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Festival of Creative Learning 2019

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Updated: 1 hour 6 min ago

Walking with James Hutton through Time

March 7, 2019 - 18:25

2019 Festival of Creative Learning Event

© Mihaela Bodlovic 2019 Festival of Creative Learning

James Hutton (1726-1797) is one of Edinburgh’s great thinkers, and his insights have changed forever how we think about the world. Our walks in the 2019 Festival of Creative Learning followed in Hutton’s footsteps, through the streets that he called home, and allowed us to reflect on the passing of time: the time since Hutton lived here, the time that it has taken Edinburgh’s landscape to form, and the time we spend in Edinburgh.

© Mihaela Bodlovic 2019 Festival of Creative Learning

We visited the site of James Hutton’s house at St John’s Hill, where he spent the last three decades of his life, and the place where he died in 1797. The exact spot is now a memorial garden, created by the University of Edinburgh and other organisations. The garden includes several boulders that illustrate Hutton’s ideas about the natural processes that have shaped Scotland. There is a boulder of conglomerate, containing rounded pebbles that could have come from a beach or river today, but are actually 400 million years old. And a boulder of metamorphic rock from Glen Tilt, with cross-cutting veins of granite, demonstrating Hutton’s understanding that granite is an igneous rock, formed by cooling of liquid magma deep underground. You can find out more about the Hutton Memorial Garden here.

© Mihaela Bodlovic 2019 Festival of Creative Learning

Hutton’s great insight into how the world works, drawn from decades of thought and investigations around Scotland, was that the planet is shaped by slow, natural processes that operate on unimaginable timescales. And that these processes have not stopped: “the chain of physical events connected with the present state of things, sees great changes that have been made, and foresees a different state that must follow in time, from the continued operation of that which actually is in nature…”. Standing on the grass below Salisbury Crags, next to one of the boulders that has plunged down the steep slope in the last few years, we can glimpse the slow evolution of Edinburgh’s landscape and a “different state that must follow in time”. Edinburgh may have a big impact on us, but our individual impact on this landscape and this city is pretty insignificant – these crumbling hills will still be here long after we’ve gone!

© Mihaela Bodlovic 2019 Festival of Creative Learning

Angus Miller, Centre for Open Learning

Listening with Your Eyes Interactive Drama Workshop

February 28, 2019 - 16:14

Being playful and experiencing joy are part of being human, but often not what comes to mind when living with dementia. ‘Listening with Your Eyes’, a workshop delivered by Nik Howden from Vamos Theatre Company, which ran as part of the Festival of Creative Learning 2019, challenged this mindset.

Festival of Creative Learning Flyers
© Mihaela Bodlovic 2019 Festival of Creative Learning

Through a series of exercises, carried out in a reflective and whimsical way, we learnt to pay attention to the way that communication and connection with another person depends on so much more than words, and to think about how that feels: the sense of loneliness and boredom that comes when another person avoids eye contact; how the touch of only a fingertip can build a relationship of trust as we are being guided along an unfamiliar path; how so much meaning is held in the tone of our voice.

As a group we were invited to let down our guard and open ourselves up to one another, as without this we cannot be playful. We tuned into each other’s movements and danced with strangers. This touched something in us which, in the busyness of life, can remain dormant: the silent dancing provoked spontaneous applause. It was simple and yet it was profound because each of us knows that we have a fundamental human need to connect with others and to be held in relationship.

For people with dementia this can be so difficult in our hypercognitive culture which puts such as high value on words.  But we are so much more than our words. This workshop helped us to slow down, to notice, and to be present. In the UK there are 850,000 people living with dementia, 39% of whom live in care homes, places that many people fear they will spend their final years. The artist Camille Pissarro said ‘Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing’. Care homes are humble places yet beauty can be found there if we care to look.

One workshop participant said that the thing she was going to do after the workshop was go and see her grandmother – she felt more able to do this. One of the best things about the workshop was the range of people it attracted. There were people from care homes, student nurses, medical students – all of whom already work with people with dementia. What was especially encouraging were those who came along who don’t work with people living with dementia but know them in their communities and their families and recognise the value of holding them in relationship, living well together.

In the absence of a cure for dementia, or indeed old age, it is compassionate communities which foster hope. (Re) discovering the precious art of ‘listening with your eyes’ is a step towards establishing compassionate communities and seeing beauty in humble places.

Dr Julie Watson

Edinburgh Centre for Research on the Experience of Dementia/Nursing Studies

Should we stay or should we go? A Tale of Five Referendums

February 25, 2019 - 15:30

Dr Coree Brown Swan 

Teaching Fellow, Centre for Open Learning 

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre on Constitutional Change 

The past four decades of UK and Scottish politics can be analysed with reference to five referendums – two determining the UK’s place in Europe, with three more determining Scotland’s (and in 1979 and 1997 Wales’) place within the United Kingdom. With further referendums, whether on EU membership or on Scottish independence considered likely, it seems appropriate to consider these referendums, placing them in historical context and considering common threads and arguments. We do so with reference to materials from the Scottish Political Archive, a wonderful online resource. 

In this Festival of Creative Learning session, we examined materials from each of these referendums, analysing them for common themes and arguments, and looking at how the campaign strategies and messages have changed over time. These observations contributed to a broader debate and discussion of political campaigning and strategy, and the role of referendums in making big constitutional decisions. 

Referendum One: EEC Membership 

In 1975, voters were asked ‘Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?’, which the UK joined only 2 years earlier. The campaigns focused on economic issues, including food prices, trade relationships, and jobs, parliamentary sovereignty, and national identity.


A brochure from the campaign to remain within the EEC argued that ‘Membership of the Common Market also imposes new rights and duties on Britain, but does not deprive us of our national identity. To say that membership could force Britain to eat Euro-bread or drink Euro-beer is nonsense’.


Those who campaigned against the EEC challenged these claims, asking ‘Is Great Britain to be a Great Nation, or merely a province of the EEC?’ They warned of the loss of sovereignty and barriers to trade with Commonwealth partners. Participants pointed out that many of the arguments would be familiar to keen observers of the 2016 Brexit debate, which points to the ongoing relevance of the European question in UK politics. 

Referendum Two: Devolution 

Just four years later, voters in Scotland and Wales were faced with another choice – on the introduction of devolved assemblies. The Scottish Assembly would have competences over education, environment, health, home affairs, legal matters, and social services, many policy areas that fell under the domain of the Secretary of State for Scotland. Proponents of devolution argued an assembly would improve Scottish representation and improve policy as well as see off the threat posed by the SNP.


In contrast, opponents warned of the dangers of a Scottish Assembly – of conflict, indecision, taxation, loss of power at Westminster, and the potential break-up of Britain.

The parties themselves were divided – with the SNP debating whether the assembly would serve as an obstacle or a stepping stone to their goal of independence. A majority voted in favour of devolution but the result fell short of the additional threshold introduced. 

Referendum Three: Devolution 

Although the 1979 referendum was unsuccessful, the 1980s saw civil society mobilization around issues of devolution. This included the Claim of Right and Campaign for a Scottish Assembly. In 1997, with the return of Labour to power at Westminster, referendums were held in Scotland and Wales on devolution. In Scotland, the campaign mobilised around Scotland Forward, bringing together Labour, the SNP, and the Liberal Democrats, with only the Conservatives opposing.


Opponents warned of increased taxation and the risk to the Union, by encouraging conflict between Edinburgh and London. Workshop participants noted the similarity in the arguments in the two devolution debates and in the independence referendum. 

