ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
Reinvigorating local talent.
By far, the biggest project of C.A.T.'s community work was reinvigorating the Craigmillar Writers. From 2010 onwards, in collaboration with the Adult Learning Link (A.L.L.), we took over a tired and almost redundant exercise and revitalised the annual writing competition. In 2009, under an uninterested management, the annual Festival contest attracted only 3 entries. Our fledgling organisation, with our event management expertise ,was invited by A.L.L. to organise the 2010 contest With reorganisation and our media contacts, we attracted 47 entries into a very successful competition.
Getting local talent back into the Craigmillar Festival
The following year, under our management, the 2011 Contest attracted 73 entries and we moved into a bigger venue (The Venchie) for the Prize-Giving. We instituted a panel of professional judges from the field of poetry and a NEW prize - the Community Makar, a three year post for the overall winner, won by Diane Heron.
Working on line
Next, we organised the hugely successful Online group, which continues to grow. Although the titular name is an old and honoured name in the community, the Writers’ Group name has been in abeyance since around 1998. We decided to revive and make it our own as new writers came on board and we began to share our writings. It was decided that in order to protect new writers’ work that it would be a group where membership was applied for, or where individuals would be nominated then approved. Working to themes, our Makar wrote for several local events, such as the Venchie (local children's playground)'s 50th birthday bash and the Halloween Event, which had attracted an incredible participatory audience of over 500 children & adults.
In November 2011, we wrote on the theme of the Armistice and, thanks to our Press Contacts, some of our number were picked up by local and national press.
Community Arts…making things happen
Realising we were being noticed, we made plans for our first forays into performance Poetry. In February 2012, we organised an event, in partnership with city group Inky Fingers, for World Community Arts Day. This is an annual event inspired by the now-gone Craigmillar Festival Society, with over 80 countries around the world taking part. We called the event “Global Conditioning” and staged it in the former Craigmillar Primary School, now called SPACE. With a celebrity opening and backing from StAnza (Scotland's premier poetry festival), our first-time reading local amateurs and the Inky Fingers semi-pros entertained over 100 people. It was the first poetry event in Craigmillar for many years, and certainly the largest ever. “Global Conditioning” was a huge success! It was filmed and is now available on DVD. Selected readings can be found on YouTube, our Craigmillar Gold collection.
From “Global Conditioning”, we were next invited to take part in the 3 Harbours Festival at The Gothenburg pub in June 2012. Entitled “Poetry at the Pans”, only 7 of us would take part, along with 7 Inky Fingers and 7 Tyne & Esk Writers. During this event, a six-verse poem was created to celebrate the now-famous Prestonpans Tapestry, and 3 Craigmillar writers' verses were chosen from the submissions.
In March 2012, we launched “The Rainbow Skull” , a three-month long poetry and prose contest, culminating in the annual festival's prize-giving. By June 30th, we had over 100 entries from professional as well as amateur writer. The range of prizes reflected the growth of our group. We staged the event in SPACE Theatre, an expensive event we won't repeat, although working in a theatre under lighting was a worthwhile experience for more of our first-timers.
During the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, some of our number performed at various venues, pubs, bookshops, cafes, etc, marking our low-key Edinburgh Festival debut. This period was marked by our next foray into the public sphere, the “Busk at the Beach”. Organised by one of our own, it was an afternoon on Portobello Promenade, with our poetry which gathered several listeners over a gey dreich five hours. IA very worthwhile experiment we are keen to repeat next year in collaboration with Portobello.
Our next event was “Will The Last Person Please Put Up The Chairs And Turn Out The Lights!” to mark National Poetry day (October 4th) and the closure of our old local library( in collaboration with Edinburgh Libraries.)With professional guests, we once again shared out writings to an audience both old and new.
October 2012 saw our first (over-subscribed!) Creative Writing class, held in the Adult Learning Link. There was a list of people waiting for the next class! We have certainly proven there is an appetite in the community for it.
As of the beginning of November 2012, we were in talks with the local Jewel Miners Club, to have having a function room for one night a month to hold our own pub-based free Poem And A Pint nights, similar to what Inky Fingers do in the city. As the only drinking den left in the Craigmillar area capable of holding events, we sought to get it into the City's calendar-of-Poetry-nights worth-attending, with special guests from all over the world in slams and other variations of events. Although hugely successful, when both volunteers running these events suffered life threatening hospital treatment for several weeks, no-one was able to step up the plate and ensure the events’ continued success. Disappointing - and a clear example of why volunteer work matters and why more volunteers are always needed. Regrettably too, it appeared that many participants did not understand the nature of the events and rather than helping, complained bitterly and publicly when no-one was able to help. Some mistake there, eh? Criticism rather than help? Very sad.
However, undaunted we were able to take up a physical place in our NEW bigger, better local Library in the New Year of 2013 were we met once a month for readings and workshops in Creative writing and performance.
And our next BIG event was busy being planned again for World Community Arts Day, the theme being “anti-Valentine's Day!”
Apart from the ALL/CAT driven Steering Committee, the online group of 146 members tried to provide its own internal management, with Rose Ritchie taking over as the Artistic Director of the group, ably assisted by Heather Turner, Diane Heron and Billy McKirdy. The founder of the Group will take a more back seat role as Creative Consultant and liaison with the CWG Steering Committee.
At the start of 2014, new ventures are in place.