Festival Fever



Well I can’t quite believe it, but the Festival of Creative Learning is nearly here again, and it is shaping up to be one remarkable week!

Last year I had only just started a few months before the Festival, so it felt as if the main task was getting my head around what in the world it all was and how best I could help support the brilliant organisers to realise their dream events. It was a wild ride of a Festival and there are so many memories I treasure, even though I managed to come down with a not very creative cold. In spite of that, I sniffled and sneezed my way through the Birds and the Bees board game, finding penguin love to the jungle music of monkeys and birds in Potterrow’s trees. I watched the bright colours drawn out of the dyeing vats by attendees at the Edinburgh Medieval Pigment Project’s event (they’re working their natural magic again this year! Check it out at: Colouring Outside the Lines: Medieval Pigments & How to Use Them.  I loved seeing so many smiling faces folding double headed swans in concentrated silence at the Hyperbolic Origami session.

My wonderful and patient colleague, Lucy Ridley, and I then spent the summer reviewing our processes and the feedback we received from organisers and attendees of the Festival. We came up with a whole raft of experiments to implement in order to test what we could streamline and smooth. We have been delighted to see these changes bearing fruit, as we have worked with partners to update and re-skin our website, have slimmed down and tightened up our application forms and administrative processes and have switched up the way we communicate with and gather together our organisers. All in all the changes seem to be working to make the Festival even more creative, energised and enjoyable than before – hooray!

This year we have a remarkable number of events across an extraordinary range of topics and activities. I can hardly look at the events programme (with the help of our new and improved handy calendar search widget) without wishing I had a cloning machine as I want to go to EVERYTHING!

Some of my highlights are as follows, but I do encourage you to have a look as I bet there will be many, or at least one or two, that you’ll be raring to sign up for…

EMPS: 24-hour Filmmaking Competition

HYPED Local Challenge

Reliving the Rhino Head: Jim Haynes’ Paperback Bookstore Revived

The Mobile Campus: Imagining The Future of Distributed Education at the University of Edinburgh

The Siege of Infosec: A Medieval Perspective on Information Security

Women in Medicine – a Wikipedia edit-a-thon

Keep an eye out for Lucy and me in our Festival Hoodies – we will be popping into events throughout the week and would love to hear all about your Festival experience.

Also a few notes for Festival Organisers before I go:


You’re all doing such a brilliant job – please do keep spreading the word about the Festival and your events. We recommend social media (be sure to use #FCL18 and we will repost), lecture shout outs and popping into other events to spread the word. Remember that promoting the events of others can often mean that they will spread the word about your event so support others and trade promotion when possible.

Impact and Legacy

Don’t forget that your event means more than what happens in the room on the day. How will you capture your event? Will you write a blog about it (if so, please send it to us for posting on the Festival blog post)? Will you photograph it? Will you film it? Will you share it on social media as it is taking place, and encourage your attendees to do so as well? Think about how you will document your event and tell the story afterwards. If your event goes on to have a life after the Festival, making real world changes in the teaching and learning at the University of Edinburgh and beyond – please tell us!

Evaluation and Attendance

Please remember to take attendance at your events and to prepare and send out a post-event survey to your attendees. It is so important to get a sense of what works and what can be improved, both for us as Festival Coordinators and for you as Event Organisers. Try to keep your surveys short and simple and make sure you are only asking questions that will supply information that will be useful going forward. We have a survey template in our resources that you can use if you like.

Think about interesting and creative ways to evaluate your event – for instance, ask people to Tweet/post their reactions, or have them fill out a little sticky note ‘leaf’ and make a feedback tree for people to leave their thoughts on as they go.

Hopefully I will manage to get through the Festival without a cold this year, though one thing is certain – I have Festival Fever and the only cure is a week of innovative, mindful, experimental, playful and joyful creative fun!


Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator

Institute for Academic Development


Designing a Healthy University of the Future


Educational institutions that promote health and wellbeing have the power to not only enhance student success, but to improve the health of our communities and wider society.

What is a Healthy University?   

A Healthy University adopts a holistic understanding of health; takes a whole university approach; and aspires to create a learning environment and organisational culture that enhances the health, wellbeing and sustainability of its community and enables people to achieve their full potential (Healthy Universities, 2018).

What is our event exactly?

This is a hackathon style event designed to get students thinking about health in the university setting. A hackathon is a timed competition-style event where teams are expected to get creative and work collaboratively and come up with a design or idea. The event will involve coming up with an innovative idea for designing a ‘Healthy University of the future’.

The day-long event will consist of brainstorming tasks and facilitated design rounds with lots of opportunities for creativity and collaboration. At the end of the event groups will present their ideas, dragons den style, in front of a panel of public health experts and leaders within the university. Several prizes are up for grabs and everyone will leave with a goody bag. Team designs will be showcased on campus after the event.

