Coming Together | Arts, Culture, Health, Wellbeing + Climate

On the 23rd of September ACHWS held on online event with a focus on climate. Chris Fremantle with input from Lauren Blair, Laurie Duffy, Victoria Hume, Kieran Jack, Gemma Kitson, Leila Loder, Jackie Sands, and Ben Twist reports on what was discussed.

Culture and the arts have a key role at the intersection of health & wellbeing and the climate and biodiversity crises – this was the clear conclusion of the first session held in Scotland focused on the issue.

With speakers from the largest NHS Board in Scotland, the lead organisation focused on greening the arts in Scotland, a socially engaged arts organisation working in a post-industrial context in the West of Scotland, and from a key representative organisation in England, this event scoped out the complexity as well as the opportunities for arts, culture, health and wellbeing to engage with environment. The event was put together in collaboration with Voluntary Health Scotland  .

Arts and Sustainability – A New Agenda

The session led off with a presentation from NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGGC). This highlighted both the significant challenges for Health Boards as well as demonstrating the role of the arts in addressing these challenges.

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Kieran Jack (Assistant Sustainability Officer) led off by highlighting David Attenborough’s statement “Anything we can’t do for ever is by definition unsustainable”. Kieran highlighted the range of challenges including the ‘estate’ (all the buildings and landscapes that an NHS Board is responsible for) as well as the transport, food, and waste challenges.

Kieran highlighted the new standards for buildings that the NHS are working to which has resulted in the new Clydebank Health Centre having heat pumps in the Clyde. Heat pumps take ambient warmth in the river water and turn it into heat for the building. He went to say that NHSGGC is commissioning its first fully net carbon zero health centre.

Gemma Kitson (Greenspace and Urban Realm Officer) discussed the significant challenges for the NHS in turning its traditionally mown grass greenspaces into biodiversity hotspots. She noted the close correlation between disadvantaged communities and areas of ‘vacant and derelict land’ (a specific category for the Scottish Government and Local Authority planning.

Gemma highlighted numerous specific initiatives across NHSGGC to improve landscapes including at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. This agenda has very strong ongoing collaborative work with the arts. Jackie Sands (Health Improvement Senior: Arts and Health) picked up the story talking about the partnership work with Scottish Canals which has resulted in a significant green corridor linking the new Woodside, Possil and Maryhill health centres and the Clay Pits Nature Reserve via the opening up of a public access route the Garscube link as part of the Woodside Health and Care Centre art and environment strategy. Amongst the artworks on the route are some of the last pieces of poetry, earth and climate messages to us all, made by the eminent Scottish writer Alasdair Gray. Jackie highlighted the evidence base for arts & health work, in particular Janet Ruiz’ Literature Review. This drew attention to the overlaps in creating quality places, green amenity for community respite and active travel as part of Public Health cross boundary working, community wealth building and the work being taken forward to improve GGC estate helping residents to see value in accessing, making use of these sites and spaces – strengthening the health service Anchor status.

Leila Loder (Waste Officer) picked up the story and highlighted two specific areas of waste – food and plastic. She noted the multiple challenges for reducing waste including staff habits, internal space and infection control. Leila highlighted the impact of a project at Stobhill and Victoria hospitals which had saved NHSGGC £19,000 simply by separating waste effectively.

The value of partnership work between the sustainability team’s different agenda’s and the arts came across very clearly and the potential for the arts to align with NHSGGC’s net zero strategy is increasingly a priority. There was an interesting discussion on the potential for embedding an artist within the Sustainability Team and having a Sustainability Lead for Health Improvement too.

Climate Awards

The second presentation came from Victoria Hume of the Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA), the equivalent of ACHWS in England.

CHWA is a national membership organisation for creative health, with about 6000 members from freelancers to large cultural institutions – and a range of national and regional strategic partnerships. Its three pillars of work are advocacy, networking, and providing resources for the people doing and seeking to understand this work.