Referendum Four: Scottish Independence 

In 2014, voters in Scotland were asked ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ The campaigns coalesced around Yes Scotland and Better Together. The debate was characterised by competing knowledge claims – currency, the economics of an independent Scotland, and EU membership. The campaign in favour of remaining within the UK focused its arguments on the benefits of union and the uncertainty of independence.

Yes Scotland emphasised a message of hope, for the present day and for future generations.

We also went beyond print media to analyse the Better Together video targeted at women who were undecided. In 2014, a majority of voters in Scotland opted to remain within the UK but Scottish independence remains a live issue. 

Referendum Five: EU Membership 

The Brexit referendum debate featured a plurality of voices and messages and competing knowledge claims about budgetary contributions, jobs, migration, and policy choices.


Participants engaged with the printed materials but also discussed reports of micro-targeting of campaigns and what impact this may have had on perceptions. They also contrasted the efficacy of the Better Together campaign in 2014 with that of the remain campaign in 2016, concluding that the 2014 messaging was more effective. 

Referendum Mania? 

Ultimately, participants seemed to identify the challenges of referendums, which reduce very complex issues to a binary choice, but concluded that they were necessary in certain areas. Participants raised the prospect of further referendums – a second referendum on independence, brought about by the ‘material change of circumstances’ outlined in the SNP’s 2016 manifesto or a People’s Vote, a vote on the final Brexit deal and brainstormed what messages and arguments they would employ if they were leading these campaigns. 

Dr Coree Brown Swan is a teaching fellow at the Centre for Open Learning and a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre on Constitutional Change. She tweets about all things politics at @Coree_Brown.

The Legal History of Medieval Fife

February 15, 2019 - 14:38

Book tickets for this event here.

This event will take you back in time to Medieval Fife, where we will be visiting several locations of historical legal interest. Central to this visit to Fife will be the case of the Culdees of St Serf’s Inch, Loch Leven v. Sir Robert de Beaune (Lochore), which took place sometime between 1124 and 1130.

It was last year that the idea for this excursion came into existence. While taking the course “Lords and Vassals in Medieval Scotland,” some of the reading material involved land grants made by the Scottish King in Fife. While looking at maps and photos, one could not help but notice that Fife is quite close to Edinburgh. It was thus that the plan came into being to organize a trip to have a look at some of the locations that had been read about in manuscripts. Sadly, this planned excursion never took place due to insufficient time for the necessary organisation. Therefore, we are very happy to have the excursion take place during this year’s Festival of Creative Learning.

Fife may very well have been the first earldom to have been held feudally by the kings of Scots after the accession of David I in 1124. Anglo-French knights who followed David to Scotland settled in Fife, and Sir Robert de Beaune was probably one of these. The grants of land David made to these knights were paid for by their providing mounted and armoured service to the king. This came to be the essence of feudalism in Scotland, and the basis for Scottish land law as it developed in the subsequent centuries.

Photo of Ruined Castle

The case central to our visit – the Culdees of St Serf’s Inch, Loch Leven v.Sir Robert de Beaune (Lochore) (1124×1130) – concerns land held by monks, or “culdees” (keledei, servants of God), who had their monastery on an island in Loch Leven. Besides the island, the monks also held some land on the lochside, including Kirkness, granted to them by the Scots king and queen Macbeth and Gruoch in the mid-eleventh century. To the south of Kirnkess is Loch Ore. On the isolated mound near the loch’s north-east one can still see standing a ruinous castle (above). This was probably the caput(head place) of the knight’s fee of Lochore that King David had granted to Sir Robert de Beaune. The dispute with the culdees concerned a fourth, or a quarter, of the lands of Kirkness.  Now Sir Robert was laying claim to some of it, to the culdees’ great indignation; but we can only speculate as to why Sir Robert thought he was entitled to act in this way. Looking at the site may give us some clues.

Other interesting historical locations and artefacts that we shall be having a look at are the Cross Macduff, where something of a sanctuary was offered to killers related to the Earl of Fife, and Markinch, the ancient capital of the Earls.

Photo of Cross MacduffCross Macduff

‘Hand-Made Archives’ at School of Scottish Studies Archives

February 4, 2019 - 13:46

Monday 18 February 09:45-16:00

Our event focuses on the traditional hand-craft of making “cleekit gloves”. 

Photo of cleekit gloves

You may be asking, what on earth are cleekit gloves? That was the very question I asked when I found a collection of letters at The School of Scottish Studies Archives (SSSA), last year. 

The collection consists of 15 letters (ref. Subject box DII: Costume) and are from members of the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute (SWRI) to the editor of Scottish Home and Country Magazine. They are in response to an article, from January 1959, seeking information on this craft. 

Scottish Home and Country was the official magazine for the SWRI and as well as connecting members and events, it used to focus on crafts, patterns, recipes and local areas of Scotland. 

We were unsure as to why our archives had come to have the letters, but to my own craft-loving eyes they were a treasure indeed. 

Along with the letters was a copy of the original article which described the craft and had a call to action for more information. It appears that cleekit gloves was acraft predominately practiced by male farm workers in 19th century Scotland, made by way of a hand-made flat hook with a tiny head, which created the dense, but elastic fabric. This craft was seen as distinct from knitting or crochet. In the letters the respondents, from all over Scotland, talked of the craft being handed on by male members of the family. 

Despite a small resurgence in interest in cleeking, thanks to the response to that article, it is something that has now been relegated to the mists of crafts past. We aim to rectify that a little this Creative Learning Week!  

At the ‘Hand-Made Archives’ event I will be delivering a talk on this collection of letters; you will be able to explore the archives yourself to find evidence of craft in our sound, photographic, video and manuscript collections; and in the afternoon we will have a cleeking workshop, led by Dr Alison Mayne. You do not have to have any craft experience to take part, this is all about having a go.

Oral transmission and handing on was such an important part of passing on the cleeking tradition and by taking part in this special day at SSSA, you will be able to give this collection of paper material three dimensions and be able to engage with our archive collections in a very tangible way indeed.

Our event is free, but booking is essential. The event will be available to book through the Festival of Creative Learning Eventbrite page from Monday 21 January. This event is currently fully booked, but please add your name to the waiting list on the Eventbrite page via the waiting list button. If a place becomes available we will contact you, but this will also help us gauge interest in running the event again. 

All craft materials, refreshments and lunch will be provided. 

If you have any questions please contact, Louise Scollay on 0131 650 4163 or email

Louise Scollay, Archives and Library Assistant

The Art of Secret Messages – Practical, Analogue Information Security

February 1, 2019 - 12:33
00. Chrystal MacMillan Building. Meeting Room 2.

Book now for The Art of Secret Messages.

Return of Information Security

            Information Security is back at the Festival of Creative Learning! After last year’s well received, if sparsely attended sessions on the parallels between Security and Medieval Siege warfare, I have pulled together something a little bit different and a lot more interactive.

            Self-congratulation aside, your first year at an event like FCL is always going to be a learning experience and mine was no different. Pushing yourself to try new concepts and ideas within your field, those side lines that often don’t get the attention they deserve, is a great opportunity. 

Breaking free from habit is always tricky. I always want to deliver a lecture. It’s what I know and I get pretty good feedback on my delivery and how I structure my content. That’s why the Festival is a great opportunity for me to push myself into doing something far more collaborative and a bit fun.

