Kelly Donaldson: This festival has got creativity down to a fine art

No matter what age you are, the onset of autumn will always have that '˜back to school' feel. Not least because the vast majority of groups and classes we engage with as adults also start back up around this time after a ­summer hiatus.

Playhouse Swing in Glasgow part of Voluntary Arts Festival now Get Creative Festival

Across Scotland, volunteers and organisers are busy opening up community spaces for lets, dusting off materials, taking in subs and ­getting ready for another exciting term of activity. It’s during these coming months that Voluntary Arts Scotland reaches out to groups, venues, local authorities, libraries and ­creative networks to encourage ­everyone to put the Get Creative Festival into their plans for next year.

Run by Voluntary Arts, in close partnership with the BBC and other creative organisations, Get ­Creative shines a spotlight on the incredibly diverse activity that takes place week-in, week-out across the UK.

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It’s an opportunity for drama groups to fling open their door and invite newcomers to watch a rehearsal, for craft groups to run a ‘come and try’ session, for painting classes to hold exhibitions – and much, much more.

For groups, it’s a chance to attract new members or audiences. For ­venues it’s a chance to engage with their local communities. For the ­public it’s a chance to try something different and discover a new (or long forgotten) passion.

For policy-makers, politicians and funders, it’s a reminder of just what a vibrant ­voluntary arts sector we have – and the essential part it plays in bringing people together, tackling isolation, raising skills, easing stress and, lest we forget, having fun.

Taking place from 11-19 May next year, we anticipate the Get Creative Festival to be the biggest yet.

Events take place in a wide range of ­venues, from community centres to pubs, theatres to public parks – and work best when people and organisations pool their resources, energy and enthusiasm.

The impact that working towards a common goal has on ­people is ­palpable – but so too is the way their efforts reach out into the community.

In 2017, two knitters in Musselburgh decided to ‘craft bomb’ their local area – and by the time the project took place, more than 70 local people had come onboard, creating and donating colourful items to decorate trees, railings and benches in their local park.

“It was just phenomenal the way it took off,” said Gaynor Allen of the Riding of the Marches Craftbomb group. “It was great to see the smiles on people’s faces when they saw it. We were told that it made their day, and that every time they walked past it made them happy.”

Voluntary Arts Scotland has a range of free resources to help groups take part in Get Creative 2019 – all accessible from our website – and when the time comes, we’ll be helping to publicise events across Scotland on our Get Creative Map. We can also help venues and larger organisations who would like to team up with a local group, and offer tips and advice on ways to get involved.

The Get Creative Festival may be eight months away, but now is the time for groups to start talking and planning how they could take part, and perhaps start applying for small pots of funding to ­support their event.

Feedback from previous festivals shows there is an appetite for groups to feel part of something bigger, to attract new participants and ­audiences, and connect with sources of support in their local area – the Get Creative Festival can do all that and more.

If your group would like to get involved in this special 10-day event, or if you work with a local authority, venue or support organisation, and would like to facilitate ­creativity in your area, contact us on [email protected] and we’ll point you in the right direction.

Everyone else, put a creative date in your diary to try something new next May.

Kelly Donaldson, communications manager, Voluntary Arts Scotland.