This event will take you back in time to Medieval Fife, where we will be visiting several locations of historical legal interest. Central to this visit to Fife will be the case of the Culdees of St Serf’s Inch, Loch Leven v. Sir Robert de Beaune (Lochore), which took place sometime between 1124 and 1130.
It was last year that the idea for this excursion came into existence. While taking the course “Lords and Vassals in Medieval Scotland,” some of the reading material involved land grants made by the Scottish King in Fife. While looking at maps and photos, one could not help but notice that Fife is quite close to Edinburgh. It was thus that the plan came into being to organize a trip to have a look at some of the locations that had been read about in manuscripts. Sadly, this planned excursion never took place due to insufficient time for the necessary organisation. Therefore, we are very happy to have the excursion take place during this year’s Festival of Creative Learning.
Fife may very well have been the first earldom to have been held feudally by the kings of Scots after the accession of David I in 1124. Anglo-French knights who followed David to Scotland settled in Fife, and Sir Robert de Beaune was probably one of these. The grants of land David made to these knights were paid for by their providing mounted and armoured service to the king. This came to be the essence of feudalism in Scotland, and the basis for Scottish land law as it developed in the subsequent centuries.
The case central to our visit – the Culdees of St Serf’s Inch, Loch Leven v.Sir Robert de Beaune (Lochore) (1124×1130) – concerns land held by monks, or “culdees” (keledei, servants of God), who had their monastery on an island in Loch Leven. Besides the island, the monks also held some land on the lochside, including Kirkness, granted to them by the Scots king and queen Macbeth and Gruoch in the mid-eleventh century. To the south of Kirnkess is Loch Ore. On the isolated mound near the loch’s north-east one can still see standing a ruinous castle (above). This was probably the caput(head place) of the knight’s fee of Lochore that King David had granted to Sir Robert de Beaune. The dispute with the culdees concerned a fourth, or a quarter, of the lands of Kirkness. Now Sir Robert was laying claim to some of it, to the culdees’ great indignation; but we can only speculate as to why Sir Robert thought he was entitled to act in this way. Looking at the site may give us some clues.
Other interesting historical locations and artefacts that we shall be having a look at are the Cross Macduff, where something of a sanctuary was offered to killers related to the Earl of Fife, and Markinch, the ancient capital of the Earls.
Our event focuses on the traditional hand-craft of making “cleekit gloves”.
You may be asking, what on earth are cleekit gloves? That was the very question I asked when I found a collection of letters at The School of Scottish Studies Archives (SSSA), last year.
The collection consists of 15 letters (ref. Subject box DII: Costume) and are from members of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (SWRI) to the editor of Scottish Home and Country Magazine. They are in response to an article, from January 1959, seeking information on this craft.
Scottish Home and Country was the official magazine for the SWRI and as well as connecting members and events, it used to focus on crafts, patterns, recipes and local areas of Scotland.
We were unsure as to why our archives had come to have the letters, but to my own craft-loving eyes they were a treasure indeed.
Along with the letters was a copy of the original article which described the craft and had a call to action for more information. It appears that cleekit gloves was acraft predominately practiced by male farm workers in 19th century Scotland, made by way of a hand-made flat hook with a tiny head, which created the dense, but elastic fabric. This craft was seen as distinct from knitting or crochet. In the letters the respondents, from all over Scotland, talked of the craft being handed on by male members of the family.
Despite a small resurgence in interest in cleeking, thanks to the response to that article, it is something that has now been relegated to the mists of crafts past. We aim to rectify that a little this Creative Learning Week!
At the ‘Hand-Made Archives’ event I will be delivering a talk on this collection of letters; you will be able to explore the archives yourself to find evidence of craft in our sound, photographic, video and manuscript collections; and in the afternoon we will have a cleeking workshop, led by Dr Alison Mayne. You do not have to have any craft experience to take part, this is all about having a go.
Oral transmission and handing on was such an important part of passing on the cleeking tradition and by taking part in this special day at SSSA, you will be able to give this collection of paper material three dimensions and be able to engage with our archive collections in a very tangible way indeed.
Our event is free, but booking is essential. The event will be available to book through the Festival of Creative Learning Eventbrite page from Monday 21 January. This event is currently fully booked, but please add your name to the waiting list on the Eventbrite page via the waiting list button. If a place becomes available we will contact you, but this will also help us gauge interest in running the event again.
