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.  As well as this members of the group have spent time reflecting on the great trips we've been on, which you can read and see images of 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 learning@edinburghartfestival.com.

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.

August 2019

Festival offering - Canal boat, Nathan Coley at Parliament Hall and Hanna Tuulikki at Edinburgh Printmakers 

By Rose 

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. We then moved on 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. Then we went to Edinburgh Printmakers to see Hanna Tuulikki's exhibition 'Deer Dancer' exploring deer, dancing and mythology in culture. We finished up by being shown printmaking techniques which was super interesting - a really different experience, experimenting with making beautiful colours and printing them on paper. The truth is this trip gave me the energy to be creative again - art helping me through my grief and bad feelings. Now that lockdown is over, and restrictions have eased, 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.

Bobby Niven's Palm House and Mud Oven

By Simon

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.

December 2019

Glasgow Sculpture Studios, Tramway and Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre

By Norman 


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!   

March 2020

An Artisan Day Out at Arthur's Seat! - Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing at The Queen's Gallery and Holyrood Park

By Emily 

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!

August 2020

Peter Liversidge Flags for Edinburgh flag bearing, Arusha Gallery, Dovecot Gallery and Ruth Ewan and Tam Joseph posters

Blog post coming soon...

September 2020

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.

Contact Edinburgh Art Festival Community Engagement:

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