Capturing Craigmillar: working in partnership to deliver Arts Award in the community

Capturing Craigmillar: working in partnership to deliver Arts Award in the community

Picture of Guest Writer

BY: Guest Writer
17 Jul 2023

To continue our ‘arts in the community’ theme on the blog this month, Megan Turner, Civic Engagement Coordinator for the University of Edinburgh Heritage Collections shares how their Bronze Arts Award project captured what ‘community’ means in many different senses…

From February to May 2023, University of Edinburgh Heritage Collections collaborated with Craigmillar Library to deliver Bronze Arts Award to a group of 10 young people aged 11 to 15 from various schools across the Craigmillar district of Edinburgh. This took the form of weekly after-school sessions at Craigmillar Library. We often try to work with communities in their own spaces as bringing them to the university can add unnecessary barriers. Arts Award helped to inspire the young people’s creativity and fostered their sense of community in its many forms.

Craigmillar Library

Craigmillar Library is one of the City of Edinburgh Council Libraries and offers a range of services to local users, including a seed library and borrowing musical instruments. As part of a community hub; East Neighbourhood Centre, it shares a building with other local council services. The library was the main setting for our weekly sessions. We worked with the staff there and it hosted the young people’s final exhibition. The partnership was beneficial for both parties. For Heritage Collections, the library helped us to reach young people who we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Our programme allowed the library to provide something for young people of this age range and to emphasise that the library is a safe and fun place for young people to meet and learn.

Craigmillar itself

MicrosoftTeams-image (15)Craigmillar is an area of focus for the University of Edinburgh’s widening participation activities - it has one of the highest rates of child poverty. 27% of people in the Craigmillar/Portobello ward live in poverty.[1] The region itself was central in the delivery of our Arts Award programme as we wanted to encourage the young people to think about what was unique about the area and how they could capture it through different art forms. For example, when our young people were exploring ways to participate in the arts, they learnt photography techniques and then walked to Craigmillar Castle Park to put their newly learnt skills into action. Hannah McCooke, Lifelong Learning Development Leader for Craigmillar Library, also led a song writing workshop. In this workshop, Hannah and the young people worked together to write the song, ‘Craigmillar Kingdom’. The song perfectly captures the young people’s feeling of community. My favourite part of it being:

‘Top of the hill what do you see? / This city is laid out for me / I’m Craigmillar royalty / In Craigmillar Kingdom!’.

The University of Edinburgh

The young people’s sense of community was extended to Edinburgh more broadly through the programme. To explore the arts as an audience member we toured the University of Edinburgh’s King’s Buildings. The tour was led by Liv Laumenach, Assistant Arts Collections Curator, and let the young people explore and review artist Katie Paterson’s Ideas - these are short haiku-like sentences in stainless steel installed across the campus. This not only encouraged the young people to form opinions about art but created a personal connection to the University - for most it was their first time on a University campus.

MicrosoftTeams-image (16)Our Arts Award group

On a smaller scale, our weekly sessions felt like a little community. Young people who might not have otherwise met were able to create lasting friendships within a supportive environment led by Heritage Collections staff alongside a team of amazing student volunteers from the University of Edinburgh. At the exhibition marking the end of their Arts Award, the young people signed each other's T-shirts as a memory of their experience. Through the Arts Award, ‘community’ in its many senses was captured and it is something we hope to continue into the future in partnership with Craigmillar Library. We also hope to extend the model to other City of Edinburgh Council Libraries.


[1] Edinburgh Poverty Commission, ‘Baseline Evidence’, (November, 2018), 6.


White flowers - photo taken by one of the young people

Exhibition boards - Part of the exhibition at Craigmillar Library

Request a free support session
Comments & Replies

Related posts