The focus of our next project is how we can help artists tell their own story.
“An indie arts centre housed in a former Government office block which, despite its daunting exterior, is a hive of creative energy.”
– ArtWork, on St Margaret’s House
The Thrive Archive is based at the wonderful St Margaret’s House and is grateful for the support of the inspirational folk who run Edinburgh Palette. The building hosts hundreds of studios, several unique exhibition spaces, a range of charities – including a whole floor dedicated to the artists at Upward Mobility – as well as a range of holistic therapists and martial artists who keep our creative juices flowing and help us de-stress.
At the Open Doors event on 21st and 22nd October and as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, Thrive curator Jan Bee Brown will be celebrating the eclectic mix and the symbiotic relationship between established and emergent artists and the building that nurtures them.
Once a crowded railway depot full of steam locomotives our ‘brutalist building’ was built on the site of a magic well, every studio has a story to tell. So we are now seeking stories of how so many multicultural artists came to St Mags’, how working in the building has inspired them and how collaboration with other artists facilitated by the supportive nature of the building helps them to develop their practice and cross traditional boundaries in art.
We will be blogging about the project as we build up a head of steam and our story journey will be free so do join us on October 21st from 11am – 4pm for a bit of an adventure!
Earlier this year we took an art project out on tour with a new play from Heroica Theatre Company produced by Stellar Quines. ‘A Private View’ was a new play about the life of Artist Joan Eardley. The promenade theatre show opened at The Modern here in Edinburgh during a retrospective of Joan’s work and then toured the Highlands and Islands before heading south and across the border.
Thrive’s Curator Jan Bee Brown is a collaborative artist who trained in 3D Design at Central St Martins and has designed a range of touring theatre shows over the past 15 years including several for Stellar Quines Theatre Company. Small-scale touring in Scotland involves many one-night-only performances and Jan always thought that there was a missed opportunity to engage a rural audience in a more holistic way to enable communities to tell their own story.
Jan designed and trialled ‘After Eardley’ a 90-minute creative art workshop to engage the audience before the show and our favourite artist Lucy Schofield joined The Thrive Archive to help deliver them at a range of eclectic venues, galleries, art centres and village halls during the tour.
The workshop was conceived to get both local artists and complete beginners to work at speed, in pastel, inspired by archive footage of Joan sketching Glasgow children in the 1963 film Three Scottish Painters. The resulting art works were so impressive they often became part of the set during the promenade performance. Gallery staff at one venue also joined in as part of their CPD and the actors even had a go too.
The Thrive Archive were delighted with the feedback and we really enjoyed working with Lucy, Heroica and Stellar Quines. The play had 5 star reviews and the workshops were well attended and it was wonderful to be able send such positive feedback to the funders at Arts Council England and Creative Scotland.
Nest of Songbirds has been a fantastic project to be part of. It has been amazing how much the project has opened my mind to the potential of what the choir can do. The way that we can link with other choirs and organisations as well as other art forms. We have really got behind this project and it has inspired the choir to become even more solid and organised than it was before. As a cross generational project I thought it was really successful at bringing together different age groups from the school and the community choir at an event together. In terms of linking with community history and story telling it was an absolute score. These songs will continue through the choir for many years. It’s also great that we have them recorded so that they can be shared by anyone. In short it has been an inspiring and successful project on every level. – Jed Milroy
We were delighted to be supported by and take part in the fabulous TradFest in October filling both the auditorium and the stage to bursting point at The Scottish Storytelling Centre with the Newhaven Community Choir, The Giddy Kipper Ceilidh Band and the junior choirs of Victoria and Stockbridge Primary Schools.
Curator Jan Bee Brown and Marie Louise Cochrane aka Mrs Mash the storytelling cook cooked up a great project for the second stage of the Songbirds project funded by wonderful The Edward Marshall Trust. Junior Choir leader Lucy Metcalf joined us and enabled the two schools to celebrate the historical markets that defined their local area, the famous Stockbridge market and the infamous Fish Market in Newhaven.