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Victoria focused on CHWA’s Climate Awards which have now formed part of their programme for 3 years. 18 projects have been shortlisted over the 3 years and Victoria offered some findings from reviewing this portfolio. She highlighted that the arts & health sector has tenacity – it has been a long and challenging journey to mainstream the arts in health and wellbeing. The projects shortlisted for the Climate Awards suggest several themes including an increasing awareness of the lived experience of climate change, and a focus on skills-development for participants – from horticulture to design and planning. Many offered support for physical and/or mental health. Most of the projects depended on robust and often extensive local partnership to maximise their impact. Often, the arts were specifically used to challenge entrenched systems and create discussion and change, while heritage programmes and cultural buildings offered spaces in which activism and learning could be cultivated.

Victoria noted a positive shift in the last few years, whereby funders and commissioners may be more willing to support work that sees climate and health as intersecting issues, and perhaps beginning to move away from siloes of socially engaged practice.

CHWA’s starter-for-10 resource on climate and health can be found here.

Clyde Rebuilt

The final presentation focused on Clyde Rebuilt , a climate adaptation project involving Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS), the lead organisation for greening the arts in Scotland, and RIG Arts, the socially engaged arts organisation in Greenock.

Ben Twist (Director of CCS) provided the overarching context for adaptation – a key area of work focused on the challenges of being resilient to climate change. Whilst the focus has been on ‘mitigation’ of climate change by actions to reduce carbon emissions, there is increased attention to adaptation, particularly of infrastructure.

Clyde Rebuilt was funded as part of the EU’s Climate KIC Innovation Programme which aims to stimulate regional innovation in adaptation. Clyde Rebuilt was led by Climate Ready Clyde, a consortium of local government (7 local authorities), transport, health and other agencies. Creative Carbon Scotland brought the cultural dimension to the table and Ben highlighted the important impacts on the project of the work with Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) and Rig Arts. He described the way the event at GWL framed the climate crisis in terms of colonialism.

The EIT Climate-KIC approach focused on changing the system rather than individual behaviour change. The Clyde Rebuilt team decided to focus on adapting to excess heat, which is not much considered in Glasgow (!) rather than the more obvious topic of flooding, which is where some work has already been done. A key element of the work done was building a map of the complex social system within which excess heat will be dealt with, to understand who might need to be involved. This included working with organisations which wouldn’t normally be invited to be part of climate change discussion such as housing associations and community groups. They also undertook a Social Impact Assessment. CCS worked with the Climate Ready Clyde Board and those organisations involved in the SIA to introduce more emotion and different ways of thinking into meetings by starting them with poetry – either reading it or running a short workshop on writing it – and ‘imagining exercises’, whereby participants were asked to imagine themselves in a transformed Glasgow in 2045. A survey suggested this increased participation in the meetings. Evaluation of the impacts of this work is available here.

CCS also worked on changing and simplifying the language used to communicate about adaptation, and by working with Rig Arts and Glasgow Women’s Library brought different voices into the discussion.

Laurie Duffy the lead artist for RIG Arts on the Clyde Rebuilt project introduced the organisation. RIG Arts is an award winning, socially engaged arts charity based in Inverclyde bringing artists and the community together in a collaborative and creative way. RIG Arts design and deliver a dynamic programme of visual arts & film projects, workshops, exhibitions, public artworks, community spaces and events. They use creativity to work with people to affect change in Urban Regeneration, Climate Challenge, Heritage and Mental Health. RIG Arts are passionate about using creativity and innovation to influence change and to make a positive difference in people’s lives and their environments. They have also collaborated with NHSGGC on other projects including the New Greenock Health and Care Centre’s Building Better Healthcare Award winning collaborative arts strategy ‘Lochs , Rivers and Sea – Found, Fragmented and Forgotten’ project, led by Lead Artist and Curator Stephen Hurrel.

Laurie described how their approach to Clyde Rebuilt grew out of ongoing programmes focused on working with communities on mental health involving projects on upcycling. Until that point, Rig Arts had not looked at adaptation so this was a new area for them. Working with a poet and a collage artist, workshop participants were sent surprise activity packs so they could write poetry and draw maps of an adapted Inverclyde. Workshops were then held on-line as Clyde Rebuilt was disrupted by the Covid-19 lockdown. The results are available here and the zine Costa Del Gourock.