All craft materials, refreshments and lunch will be provided.
If you have any questions please contact, Louise Scollay on 0131 650 4163 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information Security is back at the Festival of Creative Learning! After last year’s well received, if sparsely attended sessions on the parallels between Security and Medieval Siege warfare, I have pulled together something a little bit different and a lot more interactive.
Self-congratulation aside, your first year at an event like FCL is always going to be a learning experience and mine was no different. Pushing yourself to try new concepts and ideas within your field, those side lines that often don’t get the attention they deserve, is a great opportunity.
Breaking free from habit is always tricky. I always want to deliver a lecture. It’s what I know and I get pretty good feedback on my delivery and how I structure my content. That’s why the Festival is a great opportunity for me to push myself into doing something far more collaborative and a bit fun.
The Development Process
As part of Information Security Awareness week last year I ran a lecture on the history of encryption. What it is and how we got to the standards and types of encryption we have today. Feedback for it was pretty decent and it managed to get solid turnouts throughout the week, so it seemed an obvious starting point. I could even re-use a number of the ciphers and codes that I had explored during my research.
The History of Encryption allowed me to use a prop in the form of a scytal, an ancient means of jumbling letters in a message so the enemy could not read it. Props seemed to go down well. Something people could touch. So I started looking at other physical props that I could include and was coming up short until one evening at home when my wife was laughing at a post in Frock Flicks. In the picture, all of the ladies were holding fans….
Some research later I found a breakdown of an entire secret language, communicated by how ladies held, flapped, opened and closed their fans: Fanology.
So now I had a handful of ciphers, code cylinders and fans. All I needed was a challenge to set my participants.
What better challenge could there be but for groups to design their own secret message process, using what they had seen at the session? It was simple, or so I thought.
How would I determine success? Should there be a prize for the winners? Will people be up for the challenge?
For those answers, you’ll just have to catch up with me after the Festival.
The Art of Secret Messages is running on Wednesday 20thand Friday 22ndof February from 13:00 in the Chrystal MacMillan Building, Meeting Room 2. Book your tickets here.
David Creighton-Offord is a Senior Information Security Consultant at the University of Edinburgh who spends his off time delving into history, writing poetry and playing table top board and role play games.
For the illustration we wanted to use software for the workshop that was relatively straightforward to use and that anyone could access, with no downloading or installing required. Surprisingly the choices are limited for purely online and free but we tested a few and discovered Sketchpad 5.1. It is actually pretty good and fun to use too.
If you prefer to have a break from your computer, we are including drawing the old fashioned way with a pencil and pen.
We shall be using images from the University of Edinburgh Collections, also held at Europeana Collections. We have gone through thousands of images to select the most suitable for making into illustrations for colouring. You will be able to select one from the list and choose whether you want to include it in a frame, add a background or keep it simple. See our example of the fish created using Sketchpad.
Our previous work
The first image we created for colouring in was for Ada Lovelace Day in 2015. It is an illustration of Ada with a diagram of the Analytical Engine in the background. The image was drawn by hand and took two days. Mechanism of the Heavens’ followed in 2017, a portrait of Mary Somerville with an astronomy background.
As part of the first University of Edinburgh November
WriteFest, Daphne Loads and I offered a workshop called ‘The Flipped Text’.
Daphne and I both have intense relationships with the written word. She has used it in innumerable creative ways in her teaching and research practice and has written a wonderful book about creative writing and academic teaching entitled: Rich Pickings: creative professional activities for academics who teach, to be published in 2019 by SENSE publishers.
I am a poet (www.jlwilliamspoetry.co.uk)
and writing is how I explore and reflect on the world, as well as how I seek to
communicate with others. For me, poetry offers a special type of language in
which we can, with the help of tools such as metaphor and abstraction, come as
close as possible to conveying the shimmering complexities of human experience.