‘A Nest of Songbirds’ started in October 2016 and saw three new songs and a reel being written about Newhaven with songwriter Jed Milroy and musician and choreographer Jo Jeffries with members of The Newhaven Community Choir and P7 Victoria primary students. We celebrated with The Giddy Kipper Ceilidh in December 2016.
Jan joined the P7’s at Victoria Primary up with the wonderful Helena Barrett at The Edinburgh Arts Festival and Napier University to make a 360-music video of their song inspired by Newhaven’s First World War submarine watching heritage!
In March 2017 it was the turn of the Junior Choirs to get creative. Following a delicious storytelling session with Jan and Mrs Mash, pupils from both schools made up their own market cries and designed their own stalls and Lucy and Marie Louise cleverly interwove these into a new song ‘Come to the Market’.
All the songs were recorded by Jed Milroy and will soon be available on Band Camp.
Newhaven Community Choir now has three new songs and a reel to celebrate! All three songs were written over the autumn with the help of musician and choir leader Jed Milroy and the multi-talented choreographer and fiddler Joanna Jeffries.
Thanks to funding from The Edward Marshall Trust the process of writing a song based on local stories has been fascinating and our Songbirds were proud of the results. From the mythical willow tree to the pirate bones found under the playground of the local primary school the choir have been belting out their new repertoire ever since.
Dazzle ships decorate Newhaven Primary School
The third song was developed with Victoria Primary’s lively P 7 class and is about Newhaven’s role in developing a listening system for enemy U Boats in The First World War. Our Curator Jan Bee Brown set the scene by writing a series of short stories about the U-Boat war at sea and the class visited Ciara Phillip’s Dazzle Ship ‘Everywoman’. Art workshops inspired by Newhaven Fishwives’ Gala dress followed with Jan and Helena Barrett from Edinburgh Arts Festival joined in together with parents who shared their skills making origami propellers and ghosts.
The next step was a music session with Jed and The Submariners Rap was born. Napier University then stepped in with their amazing 360 degree go-pro camera and the class made a music video to go with their song.
The Thrive Archive cordially invite you to The Giddy Kipper Ceilidh on Monday December 5th from 7.30 to 9.30pm at Victoria Primary School, Newhaven, Edinburgh. So polish up your dancing shoes and get ready for a new reel, a new ceilidh band, 2 live choirs and a mug of soup provided by The Real Junk Food Project Edinburgh.
There was once a willow tree in Fishermen’s park in Newhaven, it was said that if the tree were to die or be cut down then the fishing would leave Newhaven – the park was built upon, the tree lost and the fishing industry that sustained the village is gone.
The tree supplied the raw materials essential for the work of the village. A readily available crop harvested twice a year, the supple willow was woven into the creels that the famous fishwives carried. With 10 stone of fish on their backs both women and girls as young at 15 walked into Edinburgh every day. The willow was woven into many different designs, the lobster and crab pots, the cran that was both a measurement and a basket used to unload and sell the fish and the skulls.
We all like a good story but elders of the Newhaven Community Choir couldn’t remember ever seeing the tree! Then a letter from the archives of The University of British Columbia solved the mystery. The sad story was transcribed in the 19th Century from a Newhaven Bow-tow who was living there. The story will break your heart and we are using it to write a new song thanks to funding from The Edward Marshall Trust. Their grant will enable us to write a series of new songs in the community through our intergenerational project ‘A Nest of Songbirds’.
The choir recently sang at The Leith Festival in front of The Edinburgh Art Festivals’ dazzle ship Everywoman designed and painted by Ciara Phillips and a group of women artists. Our own songbird and artist Kate Downie also helped us with the image for our leaflets.
So come and join us Tuesday evenings 6.30 – 8pm at Victoria Primary School in Newhaven, Edinburgh. For more details see our lovely leaflet printed by Out of the Blueprint in sunny Leith.