Why should you come?

The event will challenge you to think on your feet, network and develop skills in critical thinking, teamwork and much more. These skills will be critical both within and beyond your university career. You will also have the unique opportunity to present to public health experts and leaders within the university.

We are looking for students from all backgrounds and disciplines to join our event. Teams will be formed during the event so no preparation is required prior to the event. Lunch and snacks will be provided.

Event Date: Wednesday February 21 10:00-16:30 @ Room G.06, 50 George Square.



View the promotional film here


Yvonne Laird and Jillian Manner

Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy

Welcome to the Programme – #FCL18 is coming!


It is with great pleasure that we are now able to reveal the full programme for #FCL18, the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning at the University of Edinburgh taking place this 19-23rd February.

Jennifer and I are incredibly proud of the 100-and-something staff and student event organisers that have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes since September to plan their individual contributions to this fantastically diverse celebration of creativity, learning and innovation. The commitment and enthusiasm they have all shown to everything the Festival aims and values is inspirational, not least because they have all chosen to be involved on top to their already demanding work and/or study schedules. If you are one of these superstars, thank you!

The vast majority of events are free and open to people who are interested in ideas beyond their subject area. There are talks, conferences, field trips, workshops, film screenings, walking tours, games, hacks, and much more! At this stage I cannot possibly highlight any events in particular and would wholeheartedly encourage you to put aside some time to browse the full programme available on our website. You will also be able to benefit from the recently enhanced calendar and search functions on our re-vamped webpages.

Over the coming weeks we will be introducing some contributors to you in more detail through guest blog posts. Stay tuned to read more about who they are, what they do, what their event is and who should attend.

Finally, for now, if you are a student at the University of Edinburgh and looking for a way to be involved in the Festival whilst earning a bit of money, check out the recently advertised Promotion Assistant opportunity on our Facebook page. We will remove the advert as soon as we have received sufficient applications so don’t delay and contact us today.


Lucy Ridley

Projects and Engagement Administrator, Institute for Academic Development




Web banner


On behalf of the Festival of Creative Learning I would like to extend a colossal welcome to all new and returning staff and students at the University of Edinburgh. For those of you new to the city or University we hope you enjoy the opportunity to explore new lands and to anyone that is lucky enough to call Edinburgh home, be sure to share your insider tips on all things creative with our new neighbours.

With this blog post we are delighted to announce the call for applications to participate in the second ever curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning, taking place from 19th – 23rd February 2018. This is a unique opportunity for you to embrace your creative spirit and find space for your imagination to flourish. We value openness, collaboration, creativity, mindfulness and experimentation so if you have an idea or project along these lines you should certainly apply. Our aims can be found on our website and we would encourage you  to consider these alongside the Festival Application Guidelines when completing your application (both also available on our website). The deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday 23rd October 2017.

Your event may involve performing, painting, crafting, writing, dyeing, baking, playing, escaping, debating, combining these, or something else entirely. It may be the celebration of something you have been planning for a while, or you might never have done anything like this before. All of these are equally valid as proposals and exciting for us to discover. To get even more inspired be sure to read our impact report available in an earlier blog post and watch the short Festival film from February 2017 available to view here.

We look forward to sharing more blog posts and creativity with you this coming year, but to make sure you don’t miss out on any updates follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UoE_FCL and Facebook @FCLUoE. You can also join our mailing list via this link: http://edin.ac/2us2Rqc (EASE log in required) or email us at creative.learning@ed.ac.uk.

Lucy Ridley & Jennifer Williams

Projects & Engagement Team



Living the Learning

It was a bit of a shock coming back to work on Monday after a week spent in the sunshine on a mountaintop outside of Budapest (aka beautiful Visegrad). I was there for the annual FISZ Tábor or summer camp of the FISZ Hungarian Association of Young Writers. Paired with two brilliant Hungarian poets, Ferenc L. Hyross and Ferencz Mónika, Scottish-Mexican poet Juana Adcock and I spent the week translating each other’s poems, swimming in the Danube and climbing to the top of the mountain to soak up the breathtaking views. It was such an immersive learning experience! We lived, breathed, ate, drank and danced Hungarian culture into our bones.


It reminded me that there are so many ways to learn, and that the real relationships we make with people when we are invited into their spaces and cultures are invaluable and privileged. It’s interesting to consider how we can celebrate ‘living the learning’ at a place like the University of Edinburgh, where so many people gather from so many countries and cultures, and where learning and border crossing take place not only in classrooms but also in so many other spaces – cafes, parks, dorms, bars, streets, mountaintops… that when we live together and play together learning comes naturally and does not feel forced, boring or difficult.

