The Keys to Our Lives – a Citizen Podcast

Poems, reflections and stories from Musselburgh

We hear from our Musselburgh Citizen writing group, and members of Musselburgh’s local People First (Scotland) group. They talk about their life experiences and respond to the prompt of ‘keys’ through poetry and conversation.

Before lockdown started, Eleanor Thom, our Communities Writer in Residence, created this podcast with participants from our Citizen writing group, and People First (Scotland), two local groups both based in Musselburgh.

Although all living in the same coastal East Lothian town, the two groups never met. The podcast, which weaves in discussion and poetry, brings the participants together. Listening to the different voices, we realise that keys are in fact deeply personal objects which can unlock so much more than physical doors. They tell us stories about our lives.

For members of People First’s local Musselburgh group, keys speak directly to one of the organisation’s aims: to advocate for people with learning disabilities to choose where they live, and who they live with. People First is a user-led organisation for adults with learning disabilities. The Musselburgh group usually meets every month, when they share advice, socialise and talk about issues that are important to them. For the group’s participants, having their own set of keys, and the sense of independence that goes with that, is highly significant.

A drawing of a mortice lock key coloured in blue and red by a People First (Scotland) participant on a white paper background

Our Musselburgh Citizen writing group had been meeting regularly at The Brunton Theatre, and keys are just one of the many prompts they have used for writing and discussion. We are grateful to Jeffrey Kemp, David Forbes, Karen Austin, Julia Graves, Jane Murray and Lannah Battley for sharing their writing on this podcast.

Since lockdown began, we’ve all been spending most of our time at home. While you’re listening to the podcast, why not take a moment to look at your own bunch of keys. What clues do they tell you about your life and your personality? What memories do they unlock? Some of us carry keys with us every day that we barely ever use, and we might have even forgotten what they unlock. Decorative keyrings can remind us of treasured places or old friends.

As a starting point, try describing your keys. Are they heavy, shiny, rusty or new? From there you might like to try and write your own poem, using the writing in the podcast for inspiration.

If you want to send your responses to us, you can email with your work. It could be a poem, a short story, or perhaps you would like to send us a photo, a voice recording, or a drawing? We’d love to see how you might take the theme in different directions.

Citizen is part of Edinburgh International Book Festival On The Road, and 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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