Scottish Storytelling Centre

Want entertainment in its purest form? Look no further than the Scottish Storytelling Centre (SSC) a creative hub off of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. This bespoke building focuses mostly on spoken word performance, stripped of microphones and scripts. Bustling year-round, SSC is particularly busy in festival season.

Marketing and Communications Manager, Lindsay Corr said: “Each summer we become a venue for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and our tagline this year is ‘local talent, international context’. All our shows and performers are based in Scotland, many in Edinburgh, but all deal with international themes.”

These themes include migration, fake news and LGBT rights. SSC has broken ground by breaking down many of these issues for its younger audiences.

Corr explained: “One of our Fringe shows was At A Stretch – a phenomenal mime and movement piece – about two girls who fall in love and don’t really know what is happening. This show is targeted at ages six plus. At A Stretch is a kids friendly LGBT+ show; we think it’s important to cover diverse stories in a way that is accessible to children.”

Making narratives accessible to everyone is something that SSC is passionate about, as Corr said: “People can dip their toe into storytelling at our Café Voices events, which are running during the Fringe. These events are hosted by a storyteller, but are also open floor – meaning the audience doesn’t have to get up and narrate, but they are welcome to.”

This spirit of inclusion runs throughout SSC’s 17 Fringe shows, including Is this a Dagger – Andy Cannon’s historical analysis of Macbeth, (More) Moira Monologues – with Alan Bissett discussing Brexit and Indie Ref 2 from Scotland’s working class woman perspective – and The Loud Poets, who perform poetry for the masses, accompanied by a live band.

“The Loud Poets believe storytelling is for everyone and is something everyone can do – you don’t have to have gone to Oxford University to practice it and it doesn’t have to be pompous,” Corr said.

True to this sentiment, SSC has worked throughout its history with outreach programmes, bringing storytelling to disadvantaged groups.

Corr recalled: “Over the years the Scottish Storytelling Centre has had lots of outreach projects on the go; including Living Voices, which helped older and younger people find common ground amid the digital divide. The project taught older people digital skills and younger people the art of storytelling, to bring their two words together.”

Another project SSC undertook, in partnership with BSL:UPTAKE at Heriot-Watt University was Stories in the Air. In this project SSC worked with BSL interpreters, to boost their narrative skills and make storytelling more inclusive for deaf audiences.

Corr added: “We are also now running a sensory storytelling project for children with additional needs; The Story Kist creates a relaxed space with props that children can touch and smell while experiencing a story, which is run by two highly trained and interactive storytellers.”

A relaxed environment is key to any storytelling and it was this realisation that led to the founding of the SSC building.

Corr said: “The Scottish Storytelling Centre started life as part of an arts centre. Within this centre there was a group of storytellers that had been performing all over the country, but they wanted to have a stand-alone national hub that promoted storytelling, instead of it being an add-on in venues such as theatres.”

So after sourcing £3.5m, recruiting Malcolm Fraser Architects, and undergoing a five- year development, the SSC opened its doors on 6 June 2006.

The SSC building is gorgeous,” Corr enthused.

“It’s the first purpose-built architectural frame for a centre of storytelling, which has been important in providing good acoustics that cater to different storytelling styles and flexible spaces for events,” she added.

To truly appreciate the Centre, Corr encouraged people to drop in.

She said: “The best way to understand what we do is to attend one of our events. Storytelling is entertainment in its purest form, without the barriers of technology, and we want to help people enjoy it.”

Scottish Poetry Library

Hankering for a haiku or starving for a sonnet? Then look no further than the Scottish Poetry Library. Situated just off of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, it’s filled with people to help you find just the thing! Even if the thing you want is an opaque verse from childhood.

Finding missing poems is all part of the service, as the Poetry Library’s Communications Manager, Colin Waters, explained.

“People tend to call or email with a few lines of a poem they wish to track down, then our librarians call on our collection, before searching lines, trying variants and consulting colleagues to find it.”

