Arts & Community

Arts & Community

Arts and Community | The fourth in our series for the ‘What If ?’ exhibition 2020

Growing a healthy community lies at the heart of the arts we develop; creativity for everyone to be part of and to benefit from. Dunbar is known as a creative and inspiring small town and we have contributed to this reputation developing opportunities through at least two projects in each over the last ten years as we know that creative thinking lies at the heart of a community rising to the challenges of a changing world and we have worked with thousands of people of all ages and hundreds of artists who have gained from opportunities through our projects.

Themes such as the Kittiwake Trail, Growing Arts Seeds, Garden Lane or Knitting the Harbour and also Knitting the Rainbow Garden have used the whole of our environment to invite people to discover – venues in the town from the Bleachingfield community centre to Spott Village Hall and Dunbar Town House – but essentially creating spaces within our landscape such as the Beach Hut on the Victoria Harbour, walking the John Muir Way or creating our Dyers Garden and new ‘Pavilion’ in the ‘Rainbow Garden’ at the Backlands and also Belhaven community gardens – taking the arts to people in the heart of the town .

Whatever the theme we want to help artists and volunteers to share their creativity so that everyone feels included and can learn new skills – gradually finding small ways to improve the culture of our area and their own lives. Knitting the Harbour brought people to the towns harbour for the first time in a long time or for many as a new experience, the little Beach Hut on Victoria Harbour was then inhabited by a succession of artists in the project ‘Walking a Line’ even becoming a mini cinema: each artist generating a sense of place while encouraging new ways of thinking about our environment and it’s sustainability.

This project led to the now established John Muir Residency and annual exhibition at Dunbar Town House, a showcase in the middle of Dunbar High St. a venue that invites people to share the outcomes of the artists residency but also to take part in free workshops and artists talks. As part of the exhibition ‘Tide: Dialogues of Change’ artist Natalie Taylor and Anna Canning le an amazing cliff top ‘Medicinal Walk’ and workshop that lots of people were able to benefit from. Insights into our work and our aims can be seen in the many videos made by numerous film makers and these can be seen at: Vimeo NorthLightArts

Working with the community to achieve positive change is necessarily a slow and incremental process and collaboration is at the heart of what we do: ‘Growing Arts Seeds’ reached out to those on the margins of our community. The project ‘Natural Magic drew the older and younger generations together culminating in a celebratory exhibition at the Bleachingfield Community Centre and this was also the venue for our two day conference ‘Fertile Ground’. We  have been able to reach more people through exciting collaborations; with community groups such as the Dunbar Harbour Trust, the Bleachingfield After School Club, the Beavers and Sustaining Dunbar we also commissioned some wonderfully insightful poetry from Hannah Lavery of CoastWord.


Gather in lowering sun
the Sunset and the Beauty of Moray.
That blush faced mum
starting the hide and sneak, in her own remembered way.

Gather the Fortune and Red Sleeves.
Those curly haired apple boys turning the apple press their laughter, a high from the honey bees
their cups of hard won juice and crumble mess.

Gather that girl with her just found stick.
The Charles Ross, Scotch Dumpling, Meridian, and Katy. Those gardening hands, the ready plums ready for the pick by the dead hedge, willow tunnel and comfrey.

Gather in at our long table and for a while just stay.
Gather in, bring your pie dish for the oven, on this, our apple day.

By Hannah Lavery

The covid pandemic has changed much of what we know and our ability to meet face to face is impacting on our way of working. However we are here online and as ever mindful of our environment we are testing the boundaries of creative thinking in new ways that are developing community ties and opportunities that will help us looking forward.

North Light Arts