We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the Edward Marshall Trust to build community in Newhaven. The grant will enable The Thrive Archive to help Newhaven Community Choir to write some new songs in the autumn term to tell their story. We will also be working with local schools too and we have a fabulous line up of tutors available. So get set to write and sing some new songs! Songbird sessions will take place at Victoria Primary on Tuesday evenings from September 6.30pm – 8 pm all are welcome and sessions are free.
Details will be posted on the Newhaven Community Choir’s website.
What a busy March! We have been up to our necks in writing funding bids here at The Thrive Archive. Following some good advice from Creative Scotland our research bid for Come Awa has been redrafted and our big community project A Nest of Songbirds saw us flash-mobbing the port one sunny afternoon.
The story goes that there was once a willow tree in Fishermen’s Park. It supplied the raw materials for creels, skulls, crans and crab pots all used in the fishing industry. If the tree were to die then the fishing would stop. Today the park has been built on but Newhaven proudly boasts the finest Sculpture workshop in Scotland, the oldest school in Edinburgh – Victoria Primary – with the Wee Museum inside and so the youngest curators in Europe. So the perfect place to host the fishiest flash mob in history.
The bid title A Nest of Songbirds comes from a description of Newhaven in the 19th century when the village hosted 2 famous choirs. The bid is to enable a collaborative art project to effectively plan and develop a multi site specific performance to build community and to re-establish Willow as a sculptural resource in Newhaven. Working across the arts the project would include, design, new music, willow sculpture, a giant drawing, basket making and song and dance with local schools with the community and naturally the Newhaven Community Choir.
Please keep everything crossed for us. With the wind in the right direction we will hear more about our bids later in May and early in June! Sheila Masson kindly recorded our bid presentation that involved members of the choir flash mobbing us around the village, a goody bag of kippers thanks to Welch’s fishmongers and a song from Victoria School’s fantastic junior choir. No sooner had we sung ‘Nae boats noo doon by the harbour’ than the one remaining fisherman headed into port and unloaded his fresh sell fish onto the quayside!
This moving journey chimes with our theme of economic migration. How far are we prepared to travel to feed our bairns and what can we learn from those who travelled the road before us?
We are currently on the funding trail for our next project “Come Awa!” which will search out and work with stories about the gutting quines, the herring girls’ annual migration and how the different coastal communities welcomed them as they followed the herring around the coast of Scotland and down the east coast all the way to Yarmouth Town.
The Thrive Archive’s mission is to enable diverse communities to tell their own story in their own way so we were delighted to hear about the success of ‘Heave Awa’.
Last week The Newhaven Community Choir proudly presented ‘Heave Awa’ an evening packed with story and song. Written by three local residents for the Newhaven Community Choir ‘Heave Awa’ was performed to an appreciative crowd at David Lloyd Newhaven.
The venue was appropriate as 100 years ago the land on which the sports centre stands was yet to be reclaimed and, with a tight knit community and a bounty of local shops, Newhaven was thriving.
Written by choir members Dougie, Sophia and George ‘Heave Awa’ complemented an exhibition of photographs, taken in Newhaven in the 50’s, curated by the Newhaven Heritage Group. The exhibition, that shows images of the village before ‘the clearances’ in the 60’s, is now on tour to Victoria Primary School and Ocean Terminal in Leith.
When the local heritage group were faced with a tight budget these three feisty and canny Bowtow’s – all with many a story to tell – stepped up to the plate and wrote ‘Heave Awa’. Donations from the audience were then split between the heritage group and the choir to top up the funds of these two important community resources.
Storyteller Marie Louise Cochrane, our curator Jan Bee Brown and Willow Weaver Liz Balfour had the pleasure of working with Newhaven Community Choir last year to create ‘Caller-Ou!’ at the National Library of Scotland.
Many congratulations to all concerned it’s great to see this ripple in the pond! The Thrive Archive is doing exactly what it says on the tin!