At Glasgow Women’s Library a speaker Dana Thomas, who works with the Ubuntu Woman’s Shelter, an organisation working with migrants who have no recourse to public funds, highlighted the links between climate change and colonialism and sought to change the discourse and perspective from a western, white-focused one to one which acknowledges how a colonial framing still pervades both action and discussion. This opened up new avenues of thought for a local authority officer present who responded, as well as the audience.

The major takeaway Laurie and Ben highlighted was the difference in response to the adaptation from those involved professionally and those who were involved as inhabitants. The former focused on organisational issues such as buildings, infrastructure and risk registers, whereas the latter asked questions such as ‘What if I can’t leave my home?’ and ‘What if my home isn’t suitable during a heatwave?’

The chat included various useful references:

Thanks to Voluntary Health Scotland and in particular Lauren Blair for hosting and support with chat.

 

 

 

Grampian Hospital Arts Trust | New Artist Commissions

GHAT are looking for 2 artists to help us develop a sustainable model for arts and well-being in rural areas.

Co-create – Designed with the community it serves.

There are 2 commissions available to develop a sustainable arts and well-being model in rural areas. Co-Create is a project to support well-being for people within Huntly and the surrounding area through creative activity. This six-month project is to research and develop a sustainable arts and wellbeing model in rural areas which will result in access to arts activity for many years to come.

Both artists will work out of Jubilee Hospital, Huntly. We are looking for an artists with a research-based practice, and one with a socially engaged/participatory practice to work collaboratively on this project.

For more information click on the link: https://bit.ly/CoCreateOpportunities

Deadline – 1st December

Arts Culture Health Wellbeing + Climate | 23rd September

Many health crises are also environment crises.

Climate crisis impacts affect food systems, increase the spread of diseases, and is also manifest in air pollution and urban heat, all significant factors for human health. See World Health Organisation fact sheet here https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/climate-change-and-health. Health is bound up in the various Government Climate Change strategies including e.g. diet, where action on climate is also action on human health. Another key area is greenspace where human health benefits align with climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.

ACHWS next event focuses on the relationship between arts & culture, health & wellbeing, and the climate crisis. We will scope out multiple connections with the help of three presentations:

  • Presentation by Ben Twist, Director, Creative Carbon Scotland and Lauren Duffy, artist, RIG Arts on the Clyde Rebuilt project which focused on climate change adaptation and in particularly urban heat. RIG Arts, one of three arts organisations involved in this Glasgow City Region EU funded adaptation project, highlighted the health and social dimensions, enabling local engagement with the issues through activities including creating zines;
  • Martin Johnston, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde’s Head of Sustainability and Jackie Sands Public Health Improvement Senior: Arts and Health will discuss the #netcarbonzero challenge from an NHS Board perspective (buildings, energy, food, transport, travel, waste, greenspace);
  • Victoria Hume of the Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance will present on their Climate Award – why they introduced it and what sorts of things it has highlighted.

We are very lucky to have Jean Cameron who is Executive Producer on the Culture Summit 2022 to MC this event for us. With lots of opportunities for discussion the event will open up the issues and show how the arts and culture have a key role to play.

Book a place here.

Please contact Lauren Blair at Voluntary Health Scotland with any questions about this event.

Exciting times ahead for social prescribing in Edinburgh

Social prescribing is everywhere – from government strategies and health service plans to Third Sector Organisations’ websites. Referring individuals to a range of local, non-clinical activities or services seems like a sensible way to reduce loneliness and/or social isolation. However, many people offered such advice often need a little bit of persuasion to attend or participate in new groups. Even when the person has expressed an interest in doing so, there can be tangible barriers to overcome first, for example, transport, accessibility issues and financial implications.

