Storytelling for Arts Access

What seemed to start off as just another year, with a nice bit of symmetry in its numbers, became a year which we will not easily forget. The pandemic has been tough for a lot of people and highlighted inequalities that many face every day. It brought into focus that, what might have been strange for many of us, was the everyday norm for others. What we learned though is that our collective imagination, our capacity to adapt and our ability to make something out of nothing remains undimmed.

It has been amazing to witness the collaborative effort in communities and it makes us feel hopeful that this can be built on and that the future holds real positive potential. Artlink artists and staff responded to the pandemic with passion, showing amazing commitment, incredible generosity, and fantastic imagination. They rarely felt overwhelmed, worked collaboratively, brought a new energy to often complex situations, and showed what was possible.

It has been a challenging year. A year where we have learned a lot and can be inspired by what we achieved.

Thursday Live!
Thursday Live! is a programme of performances curated by Artlink in collaboration with Cherry Road Day Centre, Bonnyrigg. Before lockdown, every Thursday a different entertainer would visit the centre and perform in front of an audience of staff and visitors. When visits to the centre were not possible, Thursday Live! went online. Performers filmed themselves at home, and videos were streamed to Artlink TV. More recently we have been performing in people’s gardens, tailoring each perfomance to the interests of the people.

A Frame is Not a State of Mind
Chris McAdam worked with Artlink’s Patrick O’Growney and artist James McLardy during lockdown. He spoke to James about the work they did together: “When lockdown started Paddy was trying to think about ways to keep in touch and creative even though we could not get out. Paddy had sent me a link to a video which James had shot from his window. When I watched the video, it made me want to give it a go. But most importantly I wanted to stay in touch. During the week I was making videos and sharing them through WhatsApp.” The result was amazing! View it here.

Arts Access at the Storytelling Festival
Working with the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Arts Access arranged socially distanced storytelling. Storytellers were matched to people based on their interests and experiences, and we travelled to Sweden and Kenya while dodging the summer drizzle in our Edinburgh gardens. The feedback was fantastic.

“A wonderful, magical experience. The experience brought a little bit of cultural magic into my otherwise non descriptive life.”

Collective Matter x KMADotcom

worked together to create a new collection, celebrating the shared energy and commitment to nurturing individual and collaborative creativity found within the KMAdotcom artist studio. In the studio, artists produce artwork together inspired by their diverse interests and practices. Collective Matter is the result of the group working together and drawing inspiration from trips to Collective’s site and regular studio visits.

Crafting with Joan
Joan is a long-time friend of the Artlink Hospital Arts programme and had been attending the workshops at the Glasshouses for many years. For anyone who knows Joan, they will know that lockdown was not going to put a stop to her creativity. Joan created this series of fun ‘Crafting with Joan’ cards: Swan | Ladybird | Frog | Dragonfly | Bee; they contain all the instructions you need to craft your own creatures. What a busy bee!


Before lockdown every Thursday, a different entertainer would visit Cherry Road Day Centre, Bonnyrigg and perform in front of an audience of staff and visitors. Thursday Live! is curated by Artlink, putting the interests of the people who use the day centre first. Acts which encourage participation are especially popular – dancing is encouraged!

When visits to the centre were not possible, Thursday Live! went online. Performers filmed themselves at home, and videos were streamed to Artlink TV on YouTube , so that anyone could watch them on their phone or home computer. Local artists familiar to Thursday Live! regulars were able to tailor performances to an audience who they knew well – Annabel Sings ran karaoke sessions; cabaret singer and musical saw player Markee de Saw and clarsach player Siannie Moodie’s performances were particularly enjoyed by one day centre regular, who was able to watch recordings of their videos multiple times. The online performances built on the existing relationships and experiences that have been nurtured over the years.

As lockdown was lifted, socially distanced live performances were introduced, both in the homes and gardens of day centre visitors, and back at Cherry Road. The brilliant Edward Reid visited the centre, singing through windows, and moving through different areas of the building to perform to individuals. Markee De Saw played a set especially for the person who had so enjoyed watching her performance online. Harpist and song writer Esther Swift performed in the back garden of a person who loves the soothing sounds of the harp. For other individuals who enjoy comedy slapstick, clown artist Cammy Sinclair and comedy dance duo Buff and Sheen popped up in back gardens to bring some much needed laughter and delight.

People and their support staff have been telling us that they’re not physically moving as much as they used to. So, over November we are collaborating with Indepen-dance hit squad dancer Wils McAslan to bring tailored movement, dance, energy and fun into people’s back gardens and outdoor settings. Wils has created individual prop bags and a series of dance and movement based ideas and inspiration for people to keep moving after he’s gone.

Being flexible and innovative with the premise of Thursday Live meant that we were able to sustain the connections between day centre visitors, performers, and staff, and facilitate intimate, bespoke events which had the excitement of a live performance. Although managing the changes forced by lockdown was difficult, there were positive developments which came out of learning to work differently. Using online performances meant that performers not local to Edinburgh, or even Scotland, could appear on Thursday Live – a puppet cabaret show, a magician, dancers, could all perform from their homes all over the world.

Contact between Artlink and wider households and support networks also increased, as carers and family members phoned staff to discuss the logistics of events, and clients phoned to give feedback. These relationships existed before lockdown, but were intensified as communication and contact became more vital to people. In future, will things go back to normal? The live, face to face connections and physical interactions will continue to be important in establishing and sustaining trust with the people we work with, but having the option of online contact has proved useful for collaboration and contact with multiple agencies.