Orchard songs and extinct festivals

Reflections from our in-person workshop at Augustine Church, Edinburgh.

‘Heritage’ is a big thing to think about, so we started our workshop off with an invitation to share ideas with each other. Bring something along that represents heritage we said, and it was quite a collection. Using the Intangible Cultural Heritage categories as prompts, our participants shared examples of storytelling using different senses, passports from centuries ago, stories of protest, home-made trophies and tales of a group wassailing in North Edinburgh.

We had clearly hit a rich seam so we went further and mapped other examples we knew of around Scotland. Food, dance, natural wonders and traditions were collected. We learned about The Loopalu Festival, “…a 2-day music festival that took place in Ullapool, in the north of Scotland. It was held annually between 2005 and 2019, attracting 2,500 people which essentially doubled the population of the village while the event was being held”.

You can see more examples here

All very lovely, but why do this? For starters, we wanted to collect some entries for the Intangible Cultural Heritage library. We also wanted to illustrate how ‘heritage’ can take many different forms and can feel very close to home and to the heart. We were getting into the right place to think about how the idea of a Hub might help us to bring some of this alive.

Before we explored this any further a few of us headed up the road from Augustine’s Church to the proposed Hub building while the rest of us watched a short movie of the inside of the building. How could it best used?

We took the rest of our day together discussing how the building itself could be made more accessible and also what might happen inside. It wasn’t easy. There were still so many questions and we only had a few hours together but here are some of the key things that came up:

Before we visit (in-person or online)

What will make this place different? With so many places to visit why this one?

How can the Society use the space to break down preconceptions about heritage and invite new audiences in?

When so many places can be difficult to visit for some, what will make the Hub different? How will we know that a visit is possible before we leave home? Good, clear, comprehensive information is a top priority.

When we visit (in-person or online)

As expected, we talked about physical accessibility such as good toilet provision, seating, light levels, sound proofing, lifts and stairs. Generally things that make it possible to take part. But, as one participant said, we’re good at creating accessible spaces but notoriously poor at creating inclusive services. In order to do this we need to consider many of the issues that came up in our discussions:

What does a welcoming building or web service look like?

How do we clearly find our way through what’s on offer?

Am I represented here? Do I belong and can I contribute?

By connecting me with Scotland’s heritage, which challenges are the Society helping me to address?

Do I feel part of a community? Can I fully take part?

After we’ve visited (in-person or online)

How do we stay in touch with each other?

How can the Society integrate activities into others happening locally?

We used our imagination to explore a few questions before we finished up for the day.

Importantly, we’d started some new conversations and hopefully seeded a new community of people interested to stay in touch with the Society to help them to shape their future plans.

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