The idea of playful learning also came up in a conversation at the IAD in which a colleague introduced me to the Play and Creativity Festival at the University of Winchester. Led by Dr Alison James and her team, it looks like brilliant fun while also exploring what our Festival of Creative Learning hopes to experiment with and inspire in University learning and teaching culture – a diverse and open-minded approach to creativity, both in and out of the classroom, that can lead to incredible experiences and valuable innovations.

Somehow it’s Friday already! Last night I did a reading for the SUISS Summer School students who are working on Creative Writing and Scottish Literature here at the University of Edinburgh this summer, and tonight and tomorrow night I’m reading with three other poets at the Edinburgh Food Studio where the chefs have prepared a course to accompany each of our poems. I can’t wait to find out how the poetry tastes! Sweet, I hope… very sweet.

Happy weekend wishes and more soon, Jennifer

Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator

Institute for Academic Development



The Festival of Creative Learning – past, present and future


February seems like a long time ago, but we have been very busy behind the scenes of the Festival of Creative Learning, well, learning…and being creative. Before the Scottish summer and ‘other’ festivals truly overwhelm our senses, we would like to share some updates to remind you that we are here, and to begin sparking your imagination with ideas of how you can work with us from the new academic year.

Firstly, we have listened. Since the February festivities, we have been carefully reading all your feedback about all aspects of the very first Festival of Creative Learning. Informed by what we have learned so far, we are delighted to share that by September we will have a beautifully improved and significantly more functional website that we hope will represent the innovative and dynamic values we embody. In tandem with this we are working to make the event booking system more user-friendly, allowing our marvellous event organisers to showcase their offerings in a superior format.

The other big change you may notice is how we will communicate and share resources with those delivering or supporting events.  Basecamp attracted some criticism from those of you involved this year, so we are currently undergoing a process of separation from this platform whilst consolidating our resources based on what you have told us you really want. We are not quite ready for the grand unveiling yet but we are confident enough to assure you that it will not be perfect. We have decided to practice what we preach by being open to taking risks, to failing, and to ‘building and prototyping ideas in a supportive environment’. As always, we look forward to receiving your feedback.

It has not all been about change though, we have also taken some time to celebrate the achievements and recognise the positive impact of the Festival. Just this week, Jennifer and I bumped into two students who worked with us in different capacities this year and are currently enjoying internships at the University. Hearing that one of these superstars is currently concocting a cunning plan in collaboration with other members of the University community to develop their event ready for the Festival next year has made our month. Gladly this is just one example of the impact the Festival has had. The next piece of good news is that hot off the press is our Festival Impact report, designed by Dave McNaughton to highlight some more but by no means all of the Festival stories. Take a look below and be sure to share with your friends and family.


The excitement does not end here! We are very pleased to share our Festival film crafted Perry Jonsson. This includes a selection of images and interviews from the February week and is a celebration and alternative way of capturing the Festival. You can view it here. We hope you like it!

We are often asked how people access support for creative events outside the February week and very soon we will have the answer for you. Coming to an Institute for Academic Development webpage near you we will shortly be announcing our revamped funding schemes process, which might just have something for you!

Finally, for those of you heading away at any point over the next few months have a lovely time. For anyone like me who will be working hard non-stop throughout do get in touch and share your ideas and plans for the next Festival of Creative Learning.

Festivals, Festivals Everywhere!


credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Edinburgh is widely regarded as a world-leading festival city with a colossal programme of events running throughout the year. Beyond the official calendar promoted through Edinburgh Festival City there seems to be a never ending stream of diverse, engaging and exciting festivals appearing…everywhere! It is encouraging to see many of these festivals thriving and returning year-on-year.

At the Institute for Academic Development we loved delivering the first Festival of Creative Learning for The University of Edinburgh and have been dedicating time recently to explore the successes and growing edges of the curated week to inform future improvement and development. Having carefully combed through all the wonderful and constructive feedback we are beginning to shape a cunning plan to implement some changes. We want to provide even more opportunities and support for staff and students at the University who embrace the challenge of organising and delivering events throughout the new academic year. We will share all of this with you once the embargo* has been lifted, but in the meantime we would like to highlight a few other festivals the University is involved with that have attracted our interest lately.

Festival of Museums at The University of Edinburgh, 19th-20th May 2017. Part of the nationwide Festival of Museums with events taking place across University buildings.

Festival of Open Learning, summer 2017. Taster, introductory and short courses offered by the Centre for Open Learning.

Festival of Social Science, November 2017. A week-long celebration of social science with events held across the United Kingdom. Applications to organise an event are being accepted until the deadline on 4th May 2017. Guidance for potential University of Edinburgh applicants can be found here.

Our Festival Pop-up programme continues throughout the year, so if you would like support with arranging an event that meets our aims and values before February please contact us. We are also open to receiving guest blog post submissions should you have something to share that you feel our audience would enjoy.

*there’s not really an embargo, I’m just pretending to be a covert operative today as we had a VIP visiting our building earlier.

