Wester Hailes Art Group
Wester Hailes Art Group comes together every couple of months for trips led by Edinburgh Art Festival Community Engagement, the group comprises of local residents associated with WHALEArts and people living in the South West of Edinburgh. The outings take into account the group's knowledge and interests in historic and modern art, and introduces them to contemporary art practice through exhibitions, meeting artists and specialists, and trying out new artistic techniques. As well as this the trips include appreciating the city's walking routes and green spaces and visiting other Scottish cultural destinations.
During lockdown and restrictions we've been staying in touch via email, and members from the group have got involved with remote art activities such as Stills Gallery's Elementary Blueprint, Grassmarket Community Projects and Greyfriars Kirk's Lockdown Bobby's and Edinburgh Art Festival's DIY Art home creativity kits.
Members of the group have also spent time reflecting on the trips, writing blog posts celebrating the artists and organisations we've come into contact with, which you can read below!
At present, we are paying close attention to Covid-19 Government restrictions on a monthly basis to see if it is possible for smaller groups to go on trips.
If you are associated with WHALEArts or live in the South West of Edinburgh and are looking to connect with people interested in the arts and would like to join the group, please get in touch by emailing -
Special thanks to the organisations and artists who have supported our trips to date.
Some of the group on our March 2020 trip to Holyrood Park.
Festival Programme - Canal boat, Alfredo Jaar, Nathan Coley at Parliament Hall, Hanna Tuulikki at Edinburgh Printmakers and Corin Sworn at ECA Sculpture Court
By Rose and Emily
This was our first ever trip - it was wonderful. Seeing new art and places and meeting so many people connected with WHALE Arts made me feel really inspired, it boosted me so much, it even made me restart my painting. It was a beautiful sunny day and for the first time, I and many of the group stepped on a canal boat which was exciting. We warmed up by starting with experimental drawing on the windows of the barge, creating lots of abstract shapes. The canal boat took us down to the Lochrin Basic where we got off to go to Edinburgh Printmakers, where we had our lunch and saw artist Hanna Tuulikki's exhibition 'Deer Dancer', exploring deer, dancing and mythology in culture. We also visited the printmaking workshops and were shown super interesting printmaking techniques - a really different experience, experimenting with making beautiful colours and printing them on paper. We then took the bus to artist Afredo Jaar's neon and walked up to Parliament Hall where the Scottish Parliament use to meet a long time ago to see Nathan Coley's commission for the festival called 'The Future is Inside Us, It’s not Somewhere Else'. The artist combined 19th century grand French wallpaper depicting North America imagined from the perspective of the old world of Europe with contemporary illuminated neon making you think about ideas related to utopia. Nowadays lawyers meet in Parliament Hall - it was amazing to understand the history and new use of the place. We finished the day by visiting artist Corin Sworn's exhibition at Edinburgh College of Art's Sculpture Court and having a glass of fizz and some cake at Ed Art Fest HQ at the French Institute!
The truth is this trip gave me the energy to be creative again, something which helps me through my grief and bad feelings. Now that lockdown is over, and restrictions have ead, I can't wait to go on more trips and try new techniques, which keeps me energised and inspired, finding imagery and doing my artwork - Chinese calligraphy, natural scenes and still life in ink and watercolour.
We started off with an amazing barge trip along the Union Canal from Calder to Fountainbridge. On the barge we indulged in arty activities collectively and on our own. Great fun!! We also enjoyed beverages and snacks on the trip. The sun was also shining!
We arrived at Edinburgh Printmakers where we were given a tour by our lovely host. We had our lunch in one of the many rooms there surrounded in interesting and beautiful pieces of art. We were then given a demonstration of some arty printing techniques in which we experimented with our own attempts to create something wonderful. So enjoyable.
Every trip with the Edinburgh Arts Festival is delightful a treat of surprises and activities. Not to be missed.
Bobby Niven's Palm House and Mud Oven
A good time was had - we started by getting organised with food and equipment for the day at Edinburgh Art Festival HQ and then walked up to the secret garden or what I know now to be Johnstone Terrace Garden where Bobby Niven's permanent social artwork is located. We made home cooked pizzas, baking them in the magnificent mud oven and we did some artwork in the Palm House, using the light and the glass to do printing with leaves, and we also made an animation using an iPhone.
Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Tramway and Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre
This was a big day out for us and involved a lot of travelling - getting a direct train to Glasgow Central and then trying to navigate our way round a city which none of us are particularly familiar with. I've only ever been to Glasgow once and found it really freeing to go to another city, and the people were so friendly! To pass the time we drew on the train - sketching what we could see out the window, capturing the speed of the train and brief moments of pause trying to capture the small stations - you could call it 'motion art'. Our first stop was the Whisky Bond where the Glasgow Sculpture Studios are located, where we met Kirsty the engagement manager and were introduced to the sculptural workshop facilities they have there - I it was amazing to see the tools, kilns and glazes that artists use. We also met artist Beth Shapeero who has a studio there, alongside lots of other contemporary artists. Beth showed us some different Indian ink-based techniques, where we could select our own brush to make interesting lines and patterns attempting to not take our brush off the page. Later on Alice from Edinburgh Art Festival put all are artworks together to make an interesting installation... a bit trippy... like Bridget Riley!
We then took the bus to Pollockshields East to Tramway - a very tranquil spot for viewing Zadie Xa's immersive film installation 'Child of Magohalmi and the Echoes of Creation' and then venturing into the Hidden Garden. We spent some time outdoor sketching - it was lovely to sketch by the chimney, taking in the shapes of the historic windows, the trees, and also the Eastern influences of the garden with the Sikh Gurdwara next door.
Then we moved onto the Trongate, visiting the brilliant Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre - what a unique way to end the day with industrial mechanical art - chiming cogs, flywheels, clocks, bells and propellers!
An Artisan Day Out at Arthur's Seat! - Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing at The Queen's Gallery and Holyrood Park
The thing that I really love about being in this group is that there is no pressure! You don't need to be able to draw! I was/am a complete beginner and I wouldn't miss this group for anything now. We had a wonderful arty day out just before lockdown, at The Queen's Gallery and Arthur's Seat, (Edinburgh's long extinct volcano site).
Before seeing the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the Queen's Gallery, we were treated to lovely tea and coffee with a choice of cakes at Holyrood Palace's Cafe At The Palace - ushered to our seats and served like kings and queens. After copious amounts of coffee and cakes we saw the amazing da Vinci exhibition which gave insight into his amazing life, art and drawings.
Afterwards, we met a Historic Environment Scotland Park Ranger, who came with us to our 'arty' spot and gave us a run down of some of the history of Arthur's Seat and Holyrood park. She came equipped with laminated photos of times gone by and some stories with the images.
We were treated to a rather large picnic/outdoor lunch which was wonderful, especially sitting outside among nature and the lovely sights. Nuts, crisps, sandwiches, strawberries, chocolate, vegetable snacks, all consumed in preparation for our art activity. A large sheet of paper roughly 8ft long was placed on the grass for everyone to put down their own interpretation of what we could see before our eyes. We had paint, charcoals, pencils etc. We collectively made a panorama of Edinburgh's favourite hill. Everything was an absolute delight and we snapped some photos to remember the occasion!
Peter Liversidge Flags for Edinburgh flag bearing, Arusha Gallery, Dovecot Gallery and Ruth Ewan and Tam Joseph posters
It was lovely to come together for the first time since lockdown, even if we were only able to be a much smaller group. It was a beautiful sunny day and we met outside Arusha Gallery on Dundas Street, the meeting point signalled through the waving of Peter Liversidge's Flags for Edinburgh 2020 - HELLO flag, which we enjoyed spotting all around the city as part of Edinburgh Art Festival's summer offering. At Arusha Gallery we saw the fab exhibition Bodily Objects, which showcased the work of radical feminist artists. I especially loved seeing Rose English's Quadrille film - the recording of a performance piece at Southampton Horse Show in 1975, in front of an audience who were there to watch the equestrian events - a comment on the fetishisation of women's bodies in society. We then moved onto Princes Street Gardens for our picnic where we were able to catch up with each other, and have a look at Peter Liversidge's HELLO Postcards - DIY Art creativity kit which the group took home with them. We then moved on to Dovecot Gallery to see Mid-Century Modern: Art & Design from Conran to Quant which included furniture, fashion, textiles, lighting, ceramics, and printed material which defined the interior design and style of post-War Britain. The retro textiles were amazing - patterns I'd love to have in my flat! Whilst we were there we also got to check out the Dazzle jewellery exhibition - an unexpected bonus of our visit, the group were in awe of the contemporary designs, unusual materials and intricacy of the pieces. It was also lovely to be able to see a weaver in action in the tapestry workshop as well to top it off! We finished up our day by walking towards the Meadows, on the way we saw artist Ruth Ewan's poster work Sympathetic Magick, which had had an interesting intervention placed on front of it by a member of the public - a fly poster about the plight of refugees, which felt apt in relation to the poster's socialist proclamation. The day was rounded off at artist Tam Joseph's poster The Handmade Map of the World, where we and lots of other visitors attempted to take in the artist's absurd switching of names of countries, and what boundaries between nations mean for humans. A great day out, and I hope many more are to come!