Several health and social care partnerships across Scotland have introduced Community Link Workers (CLWs) to provide people with support and encouragement to take those first steps towards engaging in local activities. To maximise the effectiveness of this role, CLWs are employed by Third Sector Organisations but are based in local GP practices working as part of the team. The CLWs ensure that practice teams are aware of what is available in the immediate neighbourhood so that the clinicians and reception staff can signpost people to community organisations and events. Although still in its infancy, there is growing academic evidence that highlights the benefits of social prescribing and as it becomes more established other organisations and services have started to explore this as an additional way to help people.

Although slightly removed from the more usual health setting, social prescribing is referred to throughout Scottish Government’s Culture Strategy. That said, the principle is the same – engagement in cultural activities results in reduced social isolation and improved health outcomes. It doesn’t matter whether this is participating in a drama workshop, attending an art class or learning a musical instrument. Every one of these, and more, are part of Scotland’s rich culture.

For some people activities that have a cultural basis can be daunting – stepping into new venues, attending exhibitions, exploring different and varied forms of art/music and perhaps feeling that some of these events are “out of bounds”. Happily, the CLWs have case studies that demonstrate that these activities can be enjoyed by everyone and in conjunction with Voluntary Health Scotland (VHScotland.org.uk), Edinburgh’s CLW Network has been working to encourage greater involvement.

VHS hosted two online events bringing together arts practitioners, such as Youth Theatre Arts Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland, Art in Healthcare and some of the city’s link workers. There was a series of presentations and discussions over the course of both sessions allowing participants the opportunity to begin to understand one others’ roles and perspectives and to find ways to work together to improve access to a wide range of activities for people living in Edinburgh.

Shortly after these sessions a workshop was held for several of the city’s CLWs at The Collective, a contemporary art centre based at the top of Calton Hill. The aim was to introduce the CLWs to this resource and for the link workers to add it to their “toolbox” of activities. This took place during the pandemic and was therefore a virtual event but there are now ambitions to run another piece of collaborative work and some training for the CLWs, this time in person.

This led us to consider that there might be value in setting up direct conversations between art practitioners and link workers. We created a Teams meeting and invited participants from the two VHS events to come along. On the day we had representation from organisations such as Tinderbox, Art in Healthcare, The Collective, City of Edinburgh Council and Edinburgh International Film Festival. There was much discussion around the challenges of connecting with people who face challenges such as finance and housing, with arts and culture. The group were able to discuss how CLWs, their employing organisations, local practices and the arts and culture groups could work together to bring arts and culture to the people we work with in ways that suits them. It was agreed that contact details could be shared so that smaller, more specific discussions could take place.

We are delighted to report that these “pairings” have been extremely helpful. CLWs have highlighted specific barriers and offered some practical solutions to the individual organisations and the CLWs are able to describe and explain what local arts initiatives (in their very broadest sense) can offer and, where appropriate, encourage individuals to get involved.

The small groupings are due to come back together again during June 2022 to share learning and experiences. This will provide us with an opportunity to jointly agree next steps and future ventures. Exciting times lie ahead!

Written by Anne Crandles, CLW

Woven in Govan

Woven in Govan is a project in which commissioned artists have created work inspired by, or responding to, the stories and voices of women working as carers and/or in healthcare. Artists are socially-engaged practitioners with decades of experience working with local communities to create innovative, temporary artworks in Govan’s public realm.

Launch photographs: Dillon Clarke, StudioFV

 

Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng installation at the Wh•eat café featuring quotes and key themes relating to the care burden placed upon women through a series of engagement sessions with local women on beautifully designed graphics on milk cartons, leaflets and posters.

Mary Barbour statue outside Govan underground station dressed in nursing uniforms by artist ts Beal

Artwork: Deirdre Nelson. Image: Eoin Carey

The artworks are a glocal response to the increased care burden of women during the COVID-19 pandemic, part of an international partnership between Scotland, Ukraine and Sweden. Woven in Govan is led by Fablevision, working in partnership with Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, Govan HELP, Moogety Garden, and other organisations and local people in Govan, Glasgow. Commissioned artists are t s Beall (Lead), Ursula Kam-Ling Cheng, Deirdre Nelson, Audrey O’Brien, Donna Rutherford, Alex Wilde and Ailie Rutherford.

