Blog 1: Vickie Beesley (My City)

6 July 2018


Seven lively workshops down. One full day workshop to go.

It’s been a real treat working with the My City group. They are full of energy, have the wackiest ideas and they even brought us delicious Syrian food to eat after Eid!

The group is a mix of ages (from four year olds to adults); they have lived in lots of different countries (including Scotland, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt); they have different levels of English; and some have done lots of art activities whilst others have very little experience of hands-on art.

Each week we three facilitators – I’m running these workshops with the excellent duo of Arran Howie and Yvonne Buskie – have been working and planning and chopping and changing to try and create workshops that are accessible, engaging and exciting to everyone in the room.

We started by drawing a map. Everyone drawing their favourite elements of the different cities they have lived in. Everyone covered in a thin layer of black pastel by the end of the session! We’ve asked the group to create their own superheroes, to design their own children’s stories, to make short animated films, to perform new stories, to build cities with their bodies, to draw, stick, cut, paint, photograph and even more.

I always love running workshops with artists who work visually. I spend my whole time utterly impressed at how they’ve taken the group through a process that has brought the visual ideas in their heads into imaginative, quality, tangible artworks.

A few weeks ago we hit my favourite point of any project with a community group – the point where we completely stopped taking the lead and instead let the group lead us. It happens at a different point with each group – some groups are ready to take the lead from the start and your role as a facilitator is to support and help shape their ideas. Other groups need a little coaxing, you need to earn their trust, convince them that they are good at this or that art is cool. With the My City group, they had got to a place where they had developed new skills, furthered their artistic curiosity, had a great understanding of the end goal and they were now ready to take things in their own direction. They have claimed ownership of the project and the fictional city we are creating and it’s glorious.

Their city has an angry dragon, a king who is scared of his people, and a group of whistle-holders who can summon a unicorn to save them whenever the dragon attacks. It is fantastical but so rooted in their own experiences and observations of the world that it is a city that we could never have led them to create, they could only ever lead us to create it.

We about to put the final touches to our artworks before installing them at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. We can’t wait to share them with you!

Come and see the My City Exhibition from 8 - 22 July 2018 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre.