I first got involved through ongoing art projects in 2008 with KenART. We did random art projects. There were exhibitions being put together and I did a collage of pictures of a Dundee landscape.
It was the first time I was asked to contribute to an exhibition. It was a joy to take pictures of general things and landscapes around where I live and turn it into something else just because. Art for its own sake.
Other key highlights include a photography workshop with offsite education in Dundee, that started a long journey of delivering creative workshops with children and young people struggling in mainstream education. Another memorable project included making a film with the Salvation Army, which resulted in a crazy dance off in the middle of City Square in Dundee! The Champions Board was set up to develop a forum for CEYP and their needs. I was a facilitator and that’s what we did. The evidence is that the Champions Board is still continuing. It is great that young people have ownership of it.
We also developed 211 Hilltown too in a space dedicated to protected use by care experienced young people. Amazing to be part of that process as well. I am glad that it is continuing and it is led by young people. Front Lounge is able to be reactive. That is unique. And to be able to identify need and to recognise language and recognise potential – I can see that element of Front Lounge continues.
I remember the COSLA Roadshow for Elected Members – making the patchwork that represented the commitments from MSPs that listened to the voices of young people in care, and made commitments when the ‘These Are Our Bairns’ Cooperating Parenting guidance document was launched by the Scottish Government. With the patchwork in tow, we travelled across Scotland doing workshops and training events with elected representatives from across Scotland, and to facilitate the resulting conversations they needed to have to change the culture in their respective local authorities.
We later drew on all these experiences to help establish Dundee’s Champions Board three years later in 2011.
I went to China as part of the iGNiTE team in 2010. I worked with a group of Xi’an Art District artists: seeing the scale and techniques they used on a daily basis was an eye opener and pushed the boundary of what I thought I was capable of. The sculptural work, the printing work, factories making packaging – understanding their business model on the site was a big learning experience. Going to China was a personal breakthrough for me. I was wanting to set up a social enterprise but I was stuck in a mindset worrying about failure, the process of actually setting up and all the ensuing responsibilities of running a business on top of my ongoing responsibilities in my life.
The culture shock of China ‘shocked’ me out of that mindset. It led the way to all the things I have done since then. I co-founded Diaosu, creating a space for artists, holding exhibitions, and building skills. It gave me a real love for the journey rather than the end result, the end result only tells half the story. My children missed me when I went to China but they supported me, and it seems to have proven to them that you can dream big.