The Development Process 

            As part of Information Security Awareness week last year I ran a lecture on the history of encryption. What it is and how we got to the standards and types of encryption we have today. Feedback for it was pretty decent and it managed to get solid turnouts throughout the week, so it seemed an obvious starting point. I could even re-use a number of the ciphers and codes that I had explored during my research. 

            The History of Encryption allowed me to use a prop in the form of a scytal, an ancient means of jumbling letters in a message so the enemy could not read it. Props seemed to go down well. Something people could touch. So I started looking at other physical props that I could include and was coming up short until one evening at home when my wife was laughing at a post in Frock Flicks. In the picture, all of the ladies were holding fans….

            Some research later I found a breakdown of an entire secret language, communicated by how ladies held, flapped, opened and closed their fans: Fanology.

            So now I had a handful of ciphers, code cylinders and fans. All I needed was a challenge to set my participants.

The Challenge

            What better challenge could there be but for groups to design their own secret message process, using what they had seen at the session? It was simple, or so I thought.

            How would I determine success? Should there be a prize for the winners? Will people be up for the challenge?

For those answers, you’ll just have to catch up with me after the Festival. 

The Art of Secret Messages is running on Wednesday 20thand Friday 22ndof February from 13:00 in the Chrystal MacMillan Building, Meeting Room 2. Book your tickets here.

David Creighton-Offord is a Senior Information Security Consultant at the University of Edinburgh who spends his off time delving into history, writing poetry and playing table top board and role play games.

Festival of Creative Learning 2019 – Adult Colouring Book Workshop

January 28, 2019 - 16:33

Help us to create an Adult Colouring Book and do some colouring too by coming to our Festival of Creative Learning workshop.

Festival of Creative Learning


For the illustration we wanted to use software for the workshop that was relatively straightforward to use and that anyone could access, with no downloading or installing required. Surprisingly the choices are limited for purely online and free but we tested a few and discovered Sketchpad 5.1. It is actually pretty good and fun to use too.

If you prefer to have a break from your computer, we are including drawing the old fashioned way with a pencil and pen.


We shall be using images from the University of Edinburgh Collections, also held at Europeana Collections. We have gone through thousands of images to select the most suitable for making into illustrations for colouring. You will be able to select one from the list and choose whether you want to include it in a frame, add a background or keep it simple. See our example of the fish created using Sketchpad.

Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Jackie Aim (Author)
License Extras
Copyright © The University of Edinburgh
The original version from The University of Edinburgh collections. Our previous work

The first image we created for colouring in was for Ada Lovelace Day in 2015. It is an illustration of Ada with a diagram of the Analytical Engine in the background. The image was drawn by hand and took two days. Mechanism of the Heavens’ followed in 2017, a portrait of Mary Somerville with an astronomy background.

‘Garden of Ada’ and ‘Mechanism of the Heavens’ are Creative Commons licensed (CC BY-SA) for easy distribution and maximum reuse, so please share them freely.

At the workshop there will be images for you to colour in, and to take away and colour in at home.

How can you resist? Sign up now and join us for the workshop on Wednesday 20th or Friday 22nd February. It will be fun and relaxing.

Festival of Creative Learning

Note: This blog was first published here.

The Flipped Text: A Writing Workshop

January 22, 2019 - 19:01

Flipped Text

As part of the first University of Edinburgh November WriteFest, Daphne Loads and I offered a workshop called ‘The Flipped Text’.

Daphne and I both have intense relationships with the written word. She has used it in innumerable creative ways in her teaching and research practice and has written a wonderful book about creative writing and academic teaching entitled: Rich Pickings: creative professional activities for academics who teach, to be published in 2019 by SENSE publishers.

I am a poet ( and writing is how I explore and reflect on the world, as well as how I seek to communicate with others. For me, poetry offers a special type of language in which we can, with the help of tools such as metaphor and abstraction, come as close as possible to conveying the shimmering complexities of human experience.

In our workshop, Daphne and I were keen to help students consider the process of creating a new text by ‘flipping’ an existing text and by working with opposites. In our own ways, what we both wanted to share was the idea that by looking at texts in unusual ways, we gain insight into our own writing practise and develop innovative approaches to our work. Our hope was that attendees would leave this workshop with a new perspective on teaching and learning, creative and academic writing and reading, communication more generally and the great, wild, wonderful, turning world.

We only had an hour and were joined by a very diverse group of students from many countries, with different native languages, and varied levels of experience with academic and creative writing. I was quickly reminded that while I have run writing workshops for many years, I often work with people who have read and sometimes written quite a lot of poetry. It was a little different working with people for whom poetry, let alone very experimental techniques for writing poetry, might be a brand new way of thinking about language, but the students were very game and all produced brilliant work.

We began by reading an abstract from an academic paper and then writing it – word for word – backwards. We then made a quick ‘poetic edit’ of the backwards text, thinking about how strange words can become when we reorder and decontextualize them, but also how they can take on new meanings, or even display the heart of the original text in spite of their reordering.

Daphne then gave us words and asked us to think of opposites – one of our favourites was when one student said that the opposite of butter was ‘a box’ (i.e. structured and empty inside, rather than full and melting). Daphne then read us a gorgeous poem and asked us to choose opposites for words in the text and using these opposites to write a new poem.

From Daphne on opposites:

‘When Elie Wiesel said “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference” he showed how by identifying antonyms we can shed new light on familiar-seeming ideas. Sometimes looking for opposites can lead us into strange territory. What is the opposite of butter? Or homesickness?’

Below you can see examples of how we were working with texts. We sent our students off to continue the experiment on their own. Our wish is that they will find these ideas useful when working with academic texts and might even be inspired to write some poems. We hope you may also find inspiration in these techniques and discover ways of using them in your own literary explorations… sometimes flipping a text is the best way to see it fresh!

Jennifer Williams

This paper explores teaching in higher education through poetic transcription in order to illustrate the range of influences that shape the ways in which we teach. Through using poetry, this paper examines dimensions such as the past, emotion, humour and uncertainty, which are important aspects of teaching that are sometimes sidelined by more traditional research methods. The paper evokes the richness and complexity of academic life through placing the personal and the particular at the centre in a way that highlights the complexity. In this way it invites participation in the lives of others through providing a window into the academic experience.

Keywords: poetry; poetic transcription; higher education; academic identity

(Jones, 2010)

Steps in flipping the text:

  1. writing it backwards and breaking it into poetic lines:

Experience academic the into window a

providing through others of lives the in

participation placing through life academic of

complexity and richness

the evokes paper the

methods research traditional more by side-lined sometimes

are that teaching of aspects

important are which, uncertainty

and humour, emotion, past

the as such dimensions examines paper this

poetry using through


we which in ways the shape that influences

of range

the illustrate

to order in

transcription poetry through education

higher in teaching

explores paper


  • editing the lines into a poem

Experience academic

the into window

a providing through others

of lives the

in participation

placing through life academic

of complexity and richness

the evokes paper the

methods research traditional

more by side-lined sometimes

are that teaching of aspects

important are which, uncertainty

and humour, emotion, past

the as such dimensions examines paper this

poetry using through


we which in ways

the shape that influences

of range

the illustrate

to order in

transcription poetry through education

higher in teaching

explores paper


  • moving closer to something that looks like a poem in its own right:

Experience Academic

the into window

a providing

through lives in participation

life academic

complexity and richness


paper the methods research traditional

side-lined teaching aspects

uncertainty and humour emotion past

the as such dimensions

examine this poetry


the shape that influences


order in transcription

poetry through education

higher teaching


JL Williams working with a text by A. Jones

An Almost Dancer

Once, on a hill in Wales, one summer’s day

I almost danced for what I thought was joy.