Read more here or insta @wovennetwork , fb @wovenartworks

A touring exhibition of the work can be viewed in Kinning Park Complex from Thursday, June 23rd for two weeks. And…. watch this space….discussions are taking place between Fablevision, Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership, the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Creative Renfrewshire about a possible ‘Woven in Renfrewshire’ project.

Supporting Culture and Wellbeing from the Grassroots

Written by Lewis Hou (Founder and Director, Science Ceilidh)

Harmony Choir joining in a Fun Palaces even in Leith (Chris Scott, 2016)
Harmony Choir joining in a Fun Palaces even in Leith (Chris Scott, 2016)

Culture has an incredible role to play in supporting health and wellbeing so how do we support this on a grassroots level, starting from communities themselves?

I ask this question in response to a provocation that was brought up during a recent Culture Collective meeting I was invited to – “How do we move away from a problem-solving mentality when it comes to working with communities?”

This struck me as a powerful question particularly in the context of health and wellbeing and brought to mind some of the learnings we’ve developed as part of our action research work with the Fun Palaces campaign supporting Cultural Democracy in contrast to the Democratisation of Culture. That is, rather than valuing and making only one type of predefined “culture” more accessible, opening up “what counts” as culture in the first place and challenging a hierarchical and “deficit model” approach – that communities who don’t engage in specific cultural forms are somehow lacking. Instead, how do we support communities as active agents in their own cultural life and wellbeing and recognising their existing assets, knowledge and expertise?

This is one of the core philosophies that motivates our work with Science Ceilidh and something we celebrate during the Fun Palaces weekend of action in October – our shout out of the value of the skills and passions already in all communities and the power this has to challenge social isolation among other wider themes of climate action and inequity.

Another approach we take is breaking down the barriers around understanding (and contributing to) the links between creativity and wellbeing in the first place. We do this on the ground as practitioners through our school and youthwork programmes supporting educators and learners (including with our Youth Music Initiative resources) along with programmes such as supporting singing leader practitioners to do action research together and co-develop toolkits to support inclusive choirs and connecting the links (and appropriate boundaries required) between singing and mental health (our Singing Side By Side project).

Beyond delivery, we also hold space and networks “connecting the connectors” of communities – the trusted intermediaries who have built up meaningful relationships and can themselves advocate and support diverse cultural participation, ownership and wellbeing. This is the aim of the Culture and Wellbeing Community Network Scotland as an informal network with a facebook group, mailing list and discussions sharing ideas on broad themes across sectors – from community anchors like libraries to wider third sector organisations, creative practitioners and individuals and groups who are just curious themselves. For specifically youth workers – a critical bridge to a wide range of young people – we also support the Open Mind Network who meet to share practice and ideas supporting creativity and mental health.

Communities themselves should also be leading the evolving understanding of the role culture and creativity have in wellbeing more widely – and there is an increasing understanding that research must meaningfully incorporate different types of expertise and lived experiences.

What might it look like to be able to support communities to work with researchers to explore mental wellbeing in a way which is genuinely equitable rather than only being researched “on” – at best tokenistically included and at worst, extracted from. This is a question we are working with the British Science Association to understand with The Ideas Fund which is taking a more participatory approach to supporting these types of partnerships with groups in the Highlands and Islands. The first round supported over half a million pounds between 15 groups – many of whom this was their first experience of working with researchers and for some, their first bit of funding. Many of these projects heavily embed artists and arts-based approaches to explore mental wellbeing – from carers working as peer researchers in Moray and families on the Isle of Gigha understanding the role of art and nature, groups in North Uist exploring the role of gaelic heritage and digital approaches, to youth-led projects understanding the wellbeing benefits of blue spaces or glasswork in Caithness.

A sharing ceilidh with New Scots sharing a kurdish dance (Chris Scott, 2019)

Convening the groups and researchers for our regular Community of Practices has provided rich opportunities for both peer-based learning and connections along with wider learning about how these partnerships develop and can be supported – how to balance the push and pulls of having enough structure whilst being responsive to community needs (especially during a pandemic) and how to share power and decision-making in spite of the different pace and administrative requirements of community and academic research.

