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February 13, 2008

Artists fire the imagination of Leith community

‘Out Of The Blue,’ an arts based community trust, is breathing new life into a much loved but somewhat neglected local park in the heart of Edinburgh’s Leith area. Artists have been collaborating with local youths and children from the local primary school to redesign aspects of the park and improve it as an asset for the local community


In 2005 OOTB initiated the Park Life project in partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council, Lorne (now Leith Central) Community Council, The Pilmeny Development Project, The National Galleries of Scotland, and the Capital City Partnership (Edinburgh Arts for Social Inclusion Project). This project has already involved hundreds of local people attending action planning meetings, creating an exhibition, attending events in the park and completing a survey on their aspirations for the improvement of the park. The project is currently redesigning and refurbishing the park through the work of a 60 strong membership of the OOTB-initiated ‘Friends of Dalmeny Street Park’.

The project is an example of how working with artists through a creative process can animate people to learning and community involvement and has been cited as an example of good practice in community engagement in the Scottish Arts Council publication ‘FIRING THE IMAGINATION 2: ARTS AND COMMUNITY LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT’

Artists can work with the most marginalised communities to encourage people to express their views, to give them space and opportunities to engage critically with the society around them and time to reflect on many issues. It creates those networks between people that can act as catalysts to action, can build bridges and break down barriers between people. The process of working within the community to reflect their needs and aspirations, is a process that recognises that people themselves are their own agents of change.

Activity around this project now includes:

• Streetlife: working with partners from Capital City Partnership Streetwork project, and Port of Leith Housing Association (POLHA) to engage with young teenagers who use the park as a hang out space and to involve them in the redesign of a shelter within the park ensuring a sense of ownership. The young people are working with arts specialists, Craig MacLean, Bill Dewar, and Emma Westwater to have their say about the use and development of the park and ongoing activity and facilities. This model of working has been adopted by POLHA to roll out with Community Education providers in Leith as the Leith Open Spaces Project.

• Play Park: Working with partners from Lorne Primary School and City of Edinburgh Council to involve pupils in creatively planning and creating a new play park and the development of a programme of environmental activities.

• Community Greenspace Project: Working with funders Scottish Natural Heritage, arts specialists Lise Bratton and Graham Murray will involve a mixed age range group to design and create planters for the park and an environmental education project for young people.

• Sports facilities: Working with Leith Neighbourhood Partnership to establish improved sports facilities within the park and will work with Streetwork project to run a series of qualified coaching courses.

The Park Life project utilise the café, exhibition and meeting space within The OOTB Drill Hall. As well as attracting internationally acclaimed artists to rehesrse and perform at the Drill Hall OOTB consistently develop projects which use the full range of artforms (music, dance, photography, video etc) to engage with people and to produce a platform for their voices to be heard.
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