In our workshop, Daphne and I were keen to help students consider the process of creating a new text by ‘flipping’
an existing text and by working with opposites. In our own ways, what we both
wanted to share was the idea that by looking at texts in unusual
ways, we gain insight into our own writing practise and develop innovative
approaches to our work. Our hope was that attendees would leave this workshop
with a new perspective on teaching and learning, creative and academic writing
and reading, communication more generally and the great, wild, wonderful,
We only had an hour and were joined by a very diverse group of
students from many countries, with different native languages, and varied
levels of experience with academic and creative writing. I was quickly reminded
that while I have run writing workshops for many years, I often work with
people who have read and sometimes written quite a lot of poetry. It was a
little different working with people for whom poetry, let alone very
experimental techniques for writing poetry, might be a brand new way of
thinking about language, but the students were very game and all produced
We began by reading an
abstract from an academic paper and then writing it – word for word – backwards.
We then made a quick ‘poetic edit’ of the backwards text, thinking about how
strange words can become when we reorder and decontextualize them, but also how
they can take on new meanings, or even display the heart of the original text
in spite of their reordering.
Daphne then gave us
words and asked us to think of opposites – one of our favourites was when one
student said that the opposite of butter was ‘a box’ (i.e. structured and empty
inside, rather than full and melting). Daphne then read us a gorgeous poem and
asked us to choose opposites for words in the text and using these opposites to
write a new poem.
From Daphne on
‘When Elie Wiesel said
“The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference” he showed how by
identifying antonyms we can shed new light on familiar-seeming ideas. Sometimes
looking for opposites can lead us into strange territory. What is the opposite
of butter? Or homesickness?’
Below you can see
examples of how we were working with texts. We sent our students off to continue
the experiment on their own. Our wish is that they will find these ideas useful
when working with academic texts and might even be inspired to write some
poems. We hope you may also find inspiration in these techniques and discover
ways of using them in your own literary explorations… sometimes flipping a text
is the best way to see it fresh!
This paper explores teaching in higher education through poetic
transcription in order to illustrate the range of influences that shape the
ways in which we teach. Through using poetry, this paper examines dimensions
such as the past, emotion, humour and uncertainty, which are important aspects
of teaching that are sometimes sidelined by more traditional research methods.
The paper evokes the richness and complexity of academic life through placing
the personal and the particular at the centre in a way that highlights the
complexity. In this way it invites participation in the lives of others through
providing a window into the academic experience.
We are delighted to announce the programme launch of the 2019 Festival of Creative Learning. This year our curated Festival week is 18th-22nd February during which we will host over 100 extraordinary creative and innovative events. Explore our programme and book onto events here.
Tango or bake your way to a new understanding of mathematics! Explore the Anthropocene through a roleplaying game or by designing your very own bio-plastics! Tour Scotland’s medieval abbeys, John Hutton’s Edinburgh and experiment with fire! Come face to face with collaborative utopia in a mobile tiny hut! Mould a new face in the historic Anatomy Museum and learn how to send and receive secret messages!
Some of our events are open to the public, so please help us spread the word about the Festival within and beyond the University of Edinburgh. For more information, check out our website or email us at email@example.com. #FCL19 @FCLUoE
We are delighted to announce that the application window for the Festival of Creative Learning 2019 is now open. This year’s Festival will take place from the 18th-22nd of February 2019. Send us your innovative, collaborative, mindful, fascinating, challenging, unusual, extraordinary and super creative ideas for events that celebrate news ways of learning and teaching at the University of Edinburgh. We will be accepting applications until 5pm on the 22nd of October 2018. You can find this year’s application form and guidance on our website here.
We would also like to welcome and introduce our newest team member, Theodora Sakellaridou. Theodora is taking over from Lucy Ridley as our Projects & Engagement Administrator.
Theodora says: ‘I am very excited to be welcomed into the University of Edinburgh family and particularly by the Festival of Creative Learning. The progress of this Festival has been significant over the last three years and I am sure the best is yet to come! Jennifer and I are here to support, encourage and empower all projects and ideas. We look forward to receiving your proposals.’
Finally, I also wanted to mention that we have made a slight change in the way our funding streams are organised. Festival of Creative Learning Pop-up funding can now be applied for directly via us (rather than through the IAD Action Fund Small Grant programme). Pop-ups are a great option for anyone who would love to run a Festival of Creative Learning event during the academic year outwith the Festival week in February. Application forms and guidance are now available here. If you have a larger/more complex project in mind that would require more than £500 funding (up to £3000), you can apply for the IAD Action Fund Regular Grant, which is open this year until 15th October 2018.
