so I have a feeling this blog will be a bit of a mash-up of appreciation of other people’s creativity and the outworking of some of my own creative musings and expressions.

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