We have learnt a lot about the process of funding and supporting this work more equitably, and keen to share this to the wider sector (see some early reflections here). This has shaped our currently live Second Round calling for Expressions of Interest to join a funded “incubator” which provides tailored support, matching with researchers, and development time before finalising a project collaboratively between partners and the fund itself.

If you’re a community group in the Highlands and Islands and/or a researcher (including independent researcher) and interested in this process, find out more here. If you’re interested in this grant scheme (or any of our other projects) on a strategic level, we host an active stakeholder network sharing learning and opportunities to connect – please get in touch lewis@scienceceilidh.com

Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 4 – 24th May 2022

#SMHAF22 is exploring the theme GATHER as it returns to live audiences across Scotland for the first time since 2019. The innovative programme of events is unveiled on the SMHAF website and in printed brochures available in community and cultural venues across Scotland, with over 200 events and activities, including both live and online programming, covering theatre, film, writing, visual arts and music.

Now in its 16th year, throughout the festival, gatherings will be happening across Scotland, and online, to celebrate the arts, promote good mental health and wellbeing, and bring communities together.

Gail Aldam, Arts and Events Manger at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming artists to Gather with us and share their incredible work exploring mental health issues, challenging stigma and demonstrating how engagement with the arts can improve wellbeing. The theme of Gather was inspired by the longing to come together, connect and share experiences after two years of restrictions but we are also questioning what it now means to gather as we enter a post-pandemic age.

“We are hugely excited to be returning to live venues with SMHAF this year. While the last two years have been challenging, it did allow us to reach new audiences in Scotland and beyond with our online events, which is why we will continue to offer digital events as part of our commitment to inclusive and accessible programming.”

SMHAF is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF). The festival coincides with the charity’s Mental Health Awareness Week which, this year, is examining Loneliness. Research by MHF has found that loneliness has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The week will raise awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental wellbeing and the practical steps we can take to address it.

SMHAF is one of Scotland’s biggest, most diverse festivals. Its unique approach – programmed from the ground up by a team of regional co-ordinators all across the country, in combination with a film and theatre programme curated by the Mental Health Foundation – ensures it connects with audiences that other arts festivals often struggle to reach.

READ MORE

For Freedom Space with Rivers, an intergenerational arts project

image of women smiling while working with ink on large paper scroll

image of women smiling while working with ink on large paper scroll

For Freedom Space with Rivers is a six month intergenerational arts project being led creatively by Rachel Clive and Kirsty Stansfield. It is building on Rachel Clive’s ecological theatre practice-based research at the University of Glasgow in collaboration with Kirsty Stansfield’s arts in health practise at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice.

The concept and opening questions

River flooding, like sea level rise, is increasing across the world and the effect of this on humans who live by rivers can be devastating. Freedom space for rivers thinking is an approach to river/ flood risk management which seeks to workwith rivers as they respond to a changing climate, rather than against them. It acknowledges that there are urban areas in which hard engineering approaches are necessary but advocates, where possible, for “more space for rivers to migrate and flood naturally” (Biron et al, 2014). When rivers have the freedom space to find their own way, they enrich the environment and nurture biodiversity in the process. Protecting freedom space for rivers means not building new developments on flood plains. As flooding increases, humans will have to retreat from rivers in some areas, and relocate, something that will clearly be easier for some humans than others.

This project is interested in generating conversations, creative processes and art-works about our connections with the rivers and waterways we live with. What happens to freedom space for rivers thinking in urban contexts, given the constraints on rivers in built up areas? How do we understand and experience freedom space for rivers thinking both practically and emotionally? How might we explore it creatively? What does freedom space mean for us as humans? How do our personal, social and material circumstances affect our experiences and understandings of freedom space?