An hour or more I’d lain there on my back

Watching the clouds as I gazed dreaming up.

As I lay there I heard a skylark sing

A song so sweet it touched the edge of pain.

I dreamt my hair was one with all the leaves

And that my legs sent shoots into the earth.

Laughing awake, I lay there in the sun

And knew that there was nothing to be known.

Small wonder then that when I stood upright

I felt like dancing. Oh, I almost danced,

I almost danced for joy, I almost did.

But some do not, and there’s an end of it.

One night no doubt I shall lie down for good

And when I do perhaps I’ll dance at last.

Meanwhile I keep this memory of that day

I was an almost dancer, once, in Wales.


A Poem of Opposites based on the work of Robert Nye, by Daphne Loads

Often, in a valley out of Wales, every winter’s night you completely froze for what you knew was despair.

Less than a minute you’d stood here on your feet missing the sky as you looked away, dreaming down.

As you stood here you saw a toad grate, a racket so bitter it numbed the centre of joy.

You dreamed your bones will be separate from the roots and that your arms   absorbed roots from the sky.

Crying yourself to sleep, you stood here in the moonlight and you didn’t know that there is everything to be unknown.

Big blankness now that when you lay down you didn’t feel like freezing. Oh you completely froze you completely froze for despair. You completely didn’t.

And all do, and here’s the start of it.

Every day of course you won’t stand up for bad. And when you do of course you won’t freeze at first.

After that you let go of that premonition of this night you weren’t completely paralysed always, out of Wales.


Works Cited

Jones, A. (2010). Not some shrink-wrapped beautiful package: using poetry to explore academic life. Teaching in Higher Education, 591.

Nye, R.  (2010) An Almost Dancer. Retrieved from

2019 Festival of Creative Learning Programme Launches Today!

January 21, 2019 - 15:15
Festival of Creative Learning Logo

We are delighted to announce the programme launch of the 2019 Festival of Creative Learning. This year our curated Festival week is 18th-22nd February during which we will host over 100 extraordinary creative and innovative events. Explore our programme and book onto events here.

Photo of the Festival of Creative Learning(c) Mihaela Bodlovic Tango or bake your way to a new understanding of mathematics! Explore the Anthropocene through a roleplaying game or by designing your very own bio-plastics! Tour Scotland’s medieval abbeys, John Hutton’s Edinburgh and experiment with fire! Come face to face with collaborative utopia in a mobile tiny hut! Mould a new face in the historic Anatomy Museum and learn how to send and receive secret messages! Photo of the Festival of Creative Learning(c) Mihaela Bodlovic

Some of our events are open to the public, so please help us spread the word about the Festival within and beyond the University of Edinburgh. For more information, check out our website or email us at #FCL19 @FCLUoE

Photo of the Festival of Creative Learning(c) Mihaela Bodlovic

Festival of Creative Learning 2019 Application Window Now Open!

September 25, 2018 - 10:11

We are delighted to announce that the application window for the Festival of Creative Learning 2019 is now open. This year’s Festival will take place from the 18th-22nd of February 2019. Send us your innovative, collaborative, mindful, fascinating, challenging, unusual, extraordinary and super creative ideas for events that celebrate news ways of learning and teaching at the University of Edinburgh. We will be accepting applications until 5pm on the 22nd of October 2018. You can find this year’s application form and guidance on our website here.

cropped-digital-screen-library_20195.jpgFestival of Creative Learning 2019

Feel free to contact us with any questions by emailing

We would also like to welcome and introduce our newest team member, Theodora Sakellaridou. Theodora is taking over from Lucy Ridley as our Projects & Engagement Administrator.

Theodora says:  ‘I am very excited to be welcomed into the University of Edinburgh family and particularly by the Festival of Creative Learning. The progress of this Festival has been significant over the last three years and I am sure the best is yet to come! Jennifer and I are here to support, encourage and empower all projects and ideas. We look forward to receiving your proposals.’

theoTheodora Sakellaridou, Projects & Engagement Administrator

Finally, I also wanted to mention that we have made a slight change in the way our funding streams are organised. Festival of Creative Learning Pop-up funding can now be applied for directly via us (rather than through the IAD Action Fund Small Grant programme). Pop-ups are a great option for anyone who would love to run a Festival of Creative Learning event during the academic year outwith the Festival week in February. Application forms and guidance are now available here. If you have a larger/more complex project in mind that would require more than £500 funding (up to £3000), you can apply for the IAD Action Fund Regular Grant, which is open this year until 15th October 2018.

Go for a walk, stretch, dance, read a poem, consider a challenging problem, play a game, climb a tree, take a nap, draw up a plan and get in touch with your Festival of Creative Learning 2019 and Pop-up event ideas. We would love to help you realise your most innovative and exciting learning and teaching dreams, ideas and experiments!




Poets and Filmmakers: from Page to Screen

July 11, 2018 - 16:34

In the following article, poets Stav Poleg (Magma) and Jennifer Williams (University of Edinburgh) introduce the collaboration of Magma Poetry with the University of Edinburgh and the Festival of Creative Learning.

 Pegasus in the Lab © Marios Lizides 2018, CC BY-NC-SA, taken at the collaboration-preview event, Adam House Cinema, Edinburgh

Film still from: Pegasus in the Lab © Marios Lizides 2018, CC BY-NC-SA, taken at the collaboration-preview event, Adam House Cinema, Edinburgh

What better place and time to contemplate a collaboration? It was the peak of the Edinburgh festival season. We met for a coffee at Dovecot Studios, discussing ways of bringing poets and filmmakers together.

We both have had our own experience of collaboration and cross-form work. Jennifer has worked with choreographers, dancers, musicians, composers and opera singers and Stav has worked with visual artists, actors and dramaturges. We discussed how meaningful it can be for collaborators to work in artistic partnership, and how the interaction between myriad intellects and their creative energies can influence the way we enter into the pact of creation.

Collaborations can also make this delicate, potent work harder. We reminisced about collaborations that went so smoothly it felt as if we shared a brain with our partner, and others that felt more like sacrifice than expansion. But we knew that the successful ones mattered greatly. They affected our work to the extent that even when we later wrote on our own, the hand of the illustrator and the eye of the filmmaker were inside us as we laid words on the page and sculpted image through sound in space.

We also remarked on the concern that is often raised that poetry is isolated, read too often only by poets and not by the general public. Film poems, and other collaborations that bring poetry out from between the covers of a book, can open a door to the world of poetry for those who are more accustomed to encountering complex images on screen or in the flesh than on the page. The delighted response we have received from poets, filmmakers and viewers of the work produced in the project that emerged from this conversation has confirmed our belief that this merging of forms can diversify and expand audiences and spark a new interest in poetry where before there was fear or disdain.

As for how the project worked in practise, Magma invited poets who were willing to let their poems be open to cinematic interpretation to submit contributions. We received over 400 submissions in the course of a few weeks from poets who were keen to be linked with filmmakers and shortlisted a selection of these poems. In the meantime, four students from the prestigious Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) Film Directing MFA/MA and teams of students from the Edinburgh Movie Production Society (EMPS) at the University of Edinburgh were recruited. The ECA students were given the shortlist and asked to each select a poem to use as a starting point for a film poem. The EMPS student teams were given one poem, and each individual/group responded to that particular poem.

