Flourish – Spring Into Summer

HOB Primary 5/6 & 6, Throughout May

The first term of Flourish began when two classes from Hill Of Banchory primary school visited me in May.  I worked with them once a week for four weeks using the garden as inspiration.  They had time to explore (charging around a wild garden does wonders for the imagination!) and wrote about what they found, paying particular attention to what they could see, hear, smell and touch.  They also used the words I have hung around the garden to create found poems and completed seed sentences about the elements, and the plants growing in the garden. This writing culminated in the creation of two group poems – one from each class which they read out in the garden and I recorded for the project’s archive.


Introduction to Words For Wellbeing at Number One, 10th May

During the first week I also facilitated an introductory Words For Wellbeing workshop at Number One in Scott Skinner’s Square – a new community hub for Banchory and the surrounding area.  This was held as part of the Aberdeenshire Wellbeing Festival.

Feedback from one of the participants:

“Enjoyed it very much as someone ‘new’ to creative writing.  Manageable and supportive.”


Garden Party, 13th May

Over a hundred people came to the garden party held at the end of the first week.  All were invited to go on a word search to find over eighty words hidden around.  These took the form of acrylic words hung in trees, scrabble words attached to or hidden in other objects, multi-coloured words cut from foam and words hand-painted onto stones.  Words were hidden on the ground, mid-height and just above head height – I wanted people to have to look up, down, and all around them to find the words and to take in the full wonder of the garden itself.

Everyone was invited to then write a poem with their found words and contribute it to the Flourish book.  A wonderful variety of poems were written in, including some art work – a very fitting launch for the project as a whole.

PechaKucha Health and Wellbeing Event at The Belmont Cinema, 18th May

Linzy McAvoy, Learning and Education Officer at The Barn, and I were invited to present at this event run by the Arts and Health Network, Scotland.  The evening was a celebration of the role of creativity in health and wellbeing emphasising the positive impact of the arts on humanity.

A PechaKucha presentation requires you to talk about 20 slides for 20 seconds each.  This results in a fast-paced, visually driven presentation lasting a total of 6 minutes 40 seconds.  It turned out to be a little nerve-wracking, 20 seconds was shorter than I thought, but ultimately a satisfying experience of detailing the conception of the Flourish project, its launch and our plans for its year-long run.


Wild Words, Throughout June

The Wild Words group ran for four weeks during June.  We spent roughly half our time writing and sharing words in the garden with the other half in the Lang Byre when the weather became inhospitable.  The group camaraderie grew quickly and this enabled a safe, trusting environment for people to express their writing voice and have it heard.  The main focus was free writing and how this enables us to look at and understand our thoughts and feelings better.  However, we also used the twenty-three words as inspiration for found poems and played with Haiku and Pantoum forms.  We wrote a group poem together which has been recorded and will be shared on Sound Cloud in the near future.



Labyrinth Walk at Banchory River Festival, 10th June 

Janis Wemyss, my fellow labyrinth facilitator, and I took the morning to lay a 42-foot classical labyrinth out of 200 feet of rope in Bellfield Park as part of this local festival.  It was then open for walking, running, skipping and dancing for the afternoon.  There were more opportunities to try out found poetry techniques and a further invitation to contribute poems to the Flourish book.

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The garden continues to bloom and I am now on holiday during the kid’s school break.  The twenty-three words remain in the garden and the found poetry writing prompt can be picked up from The Barn’s office or downloaded from the website to be used at anytime using this link:


Consider yourself invited to come and write and please share you writing by posting it in the Flourish post-box to add your own words to our ‘flourishing’ archive.


Happy Summer!

Master Classes with Brigid Collins


Myself and Brigid in her studio in Edinburgh.

As part of my Flourish residency in The Wild Garden at The Barn, I secured funding from the Visual Artists and Craft Makers Award (VACMA) provided by Aberdeenshire Council and Creative Scotland. It was this funding which enabled me to travel to Edinburgh last week for a set of three 1:1 master classes with artist, Brigid Collins.

At the information event I attended before applying for the funding we were told to think big – to apply for something that would really stretch us as artists to develop our practice.

I had previously been to two of Brigid’s workshops – one in 2013 at The Claremount Gallery in Aberdeen entitled ‘Poem Houses’ and one in 2015 at The Gordon Highlander’s Museum in Aberdeen entitled ‘Book Objects’.  Brigid is a multi-disciplinary artist but one element of her work involves combining poetry and art.  She creates intricate sculptural art works in response to other people’s poetry which she calls ‘Poem Houses’.  (You can find out more about Brigid’s work via her website: www.brigidcollins.co.uk)  My work goes the opposite way – I create poems and then develop them further by adding an artistic element to them.  At her second workshop we had discussed how much we both enjoy combining these two creative elements and that’s how I knew immediately that she was the artist I wanted to learn more from when I was asked to ‘think big’.

Curiosity ER

The Poetry House I made at Brigid’s first workshop in 2013.

I had three 2 hour master classes with Brigid over three days and additional non-teaching hours in her studio to further play and experiment with what I had learned.

We focused on folded books to begin with and two different types in particular – a ‘Squidgy O’ book and ‘The Massacred Trousers’ book – both excellent poetic names in their own right!  After practising how to fold and cut these, we then moved on to considering how to utilise these forms to create a container for my words.

I chose to work with the twenty-three words I have hung around the The Wild Garden as a found poetry prompt for Flourish.


These acrylic words will remain in the garden certainly until the end of June but possibly longer, as a creative writing prompt that anyone can come into the garden and write in response to at any time.

I have two further masterclasses organised with Brigid for later in the year. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting into my own studio (a.k.a the dining room table) to work on developing what she has taught me throughout the summer months.



My folded book and the materials to finish it, ready to take home.