Edinburgh International Festival runs a week of online creative workshops for families and communities across Edinburgh.
Ordinarily, at this time of year our Culture Clubs would be bringing different communities in Edinburgh together in person to share a meal and enjoy a range of artistic performances from the International Festival programme. Culture Clubs at community hubs from Oxgangs to Craigmiller to Gorgie to Leith have provided a diverse range of community groups of all ages with access to performances including The Secret River, Red Dust Road, RSNO’s The Music of Harry Potter and Scottish Ballet’s The Snow Queen.
While it remains impossible for Culture Clubs to meet in person this year, it seems more important than ever during these difficult times that the broadest possible audience has access to cultural and artistic events. At Edinburgh International Festival, our Learning and Engagement team have been inspired by the newfound normalisation of digital arts engagement that lockdown has presented. Their ambition was to challenge the social and creative isolation being experienced in the community groups without their usual events and spaces, whilst providing family groups with engaging activities for the last week of the Summer holidays.
In response, community Culture Clubs have been reimagined as a week-long digital engagement project to make the most of these opportunities and offer a chance to connect, share skills, inspire conversation and collaborate. From 3–7 August, a series of fun activities for families with children were hosted as online webinars and each day was dedicated to one of the four major artforms that the International Festival presents.
For Music, there was a beatboxing workshop from writer and rapper Conrad Murray from Battersea Arts Centre’s Beatbox Academy. Conrad has previously led immensely popular workshops at Leith Academy as part of Edinburgh International Festival’s three-year residency with the school, which saw pupils performing on the stage at the Traverse Theatre, so the Festival was happy to welcome him back. For Dance, there was a hip-hop dance workshop from Ashley Jack of The House of Jack who is also one of our Leith Academy artists in residence. For Opera, soprano Emma Morwood who has a long history with the International Festival and specialises in designing education programmes, delivered an interactive online singing workshop.
For Theatre, theatre designer and puppeteer Elspeth Chapman taught participants how to make puppets for at-home performances. Participants were provided with craft materials for this workshop via packs collected from their local community centres ensuring there was no financial barrier to taking part. The week culminated in a storytelling session led by Mara Menzies, who draws on rich Kenyan/Scottish cultural heritage to create bespoke stories in which the audience takes centre stage. She delighted the groups with stories including a tale of the King of Birds and the legend of Tam Linn.
Community groups from across the city took part including families in Pilton, Restalrig and Moredun, with positive feedback from community leaders.
We have some great feedback from the families that did attend to say that you guys were a life saver and really helped them spend some good quality time together in the last week of the holidays.Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre
Find out more about our Learning and Engagement work and our work with communities including Culture Clubs here.