Go for a walk, stretch, dance, read a poem, consider a challenging problem, play a game, climb a tree, take a nap, draw up a plan and get in touch with your Festival of Creative Learning 2019 and Pop-up event ideas. We would love to help you realise your most innovative and exciting learning and teaching dreams, ideas and experiments!
In the following article, poets Stav Poleg (Magma) and Jennifer Williams (University of Edinburgh) introduce the collaboration of Magma Poetry with the University of Edinburgh and the Festival of Creative Learning.
What better place and time to contemplate a collaboration? It was the peak of the Edinburgh festival season. We met for a coffee at Dovecot Studios, discussing ways of bringing poets and filmmakers together.
We both have had our own experience of collaboration and cross-form work. Jennifer has worked with choreographers, dancers, musicians, composers and opera singers and Stav has worked with visual artists, actors and dramaturges. We discussed how meaningful it can be for collaborators to work in artistic partnership, and how the interaction between myriad intellects and their creative energies can influence the way we enter into the pact of creation.
Collaborations can also make this delicate, potent work harder. We reminisced about collaborations that went so smoothly it felt as if we shared a brain with our partner, and others that felt more like sacrifice than expansion. But we knew that the successful ones mattered greatly. They affected our work to the extent that even when we later wrote on our own, the hand of the illustrator and the eye of the filmmaker were inside us as we laid words on the page and sculpted image through sound in space.
We also remarked on the concern that is often raised that poetry is isolated, read too often only by poets and not by the general public. Film poems, and other collaborations that bring poetry out from between the covers of a book, can open a door to the world of poetry for those who are more accustomed to encountering complex images on screen or in the flesh than on the page. The delighted response we have received from poets, filmmakers and viewers of the work produced in the project that emerged from this conversation has confirmed our belief that this merging of forms can diversify and expand audiences and spark a new interest in poetry where before there was fear or disdain.
As for how the project worked in practise, Magma invited poets who were willing to let their poems be open to cinematic interpretation to submit contributions. We received over 400 submissions in the course of a few weeks from poets who were keen to be linked with filmmakers and shortlisted a selection of these poems. In the meantime, four students from the prestigious Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) Film Directing MFA/MA and teams of students from the Edinburgh Movie Production Society (EMPS) at the University of Edinburgh were recruited. The ECA students were given the shortlist and asked to each select a poem to use as a starting point for a film poem. The EMPS student teams were given one poem, and each individual/group responded to that particular poem.
The poets and filmmakers were encouraged to view the project as a collaboration and worked together via Skype, email or in person. The filmmakers were the creative drivers in terms of making the films, but we asked that they consult with the poets throughout the process and confirm with them that they were happy with the final cut. At the University, the project team delivered a workshop for the filmmakers at which we showed a variety of film poems to help convey the vast spectrum of possible styles from documentary to experimental and abstract, and encouraged the filmmakers to think of their film poems not as representations of the poems in film but as completely new works inspired by the original poems. We have been awed by the results.
We want to thank Lucy Kendra (project co-producer), the Festival of Creative Learning, Charlie Farley, Emma Davie and Juro Oravec from the University of Edinburgh, and the Magma Poetry board. Most importantly, we want to celebrate the poets and filmmakers who engaged with their collaborations with such energy and artistic integrity. We hope this will be the first film poems of many for the poets and filmmakers involved.
Please scroll down to read more about the project, to read more about the filmmakers and poets, and watch a selection of the films. We hope you enjoy them and that it inspires your own exploration of the rich and creative terrain offered by collaborative practise.
Stav Poleg, co-editor, Magma 71, The Film Issue
Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator, Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh
Magma Poetry in Collaboration with the University of Edinburgh
and the Festival of Creative Learning
The Films: Read more about each film here and below.
Pegasus in the Lab
Film Poem by Marios Lizides after a poem by Ginny Saunders
Marios Lizides: I consider poetry to be closer to filmmaking than prose. Through ambiguity and symbolism you are able to communicate with the audience on a deeper, more visceral level. Even though I had created a few works that could be termed abstract and poetic in the past, I found that there were differences in the poetry and film collaboration process. In my past films, I found that their atmosphere/mood materialised mostly during the edit. In this film-poem project I had the poem as a guide and its “mood” as a reference during the shooting of the images. The sound design was also approached differently, as the images gave me clues as to what kind of sound would amplify the mood.