Often people remember poems from milestones in their lives, but forget the title or the author.

Waters explained: “People often want a poem read at a wedding, funeral or indeed at a political meeting. In Scotland, when we experience important moments in our lives we like to hear what the poets have to say about them.”

This vice for verse is, Waters recons, the reason the country has produced so many world class poets.

He said: “The mature generation of Scottish poets – such as Don Paterson, Kathleen Jamie and John Burnside – have won every prize going; and the Scottish Poetry Library is the best place to discover more about this wonderful heritage.”

While Scotland’s poetry is centuries old, the Scottish Poetry Library is young, having been founded in 1984. A brain child of the poet Tessa Ransford, the library first inhabited rooms within Edinburgh’s Tweedale Court, before outgrowing this space.

Waters recalled: “The Library’s collection grew, so in 1999 (after extensive fund raising) the Scottish Poetry Library moved to its current building at Crichton’s Close.”

But the work didn’t stop there; in 2015 the library underwent refurbishment to include a new entrance, sheltered terrace, further storage, recording room and event spaces.

Now the SPL is the only poetry library in Europe housed in its own specially-constituted building.

“The Library has evolved beyond bricks-and-mortar and we are exploring ways of making its poems easier to access beyond the building. We offer postal loans, our catalogue is online and people can download our poetry posters wherever they live,” Waters said.

The library has also increased its interactivity with fortnightly podcasts; as well as email, Facebook and Twitter campaigns. In 2011, the SPL’s Twitter feed was judged to be the fourth most influential in the library world.

Waters quipped: “The virtual door is always open.”

In fact, the Scottish Poetry Library website plays a vital role in recruiting its volunteers. Those interested in helping at the library can fill in an online form describing the skills they could contribute, as well as those they wish to gain.

The library also has a lot to offer recreational visitors.

Water said: “In July the Saltire Prize-winning poet Ryan Van Winkle will be hosting a SPL event at Jupiter Artland.”

He added: “The Scottish Poetry Library has a reputation for experimenting; in the past year its events have featured drag queens, throat singing, and film-poems. So far this year’s events have been somewhat more restrained, but we have interesting shows to announce this autumn.”

 

A Stitch Online

SIAS

Designer Iona Barker is known to many as the face of Say it ain’t Sew, Scotland’s free sewing classes. Hoping to expand this network Barker has launched a website to promote the craft’s physical and mental benefits.

She said: “Sewing can be therapeutic; one of the reasons I took it up was to forget my own worries.

“Before I started Say it Ain’t Sew I had moved up from London, after been made redundant from my dream job; so I was having a really crap time. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I wanted to do something to help myself, and others in the same situation.

“I did some research into Glasgow’s sewing movement and found that while there was a lot of ‘stitch -and -bitch’ groups there wasn’t any free classes. So I formed Say it Ain’t Sew and made admission free, so that anyone could turn up and get creative.”

Say it Ain’t Sew is a beginners’ class, where equipment and fabric is provided for students. Barker founded the class in 2010, at the Hillhead Book Club. Then after years of successful tutorials, she established a second class, in Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire. Now the two run weekly (on Monday from 6.30 to 8.30pm in Edinburgh and on Tuesday from 6.30 to 8.30pm in Glasgow).

The classes’ success, Barker said, comes from student’s satisfaction in their finished projects.

She explained: “Making fun things for family and friends gives people a great sense of achievement. The distraction also helps people that suffer from mental ill health, such as anxiety.”

Another way the class helps those struggling with mental health is through philanthropy.

Barker said: “Every year Say it Ain’t Sew does an event for charity, last year it was a 22 hour stitchathon for SAMH (Scotland’s mental health charity). The stitchathon raised about a grand-and-a-half, and made two huge wall hangings.”

She continued: “This year’s stitchathon will be for Scottish Autism. We are going to create an interactive sensory floor map, with electronic components sewn in, which light up.”

This and other Say it Ain’t Sew projects will soon be documented on the movement’s website.

