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Blog / Return to the Secret Garden

Return to the Secret Garden

Combine to Create residency artists Jo Hodges and Robbie Coleman spent the summer working with community groups connected to The Hub in Buckie. Here, in their closing blog, they talk about the second part of their visit and the valuable work the Hub does for the local community.

Coming back to Buckie

During our second visit to Buckie in September, we further developed our creative activities.

We developed a process to explore the ‘night visitors’ to the garden using Cyanotype photography. We borrowed a Moth Trap which we set up in the ‘wild wood’ at the bottom of the garden every evening.

Each morning people came and helped us gently dismantle the trap to examine what we had caught. Participants took photographs of the moths before releasing them and then loaded the photos into a laptop to turn them into negatives which we printed out on transparent sheets. The resulting image was then used to make a wonderful Cyanotype print of the night visitors.

We wanted to leave something more permanent for the garden so we had all the words of advice collected at our first visit laser printed onto wooden tags by local engraver Steve (who secretly added an additional tag with his own advice). These were left with the Hub to be incorporated in the garden together with plant identifier painted stones, willow bird feeders and the nature inspired bunting.

We also did some planting of our own after opening hours so there’ll be a surprise artwork in the garden in the Spring!

“Activities like these community workshops are such an important part of lifelong learning. They bring communities together, improve people’s health and well-being, and raise awareness of environmental issues. The positive impact of art and creativity was clear to see.” Participant

“Like myself, everyone who participated in one of the activities offered left with a smile on their face.” Participant

One of the continuing conversations we were having between us while we were at the Hub, was what else we would do that went beyond our workshops and what would that be?

Over our residency period at The Hub we were really impressed with how the volunteers worked together and the wide variety of life experiences they have and use in their contacts with visitors to the Hub. Whatever problem someone walks in with, someone among the volunteers had experience and wisdom from their own lived experience to support them.

We realised that we wanted to mark this in some way so we set up a garden photographic studio and began to take portraits of the wonderful volunteers of the Hub. We then treated these images in the same way as we had the moths; turned them into negatives and then printed them using the Cyanotype process.

The result was a series of powerful portraits which we framed and gave to the Hub as a way of thanking them for working with us so generously and was a way for us to extend the sense of respect we had for them and the incredible work they do.

Our last visit ended with a tearful farewell to our new friends who we had shared so much with and many invites to come back anytime.

The huge take away for us as a practice, was a reminder to stay confident in the process as the directions and outputs change with the participants. To be alive to the project in real time not just trying to deliver a pre prepared project outcome but to allow constant new beginnings. To be aware that we are creating, curating and holding a space where new creative things happen.

“For me it was fantastic. Inspirational, scientific, entertaining, educational, informative, intriguing. Where do I stop? Getting people to believe in themselves was a massive plus.” Hub volunteer

I sincerely hope you can come back, you guys fitted in so well with the team. Thank you for choosing the hub for your project.” Hub volunteer

Reflections on The Hub

The Hub is a drop-in centre that, at its simplest, signposts to local services. But as we have become increasingly aware as we have worked alongside its forty or so local volunteers, it provides much, much more.

It is a place where anyone can come in with any type of problem or issue and will be given coffee and cake, a warm welcome and a patient and tolerant ear. People come in regularly just to have a cuppa and socialise. Many of the volunteers have become involved after being helped themselves at the Hub and so a wide variety of people contribute and somehow this combination creates a bit of magic and we have started imagining The Hub as being like a safe harbour.

Although service providers such as the Credit Union and Peoplehood use the Hub as an outreach base, the volunteers themselves don’t deliver ‘services’, so what’s created is an incredibly informal, supportive space. The Hub takes great pride in the fact that the only paid person is the cleaner!

“The “Secret Garden” project opened my eyes to the value of using creativity as a means of involving people from all walks of life in shared activities.” Hub Committee Member

View more photographs from the workshops here. You can also read the first part of Jo and Robbie’s blog here – and 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.