In March 2020 Artlink was asked by Mental Health Day Services in West Lothian to provide art sessions at Pentland Court, St John’s Hospital in Livingston as a part of the response to the emerging pandemic. Here adults with enduring mental ill health receive rehabilitation support in preparation for their return to community living. Being resident in hospital during these times can be incredibly isolating, mundane and does little to encourage an individual to think ahead with positivity. So, it was important for us to create an arts input that encouraged forward thinking and planning towards a time when there could be a positive and active involvement in our communities.
We mostly work in a small, adapted studio space in Pentland Court so that we can work in a socially distanced and Covid safe way. Whenever the easing of restrictions allowed, we have also made use of the well-equipped ceramics and arts studio at the nearby Howden Park Centre. We have been exploring ways that conversations about experiences during current Covid times can be visualised. The time together offers us an opportunity to look at different ways in which we can develop our ideas that reflect our shared interests and passions and think about how this work might be adapted for more public situations.
‘I Miss a Dance’ is inspired by conversations between Sharon and artist Francesca during the studio sessions. Both love music, dancing, and socialising. Their collaborative work is inspired by the things they miss. With the same energy and creativity they have shown in developing the work, they are now planning to create a series of props and backdrops for community and creative events at Howden Park Centre in the year ahead.
Continuity and the opportunity to get back involved in our studio workshops have been important over the past year. Stuart has been an ever-present creative force within our Sanctuary project at Boghall since 2015. When Stuart became unwell in 2020 he had to stay at Pentland Court for a short period. During this short time of ill health Stuart continued to explore his interest in poster making and screenprinting and when he returned home he continued this work at our studio sessions at Boghall.
We look forward to sharing the creative energy and experiences of the many people involved at Pentland Court and our other Leylines projects with others in our communities when the time comes.
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.