Ginny Saunders: When I talked with Marios about my poem I realised that it could all be traced back to when I was a student in a Biochemistry lab practical many decades ago. We were handling lab strains of bacteria and being taught how to dispose of them safely. The lecturer said something casual like, ‘but even if they did escape into the wild, we’ve so disabled them, and made them so dependent on drugs, they wouldn’t survive anyway’. That had a profound effect on me—how we manipulate and exploit nature for our benefit and don’t give the natural world a voice. In my poem I finally gave the lab bacteria a voice! I loved the idea that Marios articulated his response to my poem by comparing it to his response to a song ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ by Nick Cave. In the video of the song Cave enters a darkened stage as if from a fiery hell and when the door closes it has a big X scrawled on it. That is exactly how I worry the human race reacts to some environmental exploitations.
As far as this collaboration is concerned, it is different to anything I have done before. I see Marios as the next custodian in this chain of collaboration. Just as I had my encounter with the page without the Harvard scientists breathing down my neck (not that I would have objected to a collaboration with them if they are listening), he must now have his encounter with the lens and make Pegasus in the Lab his own.
Marios Lizides is a Cypriot filmmaker/photographer. His photographs have been published in literary magazines and his films screened at various festivals. He is currently working on his thesis film for his MA course at the Edinburgh College of Arts.
Ginny Saunders lives in Wiltshire amongst chalky white horses and enjoys writing about science. She has a PhD in Molecular Biology and last summer was Poet-in-Residence for St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury.
Film Poem by Simon Ray after a poem by Kristi Carter
Simon Ray: It’s the dance — the sense of loosening a grip on a certain direction en route to a particular outcome and allowing something to unfold and grow — that seems a common thread in poetry writing and filmmaking. In collaborating, a third ‘dancer’ is added; a three-way conversation between the collaborators and the work, all inputting, receiving and responding.
I have worked in video production, producing films for client briefs, alongside occasional experimental film projects as part of my creative practice. The film poem is more creative and self-directed than my commercial work, and more bounded, outcome-based and ambitious than my experimental work.
Kristi Carter: Because my poem focuses on my relationship with my mother as her only daughter, which also serves as the major thread of my manuscript, I am so familiar with the thematic obsessions that working with someone else reminded me of the alternative ways into my poem. That opportunity for a different but qualified perspective on your own work is very important for any writer or artist. I have learned that the intense control that characterizes most poets is put to the side for collaboration, which is liberating.
Mixed media collaborations also function as one of the most inviting access points to readers who are either new to poetry or more flexible with their definitions of how poetry is supposed to function. I believe that while poetry does enact the work of condensing what is otherwise ephemeral, abstract, or unutterable about the human experience, poets themselves exist in conversation with the world, no matter how quiet or marginal they might assume that conversation to be.
Simon Ray is a New Zealand born artist and filmmaker. He is currently undertaking an MFA in documentary film directing at the University of Edinburgh. His work poetically explores body memory and the boundaries of consciousness.
Kristi Carter is the author of Red and Vast (Dancing Girl Press), Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem (Porkbelly Press) and Cosmovore(Aqueduct Press). Her poems have appeared in publications including So to Speak, poemmemoirstory, CALYX, Hawaii Review and Nimrod. Her work examines the intersection of gender and intergenerational trauma in 20th Century poetics. She holds a PhD from University of Nebraska Lincoln and an MFA from Oklahoma State University.
Film Poem by Maggie Clark after a poem by Laura Seymour
Maggie Clark: As my focus is primarily in documentary, the film poem has been an opportunity for me to expand my creative practice and be a little bit more playful with the way I film. It’s pushed me to use visual metaphor as a storytelling device, which is a challenge I’ve really enjoyed! Laura’s poem is about love in the face of prejudice. It carries a sincere and important message, which I hope to do justice in my film.
Laura Seymour: When Maggie and I were talking at the start of the project, I saw that one or two images in the poem stuck out visually from the rest, and also that the images that stuck out visually were perhaps the most ambiguous. The idea that readers or watchers might be more affected by ambivalent imagery was really interesting to me.
* Maggie Clark is a Canadian born filmmaker currently studying for her Masters in Film Directing at the Edinburgh College of Art. Her focus is in character-led documentary, which she uses to explore female identity.
