Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

June 29, 2011

Tree hugging gets cosy

When community arts project, Leith Festival, put the call out to local knitters to take part in its Cool Wool project, no-one had any idea what to expect. Six inch squares of knitting were to be stitched together before being wrapped around trees in the local park. The response was amazing –   over 6000 squares came in and by no means all were produced locally.  Parcels started arriving from New York, South Africa, Morocco and beyond


For some festival photos including some of the cosy trees click here

The Leith Festival will open this year on Friday 10 June 2011 with the unveiling of a unique CoolWool “guerrilla arts project” on Leith Links which will see up to 20 trees wrapped in woolly jumpers.

The community arts festival with charitable status has grown year on year and 2011 is bigger than ever boasting 150 events across 50 venues, all within a mile radius of the foot of Leith Walk.

The guerrilla arts project has involved hundreds of volunteers from Leith, Edinburgh, UK and from overseas all getting creative with wool. Over 6,000 knitted squares will be wrapped around trees offering local residents the chance get close to the arts project for FREE. 

Preparation for the arts project began at the beginning of the year when Festival organisers appealed to knitting communities home and oversees through a Facebook campaign requesting 6×6” knitted or crocheted squares. Within a week the appeal generated over 1,000 responses from individuals, community groups, care homes, organisations and knitting groups. 

Leith Festival Manager, Adele Conn, added: “I’m delighted with the success of our guerrilla arts project, we’ve had a phenomenal response rate from Leith and overseas. 

“Despite the difficulties in requiring funding in the current economic climate, we thought it was important to get this intergeneration project up and running. Following a Facebook appeal for advice and support, the project quickly grew organically and to date we’ve received knitted squares from across Edinburgh, South Africa, New York, Morocco and Sweden.

“It’s amazing how communities can pull together when you provide them with an idea that captures the imagination and allows them to become part of a massive project, the outcome of which they all can’t wait to see. Everyone becomes a piece of the puzzle and all will be revealed on 10 June.”

The Ageing Well Project (a partnership between NHS Lothian, Edinburgh Leisure and Pilmeny Development Project which promotes healthy lifestyles for people over 50 in North East and South Central Edinburgh) donated the largest amount of squares by knitting 700 for the arts project. 

Commenting on the Ageing Well Knitting Group’s involvement, Kath Laing, Ageing Well Project Co-ordinator, Edinburgh Leisure, said: “Over the past 13 weeks volunteer knitters met at Meadowbank Sports Centre to undertake the challenge and contributions were received from our walking groups. Our volunteers have been really enthusiastic about the project from the beginning, knitting over 400 squares in the first four weeks. We hope to recycle the squares at the end of the festival and donate knitted blankets to the cat and dog home. Everyone is looking forward to seeing the colourful outcome in the Links this weekend.  

Volunteers from Citadel Youth Centre have also been busy creating felt squares for the CoolWool  project since March. Girls and Young Women’s Worker, Karen Anderson, said: “We have been delighted to work in collaboration with the Leith Festival this year. Work began at our International Women’s Day event on Friday 11 March with our New Spin Intergenerational project bringing together volunteers of all ages. In addition, we’ve had involvement from our Young Women’s Group.  

“The opportunity for participants to create their own individual felt square was a great success with very beautiful and artistic squares being designed by everyone involved.  This project gave us an ideal opportunity for groups of individuals to bridge generations and genders to work collectively on a central piece of artwork.”

The Leith Festival 2011 (10-19 June) provides opportunities for members of the local community to participate in and enjoy the arts at a grassroots and professional level. The Festival now includes 10 strands including; Youth, Visual Arts, Music, Walks & Talks, Film & Literature, Community, Sport, Dance, Theatre and Comedy.

The Leith festival Gala Day, which attracted up to 12,000 last year, will take place on Leith Links on Saturday 11 June, and is an ideal event for families, with a parade, pony rides, bouncy castle, fairground rides and the famous Tug o’ War contest.