A creative day out at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh - watercolour technique with artist Sarah Knox and introduction to Climate House
By Mary and Eoghan
What a wonderful opportunity to learn a new subject, art - painting in the hallowed grounds of Botanic Gardens under the directorship of 2 wonderful people - Sarah Knox, a watercolourist and painter, and Holly, the Edinburgh Art Festival community engagement manager. It was Holly who organised the trip, taking a group of us from Wester Hailes on a cultural, arty, crafty outing to the Botanics. I can't think of 2 more suitable people to accompany and guide us on this trip. We arrived there on an autumnal September day with the Botanics bathed in sunshine and warmth.
The whole scene was set up for us when we arrived with paint brushes, sticks, watercolour palettes, palette knifes and boards between park benches in a quiet vista of the gardens between rows of trees bearing fruit and apples, interspersed with plots of delicate flowers, heads held high in lilacs, crimson and yellow reaching up to a clear blue sky almost taking one's breath away. We learnt to paint with various implements, flat brushes, round brushes, sticks, pen and ink - all creating a kind of sepia print to produce various depths of lines, shades and thickness to create a 2 or 3 dimensional result - apiece of nature- a tree, a flower a scene. We did much more of course, visited Inverleith House, where Natalie and Gabi from RBGE Creative gave a talk about their current initiative Climate House, we also saw a female Artist at work painting with oil colours with a knife. We rounded off our trip by visiting a gallery of artists work called 'Think Plastic', concentrated on, the much maligned materials such as plastics which were re-made into various artifacts, jewellery etc.
For just one Day, all seemed to be right with the World after experiencing a little bit of Paradise, thanks to the generosity of not 1 but 2 great artists who approached this vast subject from different perspectives.
A visit to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is always a delight. However, this can often be even further enhanced when there is an associated artistic adventure in mind. That is what happened when we met up there with Holly from Edinburgh Art Festival and landscape painter Sarah Knox, who had kindly agreed to run an art workshop for our group based on inspiration gained from being in the gardens. We enjoyed a series of ink and watercolour exercises, including a quick "warm up" session where drawings were attempted of nearby objects without looking down at the paper. After some quick handy hints from Sarah, the ink and watercolour paintings involved each participant selecting a nearby object and using these as their subject matter. Colourful flowers and trees with lovely bright red apples proved particularly popular here, and I used my time responding with poetry. What also became clear was that despite some protestations to the contrary on the part of a painter or two, there were quite a few very impressive end results here indeed!
A quick picnic lunch followed during unexpected lovely weather and it was then a short pleasant stroll over to nearby Inverleith House, which although currently closed, served as a great backdrop for what proved to be a very interesting outside and suitably socially distanced presentation by Gabi and Natalie who both work for the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens in a creative capacity. They updated us on a major new project that the Botanic Gardens are embarking upon whereby the arts, in all their forms, are to be combined with ecological matters to help increase awareness and action on imminently critical climate change issues. As part of this, Inverleith House has been renamed Climate House and many relevant exhibitions and other events are planned. Excitingly for us, we were delighted to also learn that much closer working with areas such as Wester Hailes is to be encouraged and several examples of future joint working and ideas and information sharing possibilities were discussed, some of which will hopefully come to fruition in the not too distant future. Some of this has in fact already started to happen through the production of several poems based on the visit by some of the participants using their paintings and other imagery from the day.
Finally there was a quick look round the current 'Think Plastic' exhibition there which had an interesting mix of factual and artistic details. Then all off home after what was collectively agreed as a fantastically productive day for all concerned and everyone is now looking forward both to the next such visit, and what emerges from our Climate House/ Wester Hailes discussions on the day.