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Blog / Reconnecting through Rafford’s rich rural history

Reconnecting through Rafford’s rich rural history

Reflective blog by Combine to Create Small Halls Artist in Residence Amy Benzie on her time collaborating with communities in Rafford.

Sat in the sunbathed space of Rafford Village Hall, warmly welcomed by proud members of the hall’s committee on my first ever visit, I learned of the area’s rich history and the bustling community of the hall.

Together, in this first meeting we imagined all the possible ways an artist in residence could contribute to the community – but never did we imagine then, just what journey we had taken the first few steps on.

Together, we planned for me to meet the users of the hall by joining existing events and groups, to get to know the community in their own space, as well as their expectations and hopes for the project.

To compliment these visits, we booked in a handful of drop-in clay sessions where people could come along for a chat, have a go of some clay and see what we learned from there.

What we hadn’t expected was for over 40 visitors in just that first session! And for the numbers to sustain throughout the residency. What we were seeing was a demand. People came from across the country to visit their families in Rafford, and these casual sessions gave them the space to try something new, make connections and reconnect.

In sessions, we saw old school friends who grew up in Rafford now unexpectedly bumping into one another, introducing their children and families and sharing stories old and new.

Parents and grandparents brought the children to keep them busy – but found themselves having a go of something new – and, having the confidence to return alone, to enjoy time to themselves and with their new extended community.

What began as our first steps into exploring the residency, took on a life of its own. By the end of the three months we now had a vast, vibrant collection of beautifully individual ceramic objects. During these sessions, drawings, images and stories were also collected and then translated into a collection of 7 ceramic vases to remain in the hall long after the residency passed.

The stories of the community meaningfully captured in objects that will be used in future hall activities and hopefully continue to invite conversation, connection and re-connection.

Amy Benzie is a ceramic maker and creative facilitator based in Torry, Aberdeen. Amy’s curiosity lies in the alchemy of glaze recipes, firing and the element of spontaneity in her materials.

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

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As 2023 comes to a close, we would like to pause and reflect on some of our highlights from the last year.