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Connecting a community

In this blog Combine to Create collective member Rachael Macintyre reflects on a year of workshops with LGBTQ+ young people in Moray.

Building communities take time. The gift of the Culture Collective is that we have been given time, but the curse that comes with it has highlighted how much more time is needed. Two continual years to work on a single arts project is almost unheard of. Half a year to develop a strong foundation for my creative vision, and a year and a half to focus on bringing people together, building relationships, and fostering creativity and connection.

For my work with Combine to Create I decided to work with the LGBTQ+ youth community of Moray, focusing on community of interest and commonality, as opposed to place. When I started trying to meet young people in spring 2022 it wasn’t as easy as rocking up to the nearest queer cafe or youth hub. For the most part these don’t even exist.

Instead, I started connecting with what was there. A youth worker who was running an LGBTQ+ group after school in Forres, a youth worker who ran a lunchtime LGTBQ+ group in Lossiemouth (which was later taken over by the school), and a passionate teacher who ran an LGBTQ+ lunchtime group at Speyside Academy. I tried and continue to try to connect with other groups and individuals, but these three became the most consistent connections.

After almost a year of running workshops in these groups and trying to build up relationships with queer young people, phase 1 of the residency came to an end. We made an amazing queer circus cabaret that was a joyous celebration, we celebrated the first ever Pride in Moray, and I made some wonderful connections with truly inspiring young people.

For phase 2 the aim has been amplifying voices. To share what the community of queer young people in Moray need with the wider world.

From phase 1 it was clear that space is a top priority. A space to hang out with their friends and to meet new people, especially like minded, fellow LGBTQ+ people.

So, this became my top priority. I want to provide a space for them to be together, to connect, and I want to facilitate creative activities where they can learn new things, or simply have something which will hold us and invite relaxed conversation.

Instead of working within the existing groups, like I did before, I set up my own group, The Qreative Collective. This has allowed us to have more ownership over what we do and where we can be without the gatekeeping of ever-changing , not queer, teachers and youth workers.

We have gone foraging, we have gone to see queer dance theatre, and we have had meetings in community spaces in Elgin, Lossiemouth, Forres, and Dyke.

Running my own group has been incredible as it means I can have direct communication with the participants, but it has also been a half step backwards as, although not starting from scratch, it means getting the word out about another new thing and trying to round up participants all over again.

Young people need time to trust me. Is this group going to be consistent? Will I enjoy what we’re doing there?

The group started off with between two and four regular members, and over the summer we have gone up to six. Over time it might go up to 10, maybe even more than that.

But it will require time. Time to connect with potential participants, time to spread the word, time to be trusted, time for them to realise I am reliable, and I will be here every Tuesday. And, for me, a group of six regular attendees at a queer creative meet-up session in a rural spread-out area like Moray, is great.

For the Culture Collective it has been about quality of connection and work, and not quantity of participants. This has been a privilege and this gift has shown in everything we’ve done over the last year and a half. The focus on what I do being a priority over how many people I do it with has resulted in all of these amazing things, from notebook making, to foraging for clay, to circus workshops, to potion making, to creating a shadow puppet show, to doing a contemporary dance workshop, to producing an incredible queer circus cabaret.

And now, I want more time. More time to build what we have made and to continue offering a creative and welcoming space for LGBTQ+ young people in Moray.

The latest funding bid we put in to continue this work valued numbers of participants over the work itself (and, of course, was oversubscribed), which felt like a step backwards from everything we’ve done with this programme. I will never be able to compete with the central belt for connecting with queer young people in Moray. And I put value in connecting with who comes, rather than how many we are.

But, even if there is no clear future right now for this project, I am fortunate to be supported by Findhorn Bay Arts in what I am doing right now, and hopefully making more things happen in the future.

So, I will enjoy the time I have, working with wonderful creative queer young people, and make the time left in this project the best time ever.

Based in Forres, Rachael Macintyre directs, produces and performs for Jabuti Theatre, creating visual work for children and young people that combines puppetry, aerial-dance, and music.

Find out more about Combine to Create on our project page.

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