Laura Seymour’s book The Shark Cage (2015) won Cinnamon Press’s debut poetry collection award. Her poems have appeared in various journals, including Poetry Review, Poetry London, Magma, MsLexia, Envoi, Ambit, South Bank Poetry, Brittle Star andThe Interpreter’s House.
Film Poem by Ted Fisher after a poem by Aoife Lyall
Ted Fisher: My interest in documentary film as a practice is always connected to the power of the real world as a storyteller. In reading and re-reading Aoife Lyall’s poem, I saw it as amplifying a reality I could feel and I found myself wanting to look and listen further. We shot aspects of her life for several days, with the idea of trusting this as raw material that would meld with the poem in an editing process. I have made many short documentaries, and the best of these have been made from finding a situation where events lead to a real outcome, in front of the camera. Working in connection to a poem (and a poet) shifts this practice to one that is new for me: trying to understand past and present at once. So my approach had to include tuning in to the idea and experience of reflection and reconsideration.
Aoife Lyall: The most significant thing I learned was that the poem isn’t so much about welcoming my daughter into my life, as allowing myself to finally call Inverness home. I lived here for almost six years before she was born, and spent much of that comparing my life here to the life I had in Dublin. Walking the poem with Ted I came to realise it encapsulated what I had been missing – the accumulation of memories, moments, and experiences that layer themselves into the familiar.
As for collaborating, trust is vital: in the skills you have brought to the project, in the skills of the other party, and in the potential of what you are creating together. So there has to be a relationship there, a mutual respect, and a willingness to let someone else explore, and act on, avenues of your work that you may not have considered before. For future projects I would make the point of being able to recite the poem from memory, simply because this makes more filming options available. What would I keep the same? Working with Ted.
Ted Fisher is an American film director specializing in arts and culture documentaries. His short films have screened at over 30 festivals around the world. He is currently working toward an M.F.A. in Film Directing at the University of Edinburgh.
Shortlisted twice for the Hennessy New Writers Award, Aoife Lyall’s work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, Banshee Lit, and others. She has just completed her first collection.
Film Poems by students from the Edinburgh Movie Production Society after a poem by Carrie Etter
Miriam Khenissi (Filmmaker): I wanted to incorporated both artists in my short film: the poet and the filmmaker. I thought that using Carrie’s voice as a narration would add a lot to the film. And even though I wasn’t visible in the short film there were a few strands of my hair visible in the last scene which I added on purpose to include a small personal touch. The majority of the film was filmed on an iPhone which allowed me to capture picturesque scenes at just the right moment.
Miriam Khenissi is an aspiring young filmmaker and designer. Her short films have been screened in various film festivals around the world.
Carrie Etter is Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her fourth collection, The Weather in Normal, will be published by Seren Books this autumn.
Two students at the University of Edinburgh share their experiences of participating in a Disability Research Edinburgh network event at the Festival of Creative Learning. Jinghua Qian and Yu Fang are from China. They are post-graduate students at the University of Edinburgh, one in education and the other in social science, and they met at this event.
What we did
The one-day event was to engage the participants with the idea of participatory and inclusive approach to disability research.
In the morning, we listened to a panel discussion between four invited speakers from different disciplines. They have extensive research and practice experiences in areas like social inclusion, disability and medical informatics. They shared their insights into the participatory and inclusive approach, and discussed a range of perspectives informed by academic research and also their own professional experiences.
After the panel discussion, we were divided into small groups based on our interests, such as learning disabilities, mental health or care services. Led by the panel speakers, participants were expected to work together to develop cases of inclusive research design. The group we were in designed a research project on disability and higher education. We discussed many important issues including equal access, barriers, and policies to support international students with additional learning needs.
In the afternoon, we watched a film ‘Defiant Lives’, which was about disability rights movements. There was also an open discussion following the screening. The film showed the history of how disabled people were maltreated, segregated and discriminated, and how they struggled for their rights. The documentary made us understand better the difficulties in realising human rights, and made us reflect on how to make a difference.
What we learned
Before this event, we rarely came across topics related to disability in our own study. For example, in the Chinese context, ensuring access of disabled students to higher education has not been an important agenda, because disabled young people are usually expected to seek jobs to support themselves financially. It was really beneficial to have participants from different cultural backgrounds exchange ideas, so the discussion was extended greatly.
