I was introduced to Front Lounge by my friend Peg who was Photographer in Residence at Front Lounge, who initially invited me to create a joint artistic exhibition in The Workshop. During this exhibition I was asked, what did I want to do? What followed was a whole load of exhibitions. One that stuck out for me was a photography exhibition called “35mm,” held in the Reading Rooms in Dundee. It’s actually crazy thinking back now – there was at least a couple hundred people there, we ended up with about four bands and a DJ, with fifteen different photographers’ work. After that we had more exhibitions in The Workshop – it was amazing you know- there were no restrictions. For one of the exhibitions, I turned The Workshop into a total building site! We put out bowls of screws instead of sweets and did all these mad things… You were actually asked, and then supported to do that exact thing.
Another part of my introduction to Front Lounge was iGNiTE: you would be in a group of likeminded young people and over three days you had to create something, anything, and at the end of the three days share what you had made. Ordinarily, you would think that the idea you had was completely out with your capability- never mind being able to achieve it in three days, yet we did it, and seeing what other people had done was incredible. We were always asked what our hopes and dreams were. And we were supported to go for them, and key to that is that we were provided with the resources we needed to do it. Now that was when I was an iGNiTE participant. But what iGNiTE also did was developed leaders. We ran the iGNiTE but now as leaders, and supported the next set of participants to lead the next set of participants, and so the cycle continues.
The biggest takeaway from iGNiTE India was the change in the young people that we worked with. The atmosphere when we first worked with this group was so intense… quiet, no one was talking, no one wanted to do anything. After just a day, they started to open up, to laugh, to do things. Getting from this place out to India with these young people: I grew so much in confidence and leadership skills. We went to China, India and South Africa with iGNiTE: I’ve been a participant, a volunteer and a project leader. It’s a strange thing you know- seeing a group of people who have never travelled, leading a project in a far away country.
I felt as though it made such a difference, that the young people really grew, the relationship with the people we worked with grew, and we developed friendships that last to this day.
In 2008, we took iGNiTE to India. I was tasked with training a group of young people from the Highlands of Scotland and leading them to work with the Adavasi in Tamil Nadu: we worked in villages, primary schools, ran mini ignites, collected people’s stories. There were many different aims to this project on different levels- developing leadership skills, developing confidence and developing life experience that encourages a global perspective.
Everyone who went to China had this amazing experience together. So, when everyone came back, we were all like wow, what can we do now! There was this crazy explosion of social enterprise. Jo Helfer started Tin Roof, Emma White and Carrie Findlay started Diaosu, Camilla Plekker started Reality Theatre, Holly started Mo Li-lian, and loads more! Front Lounge supported all of us through that- there were business plan meetings, funding meetings, building social enterprise meetings. We were at the time, core team members that ran many of the projects at the time: Changing Faces of the Hilltown was one of those.
In 2019 I was asked to be on the Front Lounge board of directors… I asked- well what does that entail? The response: just be a part of a conversation. It’s one of the things in my life that makes me feel like a real human being. I feel privileged to be a part of continuing the work of the organisation after all of the experiences I’ve been so fortunate to have. But very selfishly, I get a lot from this myself. I think one of the really important things that has changed things for me is having confidence and self-belief in my own understanding and how I choose to live my life, being ok with who I am, my views, my opinions. My role on the board is to support dear, dear friends, talking through things, being a sounding board. Just being there, supporting those who are working stoically to make things better for other people.