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Community musician & Clore Fellow Kathleen Turner on her time with Impact Arts

Kathleen Turner is a singer-songwriter, community musician and researcher. She is Course Director and Lecturer on the MA Community Music at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance - the centre for excellence in music and dance performance and research based at the University of Limerick.

Kathleen is part of the Clore Leadership programme, and we have been privileged to have her at Impact Arts as part of her secondment for Clore. As she comes to the end of her placement, we spoke to Kathleen about her time with Impact Arts, her work on Craft Café and Young Gallery, and what she will take away from it all.

How was your overall experience working with Craft Café in Govan?

Working in Craft Cafe has been a real highlight for me, not only of my time with Impact Arts but also of my time in Clore overall. The atmosphere there is incredibly welcoming, and the community there have a powerful sense of friendship and support. I've learned a lot from the way the Impact Arts leaders, Charlotte and Quinn, have so much time and patience with every individual. The community members are really passionate about art and the role the cafe plays in their lives - it's a beautiful programme.


What do you think was special or different in the music sessions to the the more visual/craft side of things?

We spent time talking to the community at Craft Cafe about what they'd like the singing sessions to be. I'm so glad we did that because it meant the music sat very well as part of the usual weekly set-up.

We kept it very informal and open, so anyone could join in at any time and knew there was no pressure. I think the addition music brings is a sense of collective joy - when you sing in a group, you can create a positive atmosphere and that was something that could impact everyone in the room, even if they chose not to join in the singing itself.


Are there any particularly memorable moments?

The members of Craft Cafe are fantastic people - such great artists and so kind and generous with their time. They shared so many stories with me, about their lives in Glasgow, working and growing up here. They've told me stories about traveling around the world, living through the war, stories about their families, working in factories, and hospitals and schools.

I've really been invited to be part of their lives while I've been here - that's a privilege.

In terms of memorable moments, I think I'll properly treasure my first ever painting. On my first day at Craft Cafe, a table of ladies took me under their wing when they discovered I hadn't painted since school. That canvas will be sitting proudly on my wall at home.


How was working in the Primary Schools? What was the purpose of the workshops, and what did you do?

I had such a gorgeous time working with P1s and 2s in Haghill Primary and St Denis's. We had six weeks of singing songs from around the world and visited Ghana, Jamaica, India, America and Poland. The purpose of the workshops was to explore different cultures and languages, and to see just how much we could do while only using our voices. It's a very simple format. The children and the teachers have been really welcoming - I love how immediately that age group will let you know when you're worthy of their trust. I remember around week 3 I arrived at one school as the kids were coming in from the playground. Every one of them stopped at the door to give me some news or show me their toys or show off their new shoes! It's very special to be invited into their community like that.

Both schools were really engaged and obviously come from a school culture where the arts are valued. They sing out and try really hard to master all the new words and melodies - fantastic work from both the classes. Their teachers and head teachers are really supportive and that makes all the difference.


How has your overall experience been with Impact Arts?

Impact Arts has been a really key part of my year as a Clore Fellow. While I've been here, I've had the chance to see so many different elements at work. As an organisation, there's a powerful sense of shared ethos here. Everyone I've met, whether it's a member of Craft Cafe, a young artist in Creative Pathways, or a member of the administrative team - everyone passionately believes in the impact that art-making and art-accessing can make in our everyday lives.

It's a testament to how important people are in the success of an organisation - the team here are passionate and also really highly skilled and knowledgable. It's been inspiring, and I've also gained a lot of skills that I'll be bringing home to put to work in my own job.


How do you hope Impact Arts take forward the work you have been doing?

There's been a really positive response to singing, so I hope that music becomes a more long-term feature of Craft Cafe and Young Gallery. There are so many avenues to explore and hopefully we'll keep in contact so I can be part of that conversation if I can help.


How do you think your time here will influence your own career?

I've learned the importance of conversation here - there's such a high level of consultation and care in each of the projects and a strong sense of trust in the local community. I think that comes from taking the time to have meaningful conversations, so people can truly direct the shape their art takes and have a genuine sense of ownership and agency. For me, that indicates true excellence in community work, and I'll be taking that learning back with me for my students at home, but also for my own practice as a community musician. I've also learned a lot about new methods of project documentation and evaluation. Impact Arts has a strong sense of care and legacy around the stories of their projects and communities - again, I'll be taking those frameworks home and trying to put them into practice.


The MA Community Music at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance - of which Kathleen is Course Director - has a scholarship for community musicians for UK or Ireland aged under 25. Find more information here.


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