The poets and filmmakers were encouraged to view the project as a collaboration and worked together via Skype, email or in person. The filmmakers were the creative drivers in terms of making the films, but we asked that they consult with the poets throughout the process and confirm with them that they were happy with the final cut. At the University, the project team delivered a workshop for the filmmakers at which we showed a variety of film poems to help convey the vast spectrum of possible styles from documentary to experimental and abstract, and encouraged the filmmakers to think of their film poems not as representations of the poems in film but as completely new works inspired by the original poems. We have been awed by the results.

We want to thank Lucy Kendra (project co-producer), the Festival of Creative Learning, Charlie Farley, Emma Davie and Juro Oravec from the University of Edinburgh, and the Magma Poetry board. Most importantly, we want to celebrate the poets and filmmakers who engaged with their collaborations with such energy and artistic integrity. We hope this will be the first film poems of many for the poets and filmmakers involved.

Please scroll down to read more about the project, to read more about the filmmakers and poets, and watch a selection of the films. We hope you enjoy them and that it inspires your own exploration of the rich and creative terrain offered by collaborative practise.

Stav Poleg, co-editor, Magma 71, The Film Issue

Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator, Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh


Magma Poetry in Collaboration with the University of Edinburgh
and the Festival of Creative Learning


The Films: Read more about each film here and below.


Pegasus in the Lab

Film Poem by Marios Lizides after a poem by Ginny Saunders

 Pegasus in the Lab © Marios Lizides 2018, CC BY-NC-SA

Film stills from: Pegasus in the Lab © Marios Lizides 2018, CC BY-NC-SA


Marios Lizides: I consider poetry to be closer to filmmaking than prose. Through ambiguity and symbolism you are able to communicate with the audience on a deeper, more visceral level. Even though I had created a few works that could be termed abstract and poetic in the past, I found that there were differences in the poetry and film collaboration process. In my past films, I found that their atmosphere/mood materialised mostly during the edit. In this film-poem project I had the poem as a guide and its “mood” as a reference during the shooting of the images. The sound design was also approached differently, as the images gave me clues as to what kind of sound would amplify the mood.

Ginny Saunders: When I talked with Marios about my poem I realised that it could all be traced back to when I was a student in a Biochemistry lab practical many decades ago. We were handling lab strains of bacteria and being taught how to dispose of them safely. The lecturer said something casual like, ‘but even if they did escape into the wild, we’ve so disabled them, and made them so dependent on drugs, they wouldn’t survive anyway’. That had a profound effect on me—how we manipulate and exploit nature for our benefit and don’t give the natural world a voice. In my poem I finally gave the lab bacteria a voice! I loved the idea that Marios articulated his response to my poem by comparing it to his response to a song ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ by Nick Cave. In the video of the song Cave enters a darkened stage as if from a fiery hell and when the door closes it has a big X scrawled on it. That is exactly how I worry the human race reacts to some environmental exploitations.

As far as this collaboration is concerned, it is different to anything I have done before. I see Marios as the next custodian in this chain of collaboration. Just as I had my encounter with the page without the Harvard scientists breathing down my neck (not that I would have objected to a collaboration with them if they are listening), he must now have his encounter with the lens and make Pegasus in the Lab his own.


Marios Lizides is a Cypriot filmmaker/photographer. His photographs have been published in literary magazines and his films screened at various festivals. He is currently working on his thesis film for his MA course at the Edinburgh College of Arts.

Ginny Saunders lives in Wiltshire amongst chalky white horses and enjoys writing about science. She has a PhD in Molecular Biology and last summer was Poet-in-Residence for St George’s Gardens, Bloomsbury.

Watch Pegasus in the Lab here.

Of the Daughter who Spoke

Film Poem by Simon Ray after a poem by Kristi Carter

 Of the Daughter Who Spoke © Simon Ray 2018, CC BY-SA

Film Still from: Of the Daughter Who Spoke © Simon Ray 2018, CC BY-SA

Simon Ray: It’s the dance — the sense of loosening a grip on a certain direction en route to a particular outcome and allowing something to unfold and grow — that seems a common thread in poetry writing and filmmaking. In collaborating, a third ‘dancer’ is added; a three-way conversation between the collaborators and the work, all inputting, receiving and responding.

I have worked in video production, producing films for client briefs, alongside occasional experimental film projects as part of my creative practice. The film poem is more creative and self-directed than my commercial work, and more bounded, outcome-based and ambitious than my experimental work.

Kristi Carter: Because my poem focuses on my relationship with my mother as her only daughter, which also serves as the major thread of my manuscript, I am so familiar with the thematic obsessions that working with someone else reminded me of the alternative ways into my poem. That opportunity for a different but qualified perspective on your own work is very important for any writer or artist. I have learned that the intense control that characterizes most poets is put to the side for collaboration, which is liberating.

Mixed media collaborations also function as one of the most inviting access points to readers who are either new to poetry or more flexible with their definitions of how poetry is supposed to function. I believe that while poetry does enact the work of condensing what is otherwise ephemeral, abstract, or unutterable about the human experience, poets themselves exist in conversation with the world, no matter how quiet or marginal they might assume that conversation to be.


Simon Ray is a New Zealand born artist and filmmaker. He is currently undertaking an MFA in documentary film directing at the University of Edinburgh. His work poetically explores body memory and the boundaries of consciousness.

Kristi Carter is the author of Red and Vast (Dancing Girl Press), Daughter Shaman Sings Blood Anthem (Porkbelly Press) and Cosmovore(Aqueduct Press). Her poems have appeared in publications including So to Speak, poemmemoirstory, CALYX, Hawaii Review and Nimrod. Her work examines the intersection of gender and intergenerational trauma in 20th Century poetics. She holds a PhD from University of Nebraska Lincoln and an MFA from Oklahoma State University.

Watch Of the Daughter Who Spoke here.

Anyone Can Buy a Seat in the Cinema

Film Poem by Maggie Clark after a poem by Laura Seymour

 Anyone Can Buy a Seat at the Cinema © Maggie Clark 2018, CC BY-SA

Film Stills from: Anyone Can Buy a Seat at the Cinema © Maggie Clark 2018, CC BY-SA

Maggie Clark: As my focus is primarily in documentary, the film poem has been an opportunity for me to expand my creative practice and be a little bit more playful with the way I film. It’s pushed me to use visual metaphor as a storytelling device, which is a challenge I’ve really enjoyed! Laura’s poem is about love in the face of prejudice. It carries a sincere and important message, which I hope to do justice in my film.

Laura Seymour: When Maggie and I were talking at the start of the project, I saw that one or two images in the poem stuck out visually from the rest, and also that the images that stuck out visually were perhaps the most ambiguous. The idea that readers or watchers might be more affected by ambivalent imagery was really interesting to me.

Maggie Clark is a Canadian born filmmaker currently studying for her Masters in Film Directing at the Edinburgh College of Art. Her focus is in character-led documentary, which she uses to explore female identity.

Laura Seymour’s book The Shark Cage (2015) won Cinnamon Press’s debut poetry collection award. Her poems have appeared in various journals, including Poetry Review, Poetry London, Magma, MsLexia, Envoi, Ambit, South Bank Poetry, Brittle Star andThe Interpreter’s House.

Watch Anyone Can Buy a Seat at the Cinema here.