The Awards: the results are published


On Wednesday 15th March 2017 we acknowledged the efforts of everyone involved in the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning with an award ceremony and thank you reception at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI). The event was incredibly well intended by event organisers,attendees and partners, all of whom received a  beautiful Festival of Creative Learning stainless steel water bottle as a token of our thanks for their involvement in #FCL17. Take a look at the Storify we made of the event here.

We received 131 nominations for nine awards, which made the task of shortlisting and deciding the winners and runners up for each category incredibly difficult. We frequently found ourselves debating whether we could just give everyone an award, but eventually concluded nobody would thank us for keeping them there a week while we presented them all.

Now, as we are rounding up our Festival “decompression and future planning” week, I am pleased to publish the results for all who were unable to attend the event. Feel free to applaud your efforts and those of others as you scroll through the images below. All photography is courtesy of the marvellous Mihaela Bodlovic.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thank you once again to everyone involved. Be sure to look out for pop-up events throughout the year and get those thinking caps on for ideas you could pursue as a pop-up yourself or for #FCL18! Contact us to discuss your creativity in more detail.

Meet Eat Drink Think

A great blog post on very interesting (and award winning!) event for #FCL17

A World of Words - Lucinda Byatt

Robbie Bushe from University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Open Learning organised this great event at the end of February as part of the University’s Festival of Creative Learning. It was held in collaboration with one of Edinburgh’s newest and most innovative restaurants, The Food Studio, brainchild of Benedict Reade and Sashana Souza Zanella. The restaurant was started in November 2015 and has garnered praise and The List’s Newcomer of the Year award in 2016.

Meet Eat Drink Think was run on three consecutive evenings and the purpose was to highlight the contribution of Europe and Europeans to Scottish food and culture. Each evening four university tutors from the Centre for Open Learning gave short talks on various aspects of food and culture, and the menu served by Food Studio was inspired by the subjects of these presentations.

MEDT photo

Alongside me were Carina Dahlstrom-Mair, John Gordon and Pasquale Iannone.  Carina started the proceedings with a lovely talk…

View original post 402 more words

I’m a Perfectionist… Get Me Out Of Here!


Mindfulness by Darragh O Connor, under a Creative Commons license

“Are you a perfectionist? Does this cause you problems?” Clearly there are a lot of students who answer yes to these questions as our event was fully booked with a long waiting list. So if perfectionism causes you difficulties, take heart – you’re not alone!

The workshop was designed to involve a lot of active learning and talking with other students. For the first exercise we shared in pairs the positive aspects of being a perfectionist, as well as the problems we experience, then fed these back to the whole group. Perfectionism isn’t something we have to get rid of from our personalities; it’s possible to keep perfectionism in balance so we can reap benefits. Participants mentioned that perfectionism can lead not only to achieving a high level of performance, but being well-organised and reliable, and feelings of satisfaction and greater involvement in whatever they’re doing.

How to overcome the problems though, which students said include stress, procrastination, dissatisfaction, loneliness, and low self-esteem because of unhealthy expectations?

We talked a lot about focussing on the idea of making progress rather than achieving perfection. In order to avoid procrastination we can break down tasks into small, manageable parts, focussing on working steadily through these, and rewarding ourselves for setting and achieving realistic goals. We also looked at moving on from ‘all-or-nothing thinking’, which sees everything that is not as good as we want it to be as a ‘failure’. We practiced changing a negative thought, such as ‘I did badly on that assignment’ to one which recognises difficult feelings but also any positives and pointers for making progress: ‘I was disappointed in my mark, but I got some positive comments for that assignment as well as some feedback about how to improve in future.’ This is an example of re-thinking ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity. We can turn any experience into a great opportunity by asking ‘what can I learn from this?’

In between the discussion exercises, Ali Newell from the Chaplaincy led us in mindfulness exercises that help relieve stress, including a sitting meditation and tai chi (simple mindful movement). No special equipment or clothes are needed for these exercises and it’s possible to do them as a lovely start to the day, in breaks from working, or to relax before going to bed. The Chaplaincy also offers free lunchtime mindfulness sessions (see below). We ended the workshop with some singing for fun – also an excellent stress-buster, very good for physical and mental health.

One of the things participants found very valuable was the chance to discuss how they would put their learning from the workshop into action. I was delighted by the positive feedback. We may run this event during the Festival of Creative Learning next year, and in the meantime, if you have problems with perfectionism, do look for help (e.g. from your Personal Tutor or Student Support Officer) and try some of the suggestions given above.

Rachel Howell

Web resources:




Stress-busting mindfulness at the Chaplaincy:

Capacitar Tai Chi 1.10-1.40 pm Tuesdays

Mindfulness 1.10-1.50 pm Thursdays

Yoga 1.10-2.00 pm Fridays

All in room 1 at the Chaplaincy Centre. All free. All welcome.