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Waiting for the Tide to Turn

So we’re waiting for the day, waiting for the day, waiting on the day when we get to play!

We'd like to film Scuttlebutt Stories on board!
Leith’s sleeping beauty!

The anticipation to share shanties and stories live and local in Leith has been keenly felt by both musicians Toby Hawks and Thrive Archive curator Jan Bee Brown during the pandemic. The Scottish International Storytelling Festival welcomed Scuttlebutt Stories onboard earlier this year and our event is in their programme. We found the perfect venue at Padlox Escape Rooms in Leith – situated in the former whaling offices of Christian Salvesen in Bernard Street and planned two perform to a small audience.

But will we be allowed to perform? As of yesterday’s tightened Covid restrictions in Scotland, the answer: wait until October 1st

Our efforts to share the love of Leith and its connections with Scandinavia have also been generously supported by SS Explorer, Leith’s very own sleeping beauty, a Historic Ship and Steam Fisheries Research Vessel currently undergoing renovation by volunteers in Leith Docks.

Leith performers waiting to play and share stories of leith
Waiting for the day when we get to play! Photo credit Sheila Masson Photography

We’ve got the talent, identified the stories and have selected the shanties, Toby has found some fantastic Nordic fiddle tunes and so we wait…for the right time and a favourable tide.

Whilst we wait we’re fundraising to share stories, tunes and sea shanties for a virtual performance to be filmed by local filmmaker Ray Bird of Rare Bird Media to share the love of Leith and its maritime history.

But we need to pay Ray! You can help us get our film underway through our crowd-funder:




Our latest stories

Our curator Jan Bee Brown is delighted to have been accepted by The Scottish Storytelling Forum onto their register after a fantastically busy three year apprenticeship. Jan has been working on a range of projects throughout 2017 and helping communities to tell their own story.

A story should be told eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart

Our favourite project this year was  A Voyage of Discovery where Jan worked with The 7th Leith Sea Scouts and The Newhaven Community Choir with Trinity House and with mural artist Chris Rutherford at Customs House in Leith.

Leith’s fine ship building The Kobenhavn

Another great experience was touring Thrive Archive’s bespoke art workshop to accompany Heroica Theatre Company’s theatre tour of A Private View about the life and work of Joan Eardley which toured art galleries and cultural venues throughout Scotland and the UK.

The workshops were well attended

Stories of Smokey Brae

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!

The Thrive Archive cordially invite you to tell your story
The Thrive Archive cordially invite artists to tell their story

The Thrive Archive goes on tour!

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.

The workshops were well attended
The workshops were well attended

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.

New artists getting inspired
New artists getting inspired

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.

One participant tries out new materials
One participant tries out new materials

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.

Getting inspired by rehearsals
Getting inspired by rehearsals

Songbirds Feedback

Jed Milroy and Euan McLaughlin
Jed Milroy and Euan McLaughlin

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

Jed Milroy leads the Newhaven Community Choir
Jed Milroy leads the Newhaven Community Choir
Jed Milroy Musician and Newhaven Community Choir Master
Jed Milroy Musician and Newhaven Community Choir Master

TradFest welcomes Songbirds

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!

P7's dazzle their classroom at Victoria Primary
P7’s dazzle their classroom at Victoria Primary

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.

Thanks to Sheila Masson Photography for following the Songbird Project and providing the images.

A full house and a packed stage at TradFest
A full house and a packed stage at TradFest
Lucy Metcalfe leads Junior Choirs
Lucy Metcalfe leads Junior Choirs



The Giddy Kipper Ceilidh

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 SchoolDazzle ships decorate Newhaven Primary School

Filming the P7 music video at Newhaven Primary School
Filming the P7 music video at 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.

Model movie set and the 360 camera from Napier University
Model movie set and the 360 camera from Napier University

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.

P7's dazzle their classroom at Victoria PrimaryP7’s dazzle their classroom at Victoria Primary

New stories and new songs!

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’.

Newhaven lighthouse image by Kate Downie
Newhaven lighthouse image by Kate Downie

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.

Razzle dazzle them
Razzle dazzle them

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.

Riso printed at Out of the Blue
Riso printed at Out of the Blue



Give them the old ‘Razzle-Dazzle’


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.

Newhaven Community Choir at Dazzle Ship in Leith
Newhaven Community Choir at Dazzle Ship in Leith

Details will be posted on the Newhaven Community Choir’s website.

Funding bids and fishy business

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.

Fish market Square flash mob photo credit Sheila Masson
Fishmarket Square flash mob photo credit Sheila Masson

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.

Songbirds - photo credit Sheila Masson
Songbirds – photo credit Sheila Masson

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.

Trustee's got goody bag of kippers thanks to Welch's Fishmongers. Photo credit Sheila Masson
Trustee’s got goody bag of kippers thanks to Welch’s Fishmongers. Photo credit Sheila Masson

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!