The Wanderers

Film Poem by Ted Fisher after a poem by Aoife Lyall

Film Still from ‘The Wanderers’ © Ted Fisher, 2018

Film Still from ‘The Wanderers’ © Ted Fisher, 2018

Ted Fisher: My interest in documentary film as a practice is always connected to the power of the real world as a storyteller. In reading and re-reading Aoife Lyall’s poem, I saw it as amplifying a reality I could feel and I found myself wanting to look and listen further. We shot aspects of her life for several days, with the idea of trusting this as raw material that would meld with the poem in an editing process. I have made many short documentaries, and the best of these have been made from finding a situation where events lead to a real outcome, in front of the camera. Working in connection to a poem (and a poet) shifts this practice to one that is new for me: trying to understand past and present at once. So my approach had to include tuning in to the idea and experience of reflection and reconsideration.

Aoife Lyall: The most significant thing I learned was that the poem isn’t so much about welcoming my daughter into my life, as allowing myself to finally call Inverness home. I lived here for almost six years before she was born, and spent much of that comparing my life here to the life I had in Dublin. Walking the poem with Ted I came to realise it encapsulated what I had been missing – the accumulation of memories, moments, and experiences that layer themselves into the familiar.

As for collaborating, trust is vital: in the skills you have brought to the project, in the skills of the other party, and in the potential of what you are creating together. So there has to be a relationship there, a mutual respect, and a willingness to let someone else explore, and act on, avenues of your work that you may not have considered before. For future projects I would make the point of being able to recite the poem from memory, simply because this makes more filming options available. What would I keep the same? Working with Ted.


Ted Fisher is an American film director specializing in arts and culture documentaries. His short films have screened at over 30 festivals around the world. He is currently working toward an M.F.A. in Film Directing at the University of Edinburgh.

Shortlisted twice for the Hennessy New Writers Award, Aoife Lyall’s work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, Banshee Lit, and others. She has just completed her first collection.

Watch The Wanderers here.


Ode to Summer 

Film Poems by students from the Edinburgh Movie Production Society after a poem by Carrie Etter

Film Still from ‘Ode to Summer’ © Miriam Khenissi, 2018

Film Still from ‘Ode to Summer’ © Miriam Khenissi, 2018

Film Still from ‘Ode to Summer’ © Miriam Khenissi, 2018

Film Still from ‘Ode to Summer’ © Miriam Khenissi, 2018

Miriam Khenissi (Filmmaker): I wanted to incorporated both artists in my short film: the poet and the filmmaker. I thought that using Carrie’s voice as a narration would add a lot to the film. And even though I wasn’t visible in the short film there were a few strands of my hair visible in the last scene which I added on purpose to include a small personal touch. The majority of the film was filmed on an iPhone which allowed me to capture picturesque scenes at just the right moment.


Miriam Khenissi is an aspiring young filmmaker and designer. Her short films have been screened in various film festivals around the world.

Carrie Etter is Reader in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Her fourth collection, The Weather in Normal, will be published by Seren Books this autumn.

Watch Ode to Summer films here.

Film Still from ‘Ode to Summer’ © Nicole Lai, Tiffany Garnham and Laura Pennycook, 2018

Film Still from ‘Ode to Summer’ © Nicole Lai, Tiffany Garnham and Laura Pennycook, 2018



Magma Poetry in Collaboration with the University of Edinburgh and the Festival of Creative Learning



Edinburgh College of Art

Maggie Clark, Theodore Fisher, Marios Lizides, Simon Ray

Edinburgh Media Production Society

Miriam Khenissi, Laura Pennycook, Jeremy Pestle, Louis Caro, Nancy Nighting, Sarema Shorr



Aoife Lyall, Kristi Carter, Ginny Saunders, Laura Seymour, Carrie Etter


Project Team

Magma Poetry

Stav Poleg, Co-Editor, Magma 71, The Film Issue

The University of Edinburgh

Institute of Academic Development:

Jennifer Williams and Lucy RidleyFestival of Creative Learning

Learning Teaching and Web Services:

Lucy KendraOpen Media Project

And also:
Charlie Farley, Open Education Resources Advisor –

Emma Davie, Programme Director – Postgraduate Film, Edinburgh College of Art

Juro Oravec, President 2017-2018 – Edinburgh Movie Production Society


Magma 71 cover


Transformational Learning about Disability Rights at the Festival of Creative Learning

July 11, 2018 - 15:16

Two students at the University of Edinburgh share their experiences of participating in a Disability Research Edinburgh network event at the Festival of Creative Learning. Jinghua Qian and Yu Fang are from China. They are post-graduate students at the University of Edinburgh, one in education and the other in social science, and they met at this event.


What we did

The one-day event was to engage the participants with the idea of participatory and inclusive approach to disability research.

In the morning, we listened to a panel discussion between four invited speakers from different disciplines. They have extensive research and practice experiences in areas like social inclusion, disability and medical informatics. They shared their insights into the participatory and inclusive approach, and discussed a range of perspectives informed by academic research and also their own professional experiences.

After the panel discussion, we were divided into small groups based on our interests, such as learning disabilities, mental health or care services. Led by the panel speakers, participants were expected to work together to develop cases of inclusive research design. The group we were in designed a research project on disability and higher education. We discussed many important issues including equal access, barriers, and policies to support international students with additional learning needs.

In the afternoon, we watched a film ‘Defiant Lives’, which was about disability rights movements. There was also an open discussion following the screening. The film showed the history of how disabled people were maltreated, segregated and discriminated, and how they struggled for their rights. The documentary made us understand better the difficulties in realising human rights, and made us reflect on how to make a difference.

What we learned

Before this event, we rarely came across topics related to disability in our own study. For example, in the Chinese context, ensuring access of disabled students to higher education has not been an important agenda, because disabled young people are usually expected to seek jobs to support themselves financially. It was really beneficial to have participants from different cultural backgrounds exchange ideas, so the discussion was extended greatly.

The film screening made an often ‘invisible’ group visible to us. From an Asian culture in which ‘harmony weighs more than anything else’, we were rather surprised to see that disabled people in Western countries opted for a violent approach to fight for their rights. We asked: Why would people choose the most radical way? Why would they rather hurt themselves to protest against something? We realised that at that time disabled people had no other choices – the indifferent society was hurting them even more.

What we would like to do next

Jinghua Qian: Only after taking the optional course on inclusive and special education, I have started to know more about the circumstances for disabled children in different countries. It was great that with group members at the workshop, we could discuss the reality of inclusive and special education in our own contexts. Looking back at my experience of being a student in China, I never had any disabled children as classmates. Compared to Scotland where the majority of students with additional support needs are enrolled in mainstream schools, China still has a long way to go to realise inclusive education. I would like to address the issue of inclusive practice in my future work.

Yu Fang: As a student interested in public policies, the event pushed me to think hard about policy implementation. For example, why would the public transport remain inaccessible to wheelchair users after law enforcement? If such support is not provided even though the government has given its promise, then who should be held accountable for such failure? Attending the event broadened my understanding and I found new topics that I would like to learn more about. I have enjoyed the Festival because it gave us opportunities to explore issues that we might have long overlooked, such as the social rights we tend to take for granted. I would definitely continue to follow the updates about future events organised by the Festival of Creative Learning and Disability Research Edinburgh network.

Jinghua Qian and Yu Fang,
Interview by Dr Yuchen Wang.


Jinghua Qian is a postgraduate student in MSc Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She studied on a course ‘Comparative Approaches to Inclusive and Special Education’, which made her more aware of the international challenges for providing educational opportunities for disabled children.


