Blog 2: Brian Hartley (Immerse Artist in Residence)

19 March 2020

c.Delia Spataneanu
c.Delia Spataneanu

Week Four

Calton Hill visit.

Everyone wrapped up warm and we are all relieved that it is a dry day, with hats coats, gloves, snacks and even some sunglasses, for our adventurous walk to and from Calton Hill. 

Both classes walked together in a long line crossing roads carefully thanks to the guidance of Mrs Healy and Miss Gilhooley, and as we passed the new development at Meadowbank, we stopped to talk about how the city is changing with new developments, its history as a well loved sports arena to a modern new development that some of the children’s parents are working on. A topic to return to in later weeks, to think more about place making and how we relate to our living and working spaces.

When we arrived at Calton Hill we had a short break to admire the view, play some games, and have a snack, while Anna and I met our friends Lucas, Marta and Delia, our film crew for the day who would be filming some of the activities for us. The children were excited to see our film crew’s range of professional camera equipment and to be the stars of our own film.

We had a set of tasks based on activities explored over the previous few sessions at the school and we joined both classes together to make a larger group of nearly 40 children, and make best use of our limited time on the Hill. We agreed to be back at school for lunchtime, and some well-deserved hot food! 

Using the flocking movement ideas that we had been developing, we began making a v-shape to walk as a group along the historic Hume Walk, one of the oldest public walks in the country, to a fantastic view of the north of Edinburgh. We then quickly climbed up to the view point near the Collective Gallery. We were able to see all the way to Fife and some snowy hills in the distance and point to important places around Edinburgh and almost see St Ninian’s in Restalrig behind some trees looking east past Leith and Abbeyhill. We felt the cold wind on our faces and buffeted by the cold wind we quickly made some choreography inspired by material we had devised last week. Linking compass points to physical movements, we made a giant compass pointing north, south, east and west, and quickly had to move to a more sheltered spot at the grassy area behind the National Monument, out of the cold wind. As a group we explored moving together in a flock running together and using the compass points to create some reference points. Quickly our time was over and we had a moment to get a group photo of everyone with the National Monument in the background and a brisk walk back to St Ninian’s for lunch, warming up again as we walked! It was an ambitious session and the weather and wind proved challenging at times. Working with both classes together added a new dynamic that we hadn’t explored before, larger numbers and more challenging to focus in a big dramatic open space, but everyone worked very hard and I hope enjoyed the session! Now to review the footage and images and look at ways to edit it into a short film capturing the children’s energy and personalities in the landscape.

Week 5 

After our Calton Hill visit we had a half term break so we decided to develop some ideas around maps and further explore the conversations around the views of Edinburgh and what we noticed while standing at the top of Calton Hill. 

Over the past few weeks I have been enjoying collecting some images of old maps to share with the children, and we had a fascinating conversation about we could see in these beautiful old maps, from a 13th century world map, to old 16th century maps of Edinburgh featuring references to Restalrig when it was a small collection of houses surrounded by fields. Changing our perspectives as our knowledge grew, with lots of fascinating observations and knowledge shared by the children, and some lateral thinking on what we could see in the maps. Using our imaginations to talk about what we don’t know, and why a map of the world might have a face at the top, and hands and feet, or look like a flower, and how we describe the places we don’t know about.

From these inspiring historic map images, we went on to create a large map of Edinburgh, with each class on a large 3x1.5m sized piece of paper which filled the classroom floor, large enough for everyone to work together on the paper. Each class gathered an extensive list all their important places in and around Edinburgh, and each one reflects different lived experiences of Edinburgh, and this diversity continued in the drawing, with iPads used to source images and imagination and different understandings of scale all brought together with teamwork and insightful negotiation to make two fantastic large hand drawn maps.

Continuing with our movement research, Anna and I felt that we wanted to share some other skills and work towards developing confidence on smaller solo and duet work, after the large ensemble movement activities in the first few weeks. We began sharing some skills around balance and counter balance and moving points of contact, pushing, pulling, leaning. After this focused exploration we introduced some fun exercises to allow everyone to travel across the room, using our imaginations to create ways of travel through honey, sticky mud, a room full of balloons and a room full of lasers which resulted in some very energetic and expressive responses from the children.