The film screening made an often ‘invisible’ group visible to us. From an Asian culture in which ‘harmony weighs more than anything else’, we were rather surprised to see that disabled people in Western countries opted for a violent approach to fight for their rights. We asked: Why would people choose the most radical way? Why would they rather hurt themselves to protest against something? We realised that at that time disabled people had no other choices – the indifferent society was hurting them even more.
What we would like to do next
Jinghua Qian: Only after taking the optional course on inclusive and special education, I have started to know more about the circumstances for disabled children in different countries. It was great that with group members at the workshop, we could discuss the reality of inclusive and special education in our own contexts. Looking back at my experience of being a student in China, I never had any disabled children as classmates. Compared to Scotland where the majority of students with additional support needs are enrolled in mainstream schools, China still has a long way to go to realise inclusive education. I would like to address the issue of inclusive practice in my future work.
Yu Fang: As a student interested in public policies, the event pushed me to think hard about policy implementation. For example, why would the public transport remain inaccessible to wheelchair users after law enforcement? If such support is not provided even though the government has given its promise, then who should be held accountable for such failure? Attending the event broadened my understanding and I found new topics that I would like to learn more about. I have enjoyed the Festival because it gave us opportunities to explore issues that we might have long overlooked, such as the social rights we tend to take for granted. I would definitely continue to follow the updates about future events organised by the Festival of Creative Learning and Disability Research Edinburgh network.
Jinghua Qian and Yu Fang,
Interview by Dr Yuchen Wang.
Jinghua Qian is a postgraduate student in MSc Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She studied on a course ‘Comparative Approaches to Inclusive and Special Education’, which made her more aware of the international challenges for providing educational opportunities for disabled children.
Yu Fang is a postgraduate student in MSc Policy Studies. She became interested in disability research after volunteering with the programme ‘Home for the Elderly’.
Dr Yuchen Wang is a post-doctoral research associate at Moray House School of Education.
I am a Teaching Fellow in Anatomy and a freelance Medical Illustrator with a passion for the enhancement of anatomy education through the use of art and technology. Anatomy is a visual subject; one which students must be hands-on with to allow for them to understand the three-dimensional composition of the body. The use of creative learning techniques compliments anatomy education extremely well as it allows students to recreate the anatomy through different materials. I am interested in the different resources we can create for students outside the anatomy lab to aid in their learning, but also the resources we can offer to people with an interest in human anatomy, so what could be a better place than the Festival of Creative Learning?
As part of the Festival of Creative Learning I organised two arts-based workshops, with the help of my colleagues, focusing on different areas of the body; How Do We Make Facial Expressions? and Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts. Both workshops were hands-on creating the anatomy from either wax or clay, to build up a three-dimensional representation of the muscles of facial expression or the structure of the heart.
Anatomical clay hearts, Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts
The workshops were open to anyone with an interest in human anatomy and trying new creative ways of learning. Both workshops had to accommodate for the varying levels of anatomical knowledge to allow for everyone to understand and also to enjoy the information they were learning. Therefore for both workshops I used a presentation to display images and anatomical terminology to help guide the attendees through the anatomy.
The goal of the workshops was for the attendees to feel that they had learnt something new by the end of the workshop, whether that be anatomical information or a new artistic skill. The great thing about using art as a learning resource is that it can make your mind focus on the task of creating something, and help you relax from our busy everyday lives. This kind of learning technique also allows for us to create an end product, which can be taken home and admired, such as the clay hearts, or photos taken to show everyone your creation, like the muscles of facial expression sculptures.
Both workshops received positive feedback, which I was extremely pleased about, not only as it showed people enjoyed the workshops, but also because the comments showed that people left feeling like that had learnt something new. The words used to describe the workshops were brilliant; therapeutic, fun,innovative and relaxing, to name a few! The Festival of Creative Learning was an excellent place to try out these new ideas, and I would highly recommend the festival to anyone who wants to try out a new idea!
To find out more about ArtBeat: Art & Anatomy Edinburgh, a group running art-based anatomy workshops at the University of Edinburgh, follow us on Twitter @ArtbeatEd and on Facebook @artbeatedinburgh. You can also keep up-to-date with anatomy events on the Anatomy@Edinburgh website; www.ed.ac.uk/anatomy or follow us on Twitter @AnatomyatEd.
Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires more people to think about using art to learn more about the human body!