Barker said: “Say it Ain’t Sew is on a lot of social media channels, but they can be limited when it comes to hosting static information; for instance a lot of people ask me the same questions every day, so the website will answer frequently asked questions.”

She added: “The website will also act as a resource for those not on social media.”

It will do this via text and multimedia content, with Barker’s YouTube sewing videos taking pride of place.

She said: “The YouTube Say It Ain’t Sew tutorials are a new addition to the movement. They came as a result of a brainstorm in taxi, between myself and a film-maker called Grant Lynch.

“Grant wanted to produce edgy cooking shows; and I told him that I wanted to create something similar, but covering sewing instead of cooking.

“So we swapped details, discussed it again, and met to shoot the initial videos. Grant has since moved to Canada, but I am now working with a new filmmaker, Sean Gill, on the latest tutorials. As ever, the videos will be fun, short and sweet.”

As well as showcasing design innovations, the tutorials will answer viewer’s sewing queries.

Barker said: “We get a lot of requests from people who want to alter and repair their clothes. For instance, a lot of people manage to rip the crotch of their jeans when lunging, so I am making a tutorial to address this problem!”

Barker’s repair experience comes as part of her illustrious wardrobe career. Recently she worked as part of Glasgow SEE Hydro’s costume relief; prepping touring stars’ wardrobes before they hit the stage.

She said: “The most exciting project that I worked on at the Hydro was Beyoncé’s Mrs Cater tour.

“The show was crazy, it was so much fun, but very stressful.”

Talking of her time at the Hydro, Barker said: “I loved it, but it was very fast paced – for instance sometimes you would only have 30 seconds to repair things – after a while I was tired.”

She added: “I gave up working in Hydro wardrobe last December, after a very busy couple of months. I felt as if I had hit my peak in costume work, and I wanted focus on helping other people get to that level.”

Now Barker encourages anyone seeking sewing advice to contact her via the website.

She concluded: “I hope the website speaks to people who are stressed or anxious and looking for alternative relaxation; sewing really can meet that need.”

Say It Aint Sew

sewing1

As clothes became cheaper the art of sewing waned, but the craft fought back and was reborn as recreation.

Programmes like The Sewing Bee capitalised on this trend, reflecting the latest wave of interest.

Costume designer, Iona Barker said: “The image of sewing has shifted over the years from something girly to something androgynous and cool. This shift has been aided by programmes like The Sewing Bee, which has had more and more male contestants.

“So now I think guys are keen to get into sewing and don’t worry about being mocked by their pals.”

Barker speaks from experience, as she runs the Say It Aint Sew class in  Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire (Monday 6.30 to 8.30pm) and Glasgow’s Hillhead Bookclub (Tuesday 6.30 to 8.30pm).

Barker said: “I started running the Glasgow class in May 2010, when I was working in a local bar. The Hillhead Bookclub was just about to open and its’ soon –to-be manager was a friend of a friend, looking to incorporate activities.”

“I was terrified at the concept of running a class; I had never done anything like it, but as the years passed it went from strength to strength; now I just love it.”

The love of sewing had filled Barker from a young age.

She said: “When I was a kid I was very creative; I enjoyed making things and watching old films where the actresses wore big dresses. So I started cutting up my mum’s clothes and turning them into costumes.

“Later I went on to Glasgow Caledonian University and studied Fashion Business.”

As a fashion student Barker sought craft tutorials in Glasgow; but the classes she found were institutional and costly. This inspired her to start a group that was free and accessible to the public.

Barker explained: “Say It Aint Sew is a total beginners group. Attendees don’t have to bring anything. All the equipment and fabric is there waiting for them.”

“I work as a costume designer, so over the years I have collected masses of material, and the classes are a great way to use my horde.”

Barker’s range of materials influence the items made in class. However, inspiration also comes from participant’s requests and the seasons; for example the class made chicks at Easter.

The tutor said: “We have made a real mix of things from headbands to Super Mario figurines.”

