Citizen Events at Edinburgh International Book Festival 2021

While our Citizen programme operates all year-round, August is always a particularly busy time for us as it gives us a chance to showcase our Communities Programme on an international stage. 



To kickstart our 2021 Citizen Programme, we welcomed Graeme Armstrong, Jenni Fagan and Caleb Femi to our new site at Edinburgh College of Art where they discussed their own shifting relationships with home and community across the waves of the pandemic in our Take Your Place event. This built heavily upon the themes of community identity explored in last year’s Citizen events as they examined the ways in which the physical and psychological structures of place shape personhood (see clip below).  

With the exception of Wellbeing and Resilience: Imagining a Better Future, all of our Citizen events are available to watch via our website which can be found here.  This year we have been operating a Pay What You Can method of accessing our events with the idea that those who may not otherwise be able to view our programme can interact with us, and hope that people are mindful of this when viewing. 



After the event, we were lucky enough to have Caleb and Graeme participate in a Citizen Collective workshop answering questions, offering advice to some of the young people in our programme and talking about their own experiences as young authors breaking into the literary scene.  

Next up, our Stories & Scran event was back for a second helping! Building on the success of last year’s event, we tucked in to a delicious three course community meal prepared by the Scran Academy – a social enterprise catering organisation that works with vulnerable young people across the city to equip them with catering skills. Over forty members of our Citizen Collective, the North Edinburgh/Musselburgh Citizen Writers, members of the Edinburgh International Book Festival Board, Tollcross Community participants and locals sat down together in one of our stretch tents before heading inside to listen to some of the work created by our Citizen Writing groups.  

Hosted by Leyla Josephine, this event looked back at pieces completed across the Citizen project, including contributions by the Alternative School at Spartans Community Football Academy, the Citizen Collective and the Saheliya Champions Group. Members of the writing groups participated both in person and via recordings, bringing together some of the beautifully crafted writing they had created.  




R-Words, hosted and conceived by Ross MacKay was next on our list. Tracing the spread of Ross’ idea to infect people with lines of poetry, this event saw Jim Mackintosh and Hugh MacMillan contribute their own poems and translations of some of the completed versions into Scots. Ross’ idea to disseminate poetry across the country started with ten first lines of poems passed from person to person mimicking a nation-wide game of word-based consequences. We were thrilled to see how far and wide these poems had travelled, from classrooms to living rooms and doorsteps, and to see the many diverging trains of thought they had inspired.


Poem 4. Written by the Citizen Collective Writing group, 2021. 

As an infant, she intuited that invisibility was a super power
She liked to hide between her fathers legs, in her mother’s nape, under the old kitchen table 
Granny got cross, Grandpa encouraged her and older cousins sighed
It wasn’t for malice, for hurt or distain that she hid
There was something deeper, something darker making her do it
But one day, it stopped working
Her tricks and fancies laid out for all to see
Like the old stage magicians whose sleeves have worn away
People started to notice her, she no longer fitted under the old kitchen table 
She hates it, she wants to hide, wants to just… disappear.


Hugh McMillan reads a poem created as part of the R-Words project by Susan, Vanessa, Charles, Twiggy, Iona, Tony, Conrad, Ian and Eric translated into Scots from his contribution to the project with the line; 'Here's a memory; orange and crimson.' 


Finally, we welcomed Stella Chan and Project Soothe onto our stage. For many, the lockdowns have been a source of anxiety and confusion. The uncertainty of past months has highlighted the importance and often neglected subject of mental health and the role it plays in our overall wellbeing. Stella was joined by a few members of Project Soothe Young Citizen Scientists from Broughton High School, George Watson College and Edinburgh College as they shared their contributions to help ease and destress their peers, ranging from sleep-pods to zines.  




With the start of the new school term, our Citizen Collective writing group is ready to get started, and we are delighted to welcoming our new Schools Writer in Residence, Ryan Van Winkle, to the Citizen programme. Ryan will be working with St Thomas of Aquin’s school as well as schools in North Edinburgh and Musselburgh.  This year we hope to expand our programme further through new partnerships with Streetreads and our Citizen Winter Warmer in November in the pipeline. Stay tuned for more updates...


Citizen is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and through the PLACE Programme (funded by the Scottish Government, City of Edinburgh Council, and the Edinburgh Festivals, and supported and administered by Creative Scotland).

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