December 1, 2020
Rewilding the Garden
Three years ago, Voluntary Arts Scotland participated in a UK wide series of conversations investigating creativity in every nook and cranny of the country and asking whether it is being adequately supported. The findings were published earlier this year. The report, Common Ground – Rewilding the Garden highlights what policy makers should do to allow our creative instincts to flourish. And it wasn’t a plea for cash. Showcasing the vibrancy of our voluntary arts, the annual EPIC awards were announced last month. Scotland’s shortlist was as strong as ever but there can only be one winner.
EPIC Scottish Winner
Based in Edinburgh, Bridgend Farmhouse is a community-owned training and volunteer hub situated between three large housing estates, which are in the highest 15% on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation. The farmhouse was renovated several years ago, but the surrounding barns were unused and in a state of disrepair – until the local community saw an opportunity to create a valuable space for all to use.
Clearance of the barns began in January 2019, and a team of volunteers have worked since to design and build this unique ‘off-grid’ eco-bothy. All materials are locally sourced, as are the traditional ecological techniques. Volunteers led on every part of the design and build, with a core group of eight and a wider team of around 40. Over 70 local children were also involved, helping design the accessible outdoor play area.
“Volunteers come from all walks of life,” says Will Golding, “including single parents, people experiencing homelessness, mental ill-health and unemployment, retired people, New Scots, students, all with different levels of ability.
“There are many female volunteers, unusual for construction projects, which is testament to the inclusive environment that’s been purposefully nurtured.”
The Bothy will be used by local residents for outdoor play, environmental education, counselling, storytelling, arts, performance and an outdoor classroom linked to the woodlands.
Scottish Runner up and winner of Celebrating Diversity Award Winner
Spit it Out is a collection of young people who aim to build connections and provide a platform for discussions about mental health, sex positivity, and healing through creativity.
In 2019, they started organising screenings, live performance events and talks as a way to raise money for various different charities that share their message. From there, they began a six-episode podcast series exploring themes of sexuality and consent – followed by a zine to educate and inform people about topics such as sex positivity, trauma and depression.
The collective is made up of 12 young professionals with diverse skills from event management, visual arts and performance art – all of whom volunteer their time and skills to organise free and accessible events. All of the artists voluntarily create content to use for marketing and promotional purposes as well as performing and giving talks about mental health, consent and creativity.
“The volunteers in Spit it Out are working on a new way to perform and create content about difficult and taboo subjects,” says co-founder Lea Luiz de Oliveira. “By releasing art about sexual trauma, queer identity and mental health issues, the organisation tries to fight the current stigmas and push for a more accessible representation of these realities.”