How might we respect and nurture our own and each others freedom space, as well as that of rivers, across our multiple differences?

woman collecting water from the River Clyde

About the project

The project is offering a series of arts-based workshops and individual arts commissions exploring our understandings and expressions of freedom space for rivers, with particular reference to the River Clyde and its tributaries. The first workshop series relates to COP26, and is based at the University of Glasgow. The second workshop series is evolving around questions of health and care, and is based at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice. The third workshop series is focussing on urgent questions of precarity, migration, safety/asylum and solidarity and is based at Interfaith Glasgow. From these group workshops 15 individual artist commissions are being supported by the project. These commissions are being developed collectively with reference to a large travelling scroll, and will be shared publicly at the University of Glasgow in May 2022, six months after the end of COP26.

The project is funded by Being Human, the UK’s only national festival of the humanities, and presented as part of the University of Glasgow’s The Dear Green Bothy programme, hosting creative and critical responses to climate emergency.

If you would like to engage with the project in any way then please contact Rachel Clive on Rachel.Clive@glasgow.ac.uk or Casi Dylan on Casi.Dylan@glasgow.ac.uk

Images:  Layering and Moving with the Scroll: Ardjila, Ghanima, Fatima, Fifi and Anwan, Springburn, March 2022 & Ghanima collecting water from the River Clyde, Dumbarton, March 2022.

 

CAIR: Caithness Artists in Residence, Lyth Arts Centre

people wearing embroidered aprons and holding other garments with emboidered text

people wearing embroidered aprons and holding other garments with emboidered text

Lyth Arts Centre (LAC) is the UK’s most northerly mainland arts centre, presenting an annual programme of live performance across Caithness alongside contemporary visual art and an extensive participatory programme of educational and socially-engaged arts projects led by local creatives in our community. LAC strives to be a nationally and internationally recognised, industry leading small arts centre that practices radical localism and challenges conceptions about what it means to be ‘rural’. Our Caithness community is at the heart of everything we do and we work across the county acting as a cultural hub for the North of Scotland.

Since the pandemic, LAC has been developing new arts and wellbeing programmes. Central to this has been CAIR: Caithness Artists in Residence – a new community arts initiative that connects artists and creative practitioners with distinct Caithness communities.
Led by LAC and local community organisations, the project explores how we could work with artists and facilitate creative responses to local problems, encouraging creative cultural activism and prioritising an artist and community centric approach to recovery after Coronavirus.

A steep decline in our communities mental wellbeing since Covid-19 is regularly reported by many of our partners and their participants. In response to this, several of the CAIR projects have focussed on arts-based wellbeing activities to reduce isolation, improve confidence and explore tools and ideas for healthy wellbeing in Caithness.

Five local artists worked with local communities in Caithness, responding to Locality Plans within the area. Kelly Munro worked with local young people to explore their maritime heritage and identity through metalwork and design. Karlyn Sutherland worked specifically with Caithness Community Connections in Lybster using her vast skill base. George Gunn worked across the county delivering writing workshops and developing ‘Words on the Wind’ a community poem/film project which explores and captures what it means to live in Caithness today. Donna Swanson collaborated with young people and communities in and around Thurso using theatre and film techniques to explore mental health and other local issues. And Joanne B Karr collaborated with Befriending Caithness – a voluntary service that aims to reduce isolation and loneliness in the county by matching volunteers to older isolated adults in the county.

During Joanne’s project she collaborated with Befriending Caithness to develop a textile reminiscent pack through weekly sessions. The themes were varied and included “School Days” and “Fishing Folk”. The group decided to collaboratively create a “reminiscence pack library” at the Befriending Caithness office where befrienders can go and pick up a pack and take it along to their meetings with befriendees to encourage conversation and memory. These will also be available to local care homes. As a culmination of the project the group decided to host a touring exhibition, taking some of the work to more rural and remote befriendees gardens.

Feedback from befrienders described the project as being like a breath of fresh air and a true inspiration, reporting that the best part of the project were the conversations that people had in preparation before sewing. Key worker Angie House from Befriending Caithness said,

‘The whole experience has encouraged conversation at a very difficult time, it brought laughter, socialising and exchanging our past individual stories within the community.’

Watch videos and find out more about the CAIR: Caithness Artists in Residence here.

Charlotte Mountford, Co-Director Lyth Arts Centre