CIYC: Emma Ralph

Emma Ralph discusses her Creative in your Community project.


The Creative In Your Community Award has allowed me to connect a group of strangers across Inverness, Glasgow and Aberdeen through creative prompts sent out in the post. The goal was to both connect to the present moment and to connect with others, through creative prompts, at this disconnected time. The finished work will be available as a small pamphlet/zine, with proceeds going to a mental health charity.

Reading through my initial proposal, I’ve realised how much my idea has changed. Working with Robbie Synge, with his experience involving other people in his work and his commitment to accessibility, was invaluable throughout the development process. He helped me to create a project that was more reflective of my ideas of engagement and mindfulness. Robbie also advised how to make the project more accessible and more practical to carry out in terms of coronavirus restrictions.

I sent out the call out for participants via social media and filled the 20 places on the project. I received emails from a wide range of people, some saying they had wanted to get back into making things after a long hiatus, one family who wanted to do the project together and some students wanted to connect to people outside of their flats. 5 people dropped out, either not filling out the consent form or not completing the project because of COVID or university deadlines. The others documented the sounds they heard; wrote all the thoughts in their head; took photos of their day; interviewed and drew a portrait of their neighbour; wrote a letter to a stranger and then sent it all back to me. Here are some examples of the work:

I am currently waiting on photos being developed, once they are sent back to me then I’ll be able to print the finished zine. Everyone who took part will receive the zine in the post alongside a handwritten note from a stranger.

Sometimes I have worried that the project is too small a scale for the amount of funding I have been given but I’m comforted by the fact that, if one person was able to feel more present or more inspired to strike up a conversation with someone new, then the project has been a success. I quite like the fact that the project has created a small community of strangers who have caught a glimpse of each other’s lives even though they will never be able to meet in person. The project has also allowed me to build a lovely relationship with the lady in the local post office, who has become quite invested in the project. Things like this feel like more adequate markers for success.

On a personal level, the funding has offered an opportunity for learning and development at a time where things could have quite easily fallen stagnant. I feel energised by the whole process and I’m already planning another collaborative and community generated project with an illustration student from Aberdeen. The mentorship has been a huge benefit to my process and I can now see changes in how I now approach a project, feeling more focused on the idea than the medium. Being able to take part in the Creative Conversations, even though I unfortunately missed the second zoom call, was a great opportunity. Hearing from the speakers was inspiring but hearing from creative peers was perhaps the most exciting. It was great to see all the creative potential that the Highlands has to offer.

I would like to thank HYAH for helping me to develop as a creative individual within my wider community. It has been a valuable experience that I will continue to learn from and I feel really grateful to have had the opportunity.