Yu Fang is a postgraduate student in MSc Policy Studies. She became interested in disability research after volunteering with the programme ‘Home for the Elderly’.


Dr Yuchen Wang is a post-doctoral research associate at Moray House School of Education.


The events were organised by Disability Research Edinburgh as part of Edinburgh University’s Festival of Creative Learning in February 2018.

Creative Learning in Anatomy

June 7, 2018 - 09:00
facial muscles workshop photo

Facial muscles made from wax on plastic skulls, How Do We Make Facial Expressions?

I am a Teaching Fellow in Anatomy and a freelance Medical Illustrator with a passion for the enhancement of anatomy education through the use of art and technology. Anatomy is a visual subject; one which students must be hands-on with to allow for them to understand the three-dimensional composition of the body. The use of creative learning techniques compliments anatomy education extremely well as it allows students to recreate the anatomy through different materials. I am interested in the different resources we can create for students outside the anatomy lab to aid in their learning, but also the resources we can offer to people with an interest in human anatomy, so what could be a better place than the Festival of Creative Learning?

As part of the Festival of Creative Learning I organised two arts-based workshops, with the help of my colleagues, focusing on different areas of the body; How Do We Make Facial Expressions? and Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts. Both workshops were hands-on creating the anatomy from either wax or clay, to build up a three-dimensional representation of the muscles of facial expression or the structure of the heart.

Clay Hearts

Anatomical clay hearts, Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts

The workshops were open to anyone with an interest in human anatomy and trying new creative ways of learning. Both workshops had to accommodate for the varying levels of anatomical knowledge to allow for everyone to understand and also to enjoy the information they were learning. Therefore for both workshops I used a presentation to display images and anatomical terminology to help guide the attendees through the anatomy.

The goal of the workshops was for the attendees to feel that they had learnt something new by the end of the workshop, whether that be anatomical information or a new artistic skill. The great thing about using art as a learning resource is that it can make your mind focus on the task of creating something, and help you relax from our busy everyday lives. This kind of learning technique also allows for us to create an end product, which can be taken home and admired, such as the clay hearts, or photos taken to show everyone your creation, like the muscles of facial expression sculptures.

Both workshops received positive feedback, which I was extremely pleased about, not only as it showed people enjoyed the workshops, but also because the comments showed that people left feeling like that had learnt something new. The words used to describe the workshops were brilliant; therapeutic, fun, innovative and relaxing, to name a few! The Festival of Creative Learning was an excellent place to try out these new ideas, and I would highly recommend the festival to anyone who wants to try out a new idea!

To find out more about ArtBeat: Art & Anatomy Edinburgh, a group running art-based anatomy workshops at the University of Edinburgh, follow us on Twitter @ArtbeatEd and on Facebook @artbeatedinburgh. You can also keep up-to-date with anatomy events on the Anatomy@Edinburgh website; or follow us on Twitter @AnatomyatEd.

Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires more people to think about using art to learn more about the human body!

Victoria McCulloch

Learn and Teach with

May 1, 2018 - 11:00


We’re Andy Todd and Andrew Kirk and we’re IT Trainers from the Digital Skills and Training team, Information Services. We design, develop and deliver IT and digital skills training events and materials for staff and students across the University. Our team also runs the University’s service, which provides staff and students 24/7 access to a free library of 250,000+ HD videos tutorials in IT, digital, business and creative skills – delivered by industry experts.

Having previously attended (and enjoyed) Festival of Creative Learning events ourselves, we were inspired to develop and run our own event for this fantastic festival.

Our two, two hour events, ‘Learning and Teaching with’ introduced attendees to the service, showing them how easily the service could be used to learn new skills, or embed content into teaching. We taught attendees how to search for, view and share content, curate and share their own view/course playlists, link certificates to LinkedIn profiles, and download content for offline viewing.

We loved delivering these sessions and found it to be a great way for us to speak to staff and students to find out which digital skills they were passionate about learning or improving, and how they intended to do so before learning about  It was particularly satisfying for us to hear how positively attendees spoke about the service after we had demonstrated and they had used it, and how important and valuable they believed it to be as a free resource for our staff and students.

Overall, the event feedback received was really positive, with several attendees stating an improved confidence using the service as a result of attending our event, with all attendees stating that they would recommend it to others.

Given how much we enjoyed running events this year, we’ll definitely be applying to run some more next year – so keep an eye out for us in the event list.

If you happened to miss this event don’t worry, we enjoyed it so much we’ve decided to make it a permanent offering. Find current/future dates, and booking links for the ‘Learn and Teach with’ course on our webpage at:

To find out more about the Digital Skills and Training team, please visit For more information on our service including how to get signed up, please visit


Andy Todd and Andrew Kirk

Digital Skills and Training

Information Services Group


April 18, 2018 - 13:00
Kostas2 About me

Hi everyone I’m Kostas, one of the many event organisers of FCL18. My event was “Cooking with Science: From molecular gastronomy to gourmet cooking”. I’m a PhD student, with a background in Electronics & Electrical Engineering. Nothing to do with cooking!

Why I got involved in the Festival

The Festival was an opportunity to change people’s attitude towards cooking!

Food science is a hobby and passion of mine. It has changed the way I cook, or even shop for food. You read product labels with a different understanding! I wanted to share the things I’ve learned with others.

The science-part is surprisingly fascinating, touching upon soft-matter chemistry and physics. The cooking-part is a platform to express creativity. Such themes are at the heart of the Festival of Creative Learning. Not to mention, you literally get to taste your creations!


“Tasting our creations”: Super-creamy ice-cream using dry-ice and thickening agents

Cooking with Science: A workshop

The event’s theme was “how scientific principles lead to better cooking”. More than just demonstrating science using cooking. Each recipe started with an overview of the science and equipment, followed by participants doing the cooking. We used thermometers, scales accurate to 0.1 milligram, and some unusual ingredients. Here are some highlights:

Chocolate-flavoured modernist mousse: We discussed thickening agents and viscosity, then used Xanthan Gum to make a mousse.

Carotene butter using a centrifuge: We explored emulsions and emulsifiers, then used carrot juice to make carrot butter. This was a tough recipe, but we had fun using a DIY-centrifuge made out of a salad-spinner.

Orange juice fluid-gel: The gooiest part of the day. We discussed gelling agents and the peculiar case of fluid-gels, which are something between a liquid and a solid. The gel tasted better than it looked.

Super-creamy ice-cream: Everyone’s favourite! We discussed ice crystal formation and its impact on ice-cream texture, then we made some very tasty ice-cream and churned it using dry-ice.

Impact & future plans

Running this event for the first time was quite challenging. Some of the recipes were at an experimental stage. I can only applaud the amazing work of the participants, who kept going even when things got messy (literally!). In the feedback, most participants said they picked up new skills, and planned to try out some of the recipes at home. I am hoping that some may develop a passion for food science.

I hope to use all I’ve learned to run more events like this. Cooking gets people’s attention, so it is perfect for public engagement and outreach. I’d like to try this out in science festivals.

While organising the event, I met people from various Schools and Institutes throughout the University. Several showed interest in working together to run more food science events or mini research projects. Fingers crossed, cross-disciplinary collaborations may be coming up.

