The Combine to Create Learning Exchange saw over 100 creative practitioners, community partners and stakeholders from across Scotland come together for a day of conversation, creativity and knowledge sharing at Universal Hall.
Designed by Findhorn Bay Arts in partnership with the Combine to Create creative practitioners, the day featured a range of presentations, breakout workshops and creative activities designed to encourage people to share ideas, make connections and inspire new ways of thinking about making art with communities in Moray and beyond.
Attendees were given an exclusive first look at the Combine to Create project film. Developed by project documentarian Jason Sinclair, the project film gives a moving showcase of the positive impact of Combine to Create on members of the community in Moray.
The event closed with a stunning premier performance of Connecting Threads by Combine to Create Collective member Rachael Macintyre, assisted by fellow members of the collective.
The event was attended by a wide range of stakeholder representatives from across Moray and Scotland, including Moray Council, tsiMORAY, Creative Scotland, and representatives from Culture Collective programmes Dundee, Aberdeen, Highlands and Moray.
As part of the wider Culture Collective Scotland network, since March 2021 Combine to Create has seen local artists and creative practitioners supporting Moray communities of identity and place through a series of collaborative residencies responding to Covid-19.
These include six members of the Combine to Create Collective who were engaged by Findhorn Bay Arts to participate in long term residencies at the initiation of the programme, and four residency artists who worked with four rural village halls in the region during the summer of 2022.
Combine to Create saw all participating creative practitioners forming close partnerships with local organisations and communities in Moray to develop new pathways to creative expression.
These included organisations such as Moray Women’s Aid or Lossiemouth 2-3 Group, LGBTQ+ young people in the region, neurodiverse children and their families, or rural halls seeking to rebuild community connection after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Moray-based members of the Combine to Create Collective included:
Jen Cantwell, a multi-disciplinary artist, who was based at Moray Women’s Aid in Elgin for her residency, working closely with the Therapeutic and Community Outreach Team, and with families and young people through the Childrens and Young People team, on communal making to build confidence and relationships.
James Chitty, a designer, maker and artist, who has been working with Nature 4 Health on the ‘Branching Out’ programme and Findhorn, Nairn, Lossie Rivers Trust to explore the role that creativity can play in a regenerative approach to restoring our social and river ecosystems.
Heather Fulton, a theatre director, maker and teacher, whose residency focused on developing inclusive and accessible interactive sessions for early years children and their parents at Lossiemouth’s 2-3 Group.
Kate MacKay, a community artist working across a range of disciplines, who collaborated with several partners in Moray who had nurtured wild spaces for wellbeing to deliver workshops exploring how environment, art and storytelling could positively shape the neurodiverse experience.
Rachael Macintyre, a theatre maker, worked with Moray Council youth workers and parents to create space for LGTBQ+ young people to be themselves through painting, playing with circus toys, aerial trapeze, writing poems, playing games and attending Moray’s first Pride event.
Ruby Worth, a creative practitioner, registered dance movement psychotherapist and lecturer at University of the Highlands and Islands, whose residency focused on delivering workshops and creative activities focused on movement and fun for primary school children impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Small Halls Residency Artists included:
Amy Benzie, a ceramic maker and creative facilitator based in Torry, Aberdeen, who ran creative workshops for all ages at Rafford Village Hall.
Neil Callaghan, an artist who works between theatres, galleries and specific sites, who connected with communities linked to Findhorn Village Centre to gather recipes for a cook book in exchange for cakes and bakes.
Andrea Chappell, a graphic designer, printmaker and kiltmaker based in Moray who worked with community members at Dyke & District Village Hall to create a textile installation to enhance its interior and help alleviate acoustic issues.
Andrea Turner, a multi-disciplinary artist living in Forres who ran creative workshops at Edinkillie Village Hall, and engaged with children at Logie Primary School on a collaborative visual arts project.
The Combine to Create Learning Exchange marks the culmination of the first phase of the programme, with a second phase due to get underway later this year.
Elidh Brown, Findhorn Bay Arts, Programme Coordinator, Combine to Create, said, “It was brilliant to share the work and hear so many voices of artists and communities who have connected and people who have participated in creativity through Combine to Create shining throughout the day. We are delighted so many people chose and felt welcome to be part of this vital programme.”
Fabio Villani, Director, tsiMORAY, said, “It was a real pleasure to see so many enthusiastic and dedicated artists and artistes gathered in the wonderful setting of the Universal Hall, and it was inspiring to hear of their work in communities across Moray. Hearing their experiences confirmed once again how crucial art and culture are to the wellbeing and sustainability of our communities, helping people to connect with each other and to tap into their creativity.“
Morvern Cunningham, Culture Collective Scotland, said, “It was a delight to attend the Combine to Create Learning Exchange, and particularly inspiring to see how their creative practitioners have supported and collaborated with one another during the process.”
Tracy Robbie, Youth Worker, Moray Council, said, “The Learning Exchange was a fabulous opportunity to share feedback and learning from all of our experiences, and to be so powerfully reminded about the positive impact that participating in these arts projects can have on young people.”
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