This variety of projects has led to a diverse group.

Barker explained: “We usually have a mix [of over 18s] from students, to professionals and elderly people.

“There is a mix in gender too; a lot of the girls bring their boyfriends to the class and the guys tend to find it is better than what they had expected.”

The class starts by grabbing a drink and name sticker at the bar. Then once seated, the sewing and socialising begins.

Barker said: “Everything is explained from the start, from the amount of thread needed, to the technique of a basic stitch.

“Beginners can be a bit apprehensive, but after an hour they get totally into it. Everybody leaves with the finished piece and a sense of accomplishment.”

She concluded: “The class is a great way to discover a new skills and people. Everyone gets the chance to chat and I have seen lasting friendships formed.”

For more information visit the Say It Aint Sew Facebook page.

Cordao De Ouro

1 cap

Capoeira is a martial art with a difference; it uses combat, music and dance to express Afro Brazilian history.

Capoeira Instructor Fiaz Jaca Cdo explained: “Capoeira originated in Brazil among African slaves. The slaves were banned from practicing martial arts, so they disguised it as dance. Today Capoeira incorporates this influence in its beats and languages.”

Dance is now vital in Capoeira culture. While some classes focus on ‘play’ similar to sparring Instructor Jaca’s Cordao De Ouro class also uses musical movement play to improve stretch and coordination. It was this aspect that first brought him to practice.

He said: “My ex-wife is a dancer and she was trying to loosen me up, both physically and mentally, so she brought me to a Capoeira class. At the time I could barely touch my toes and wasn’t sure if it was for me, but the music kept me going back.

“Capoeira has elements that appeal to everyone. It’s not about using force; it’s about leverage and technique. At the higher level we use the pads and bags to practice kicks and strikes.”

Each Cordao De Ouro class has a different focus, with sessions running at various times and locations across Edinburgh and in Glasgow’s Wellington Church. In Glasgow: on Monday from 6 to 7pm is a beginners group; then from 7 to 8:30pm is an intermediate. Wednesday from 6 to 8pm is a mixed levels practice, with Capoeira music. Friday from 6:30 to 8pm is a mixed levels practice, with acrobatic training.

Kids classes are also held in Wellington Church; on Wednesday from 4 to 5pm is a group for 5 to 10 year olds; then Friday hosts three classes: one from 3:30 to 4pm for 5-8 year olds, another from 4:15 to 5pm for 8-11year olds and finally one from 5 to 6pm for those 11 and above.

Adult Classes are £6.50 booked individually or cheaper when part of a block. Beginners get their first class free and can participate in gym clothes.

Instructor Jaca explained: “In class we will start by introducing the new members; then we warm up, practice dynamic stretching and the ginga [basic play] stance. Once warmed up we will move on to partner work, kicks, counter work and basic acrobatics, like cartwheels. This will then evolve into sequences and be practiced with different partners.”

Partner practice is showcased at the end of each class, inside the Roda or circle. Students will stand in a ring and watch two of their peers ‘play’ in the middle. Instructor Jaca explained that the Roda symbolises the world.

“This is what Capoeira is: the Roda, the play in the circle, the music, singing and history. When the music is right it builds timing and improves response. Capoeira is not just about learning the moves; it’s about how you develop as a person.”

As students develop they progress through a belt grading system that uses colours of the Brazilian flag.

Instructor Jaca said: “As the instructor I will monitor the students to assess their level; but no matter the level, every student must show commitment; this brings a sense of community to the group.”

Capoeira’s traditions have now been recognised by the United Nations, which in November 2014 awarded it cultural heritage status.

Instructor Jaca concluded: “Historically Capoeira was about the African and indigenous Brazilian fight for liberty. So Capoeira is about freedom. People rush to Capoeira class to unwind from the stress of the day. If you are looking for mental, physical and spiritual peace Capoeira is the thing for you.”

To find out more or book a class, visit Cordao De Ouro Capoeira website.