G’wan Yersel, Son.

Blogpost from Rachel reflecting on the Inky Fingers/Craigmillar Writers Group ‘Global Conditioning’ event celebrating World Community Arts Day.

The videos posted below (thank you, Billy) provide a flavour of the performances at Global Conditioning better than descriptions ever could, so I wanted to use this space to spill some thoughts and impressions from Inky’s first collaboration with Craigmillar Writers Group on a dark Friday evening in February.

Against the backdrop of the beautifully restored John Maxwell mural in Art SPACE, the new Craigmillar Community Arts Centre, perfomers from Inky, CWG and across Scotland came together to celebrate community and place for the launch event of World Community Arts Day.

World Community Arts Day – officially Febuary 17 2012 – was started by the Craigmillar Communiversity in 2008. Aiming to celebrate the potential of community arts to bring people together and to give them a platform from which to raise their voices, it showcases work from community arts organisations at a global level, from Instanbul to Vancouver to New Mexico to Belfast.

Craigmillar’s tradition of initiating and celebrating community arts is both long standing and inspiring. The legend of Helen Crummy, whose 1978 book on Craigmillar Let The People Sing has been reprinted around the world and who sadly passed away last year, starting the Festival as a reaction to being told there were no resources for her son to have violin lessons has been told and retold. At its height, the Craigmillar Arts Festival was attracting 17,000 people, to participate and watch those given a chance to stand on a stage and to say their piece.

For me, the joys of Global Conditioning were twofold. Firstly, in the total and evident pride in place. ‘Plenty spirit, plenty fight’ was a phrase used by Nikki Barnes, reading on behalf of Heather Turner, and backed up by Jak McKenzie on dealing with neighbours with a poor concept of volume control -‘no wake me and mine…no come piss off Jak’. Kevin Finlay, reading for Billy McKirdie, spoke of ‘Oor Place’, and the pride and ‘spirit felt when we get together.’ As a spontaneous knockon effect, it meant that every other performer introduced themselves by announcing where they were from, from Leven to Cupar to Glasgow to Orkney to Donaghadee.

I’ve spent most of my adult life moving fairly restlessly between cities. I believe that I’ve finally found a community, my community, in Edinburgh, one that I love and have a role in. But it’s a different thing to adopt your home, it’s different from the place you grow up, the place that has a history and a continuum you are part of and carry forward. The pride expressed on this evening in having Craigmillar roots was a strong and lovely thing.

Secondly, there was real energy and emotion to the evening. Many of the group from Craigmillar had never met in person before – much of the writing is shared online – let alone read their words, to an audience, from a stage. The Inky ethos, the wider spoken word traditions, support the belief that getting up and sharing your words, your stories, your beliefs with an audience, with the people in front of you might be scary as hellfire, but that it creates a connection, it lets you work out what you want to say, how you want to say it, as you’re doing it. And prepares you for the next time. It’s a sharing, a learning. Every time.

So, here’s to the spirit in and of Craigmillar. Here’s to pride in place. Here’s to remembering where you come from. Here’s to getting out of EH1 for a night. Here’s to community arts. Here’s to letting the people sing. As someone hollered at Jordan during his introduction, g’wan yersels indeed…

Actually, make that threefold. It was a helluva lot of raucous fun. Y’all rock. Till next time.