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Blog / Co-creation and community in Edinkillie

Co-creation and community in Edinkillie

Combine to Create Small Halls Residency Artist Andrea Turner blogs about her summer residency at Edinkillie Community Hall.

My Small Halls artist residency at Edinkillie Hall ended on a wild, stormy afternoon during the 4th Findhorn Bay Festival, with the hall crammed with people who had come to share the final celebration: to listen to the jazz band, view the art made by participants during the residency, enjoy the original spoken word performance by writer and hall committee member Stephen Webb, and be joyfully together.

Rewind three months and I’m being welcomed to Edinkillie Hall by Jane from the committee with a remit simply to encourage people to come, use and enjoy the space which has become quiet and empty during recent years of Covid restrictions.

Photo credit: Andrea Turner

My first approach to Edinkillie Hall was made by walking from Forres along the Dava Way.

I wanted to arrive slowly, to experience the story of the land, feel the resonances of people and place. This journey set the pace for much of the residency, which has since become about slowing down, creating space for connecting and just being together. The rural location of Edinkillie Hall, the fact that everyone has made a journey to get here, the enlivening peace of the landscape have all contributed.

In response to the hall committee brief I set up a series of weekly Come and Create drop in workshops open to all.

Each session we built a mini community, like a family. There have been babies, children, adults, grandparents, a troupe of brownies. People sit together drawing and chatting, gather in the main hall to sing. Our meetings have been about conversation and community as much as about making art. While our hands are busy our minds and hearts are free to roam.

There’s been space for sharing, for solitude, for walking and writing, for speech and song and silence. We’ve welcomed birds to the hall. Butterflies and bees have flown in through the open doors and become part of the collective.

Together with the children of Logie Primary School we imagined and co-created a composite artwork; a painted garden to fill the space behind Edinkillie Hall.

There’s also been walking and writing/drawing workshops for adults where we’ve creatively explored and responded to the beautiful birch wood beside the Dava Way which runs directly behind the hall.

Alongside co-creating with the community I’ve been exploring my own creative responses, walking through the landscape looking, listening, drawing, writing. Attempting to be present to both the moment and to the echoes of deep time.

I wanted to experience Edinkillie Hall as a physical centre and meeting place for the local community. As indeed it has been throughout the majority of its almost 100 year history, particularly in the days when the railway line (now the Dava Way) carried people, goods, and livestock from Forres to Grantown-on-Spey.

I also became fascinated with the resident ospreys, informed by the incredible work of local wildlife expert Roy Dennis. The story of the osprey’s migration between Scotland and West Africa, as well as being extraordinary in its own right, holds many metaphors for our own human story.

There are many layers of learning and understanding to be explored here and during this short residency I have only dipped beneath the surface.

It’s the day following the end of residency celebration and I’m in the hall again for the final time as a Small Halls Artist in Residence to take down the artwork. I’ve opened the hall to the public, partly to enable visitors to come and see the exhibition, but also so that I can leave slowly from a place that has become part of my personal landscape and where I now feel a keen sense of belonging.

Thanks to the openness and trust offered to me by the committee I have been able to open the doors of this beautiful, historic wooden hall to around 200 people.

In both large and small groups we’ve shared our stories and created new ones, sung together, made art together, written poetry and above all filled the hall with our shared humanity.

It’s hard to leave a place which has begun to feel like home, but I carry this experience with me, and the friendships and connections made at Edinkillie Hall will continue.

I very much hope that my contribution has been a positive one.

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