North Lanarkshire young people dip into canalside history through digital art

Fri 02nd November 2018

In Coatbridge, young people are working with Impact Arts as part of a unique new project mixing digital art, employability skills and the heritage of North Lanarkshire’s Monkland Canal.

Fifteen unemployed young people aged 16-25 are working at Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life with artists Emmett McSheffrey and Sarah Hill as part of the Creative Waterways project.

Working in an environment steeped in history of life by the canal, the group will be dabbling in photography, filmmaking, animation and sound design, working towards designing an exhibition and canalside light show for Thursday 13th December 2018.

In the meantime they will be getting support from Impact Arts employability staff to work out what they would like to do after the programme, whether in employment, education or further training.

In the opening weeks of the project, the tutors have been encouraging the young people to throw themselves into creative tasks and get rid of the anxiety that can be involved in first putting pen to paper.

Timed drawing activities using chalk, felt pen, pencils and silhouettes were a quick way of getting the group expressing their own unique styles, getting the creative juices flowing and breaking down that initial hesitation.

The team were also introduced to the digital component of the course through workshops in Miksang photography, a form of contemplative photography emphasising an open way of seeing the world.

The weather and surroundings at Summerlee really lent themselves to this exercise, as the group spent a morning in the Autumn sunshine looking for colour, pattern, light, shadow and interesting juxtapositions.

Many participants were using a DSLR camera for the first time, and this was an opportunity to get used to its feel and function as well as getting them thinking visually about the world around them.

Scottish Waterways Trust are funding and supporting the Creative Waterways programme, and Claire from SWT also treated the young people to a workshop by the canal.

The group dipped nets into the Monkland canal to sample the wildlife living just beneath the surface, before identifying the creatures they found using a pictorial chart. The group discovered more than ten creatures and from this could tell that the water – if a bit smelly – was very clean.

“I think we’ve done the best because we’ve found the most creatures,” said participant Nina. “We need to come back next year to see what some of them have grown into.”

The programme will be continuing with further research into the history of the area and developing photography workshops. Much more to come as the group build towards the big exhibition in December!

Creative Waterways is funded by Scottish Waterways Trust, YouthLink Scotland, the Big Lottery Fund’s Our Bright Future initiative, Bairdwatson Charitable Trust, CashBack for Communities and the Scottish Government.

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