Future events will be announced through my social media and blog (


The incredible cooking squad of day two

Kostas Bantounos

Sharing Stories From #FCL18

April 9, 2018 - 14:00

by Mihaela Bodlovic

It is seven weeks today since the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning (19th – 23rd February) started and we are already well along with planning for the 2019 Festival. Jennifer and I are still processing the feedback and evaluations from the week and aiming to refine our processes and resources over the summer, but early indications suggest it was a great success! Compared to last year when we spent a whole week in ‘Festival Decompression’, locked away in a quiet room getting our heads round our first year at the helm, this year we only spent a half day planning our summer work priorities, suggesting we have now found our feet.

One of the creative outputs we commissioned for this year was a new Festival Film, expertly crafted by Archie Crofton. We are absolutely delighted with the result and strongly encourage you to watch and share widely as a celebration of one of many great initiatives at the University of Edinburgh. The full film is available on Mediahopper. Alongside the film, we also invested in a full portfolio of photos from many events, captured by expert photographer Mihaela Bodlovic. A selection of these photos have or will be shared on our social media channels over the coming weeks. View the first album of day one on our Facebook page.

 Organiser Stories

It is always a pleasure to read the stories that appear in various creative formats from our Event Organisers. Some of them will be sharing with you directly over the coming months via this blog, so stay tuned. Below are some examples of records that are available for your reading pleasure, providing an insight into some of the events and activities that took place during the week.

Finally, in our organiser survey this year one of the questions was ‘If you were to tell a friend about what your most memorable experience was over the course of preparing for and delivering your event, what would it be?’ These are some of my personal favourites:

  • Running around University campus carrying ice-cream mix, dry-ice and a large stand mixer.
  • The event itself and the pleasant interaction with people, those who attended our event really were passionate about the topic, and that was great to see.
  • The creation and strengthening of the community.
  • It is very refreshing to be involved in academic dynamism and get to know people from different backgrounds.


Monitor our website for pop-up events taking place during the rest of the year.

The best souvenir from Edinburgh

March 6, 2018 - 16:01


I read somewhere that words and ideas are big stones in a river. Jumping from one to another you can get to the other side. However, if you always jump on the same ones, you always end up at the same point. The edge of the river is long and there are lots of different flowers.

On February 16th, at 10 pm, I arrived in Edinburgh to attend The Festival of Creative Learning. Pulling my bags on the steep streets, the only noise in the city was the little wheels of my luggage. Cloc cloc cloc. All the rest was quiet and beautiful and magnificent.

I am currently working as the Communications and Outreach Technician at the Institut de Neurociències of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB). My tasks include, among others, designing activities to share with the general public what researchers do, and helping to establish a dialogue between scientists and society, for a better and more responsible research.

I usually look on the internet to find out what is going on in Science Communication and Public Engagement in other institutions, to find inspiration to do my job. That is how I discovered the Festival, which seemed an amazing initiative to me. I contacted Jennifer Williams, Festival Coordinator, and she told me they were open to receive my visit. Thanks to an Erasmus grant and all the help Lucy Ridley, Festival Administrator, Natalie Poyser, Senior Admin Officer – Business Operations, and Jennifer gave me, there I was, ready for new ideas!

By ‘new ideas’ I mean two different things. On one hand, they are different solutions to a challenge, using tools that are not the usual ones. It is an excellent new idea to explain what rubisco does through a virtual reality game in which you are the enzyme and have to capture carbon dioxide to convert it into sugar. It must be what creative means. The Festival was full of creative ideas that made me want to know more about the world.


On the other hand, a ‘new idea’ is a new thought that opens a fresh perspective on a thing that you already knew. Like when you suddenly understand the lyrics of a song you sang when you were a child. It is impossible to return to the previous point anymore, as your perception is changed forever. This should be what learning means. I learned a lot at the Festival, about all sorts of things: minerals, language, folklore, plants, poetry, witches…

I am so grateful to the Institute for the Academic Development for giving me the chance to attend the Festival. I would especially like to thank Natalie for all the paperwork, and Jennifer and Lucy for organizing everything. I could feel all the energy and love they put on the Festival, and I think that is one of the reasons that make the project great. I would also like to thank the people I had meetings with, who shared their brilliant work with me: Dr. Jane Haley, Dr. Heather Rea, Dr. James Howie, Colin Sanderson and Stuart Dunbar. Talking to all of them was very, very interesting for me.

I came back home full of vitality and happiness. Everybody had been so generous with me and had put so many new stones in my river- the best souvenir I could ever bring home. Now it is time to explore the edge and smell all these beautiful flowers.

Roser Bastida Barau

David Claerbout, internationally acclaimed video artist

February 15, 2018 - 10:00
The_Pure_Necessity_still (0-49-22-15)

David Claerbout, ‘The Pure Necessity’, 2016

There is Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan and King Louie. There are the elephants, vultures and wolves. But you’ve never seen the characters of the 1967 classic The Jungle Book behave like this before. They look like the singing, dancing characters of Disney’s original, but they act like real animals in the zoo.

In another video a woman emerges from a building carrying a tray of drinks, the film slowed down so much that her movements are almost frozen. Observing – close-up – you feel part of an intimate series of silent motions, seeing something that might usually go unnoticed. But as the camera pulls back the shadows on the walls are revealed. They move quickly, tracing hours in just a few moments so that you realise that the video consists of two very different timescales, minutely edited together to create a single, seamless – yet impossible – scene.

Created by the Belgian artist David Claerbout these videos are composed with great subtlety and subterfuge. They are part of an exhibition at the University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery that presents six of his intriguing explorations of image-making.

A cat and bird sit alongside each other in another of Claerbout’s videos. What they are doing – you might say – is not killing each other. As simple as it may seem this small video piece runs against our expectations and in doing so highlights an aspect of how we perceive the world. In this case we perceive something, a natural animosity, which is not there at all, but has been conditioned by deep-rooted assumptions. A giant slideshow on the main wall of the exhibition shows people gathered on a beach for some unknown purpose. It is a moment captured from lots of different angles, but it is hard to imagine how it could have been achieved and where the significance of this event lies.

As with many of Claerbout’s works there is also a clear recognition of the changes taking place as a result of digital technologies. Upstairs, a camera-less film takes you on a convincing journey through a woodland (Claerbout gives just enough away, for example by shifting foliage types from European to Amazonian to make you question its veracity). Yet when the ‘camera’ retreats out of a small grove into a largely flat farmed region that could never contain the woodland you realise Claerbout is playing with expectations about how reality should behave. Another work frames an image of a beautiful ornamental garden – accompanied by sounds of birdsong – only to pull back to reveal that it is a poster on the wall of a bleak modern apartment building. Forced to re-evaluate what you are seeing, these works make you consider the connections between the precarious position of meaning in the digital realm and our modern living conditions.

Throughout the exhibition you get a gnawing feeling that something strange is going on. The works are gently unsettling, difficult to pin down. And this is precisely why Claerbout is internationally recognised for work that is truly affecting. With the disquiet or suspicion his work instils you are able to really feel out the seams that connect the fabric of reality with the fabric of images.

If you want to find out more then check out David Claerbout’s artist talk at Edinburgh College of Art, which is part of the Festival of Creative Learning.

The exhibition David Claerbout runs at Talbot Rice Gallery from 24 February – 5 May 2018, admission free. For more information please visit


James Clegg, Assistant Curator

Talbot Rice Gallery

Festival Fever

February 8, 2018 - 11:00



Well I can’t quite believe it, but the Festival of Creative Learning is nearly here again, and it is shaping up to be one remarkable week!

Last year I had only just started a few months before the Festival, so it felt as if the main task was getting my head around what in the world it all was and how best I could help support the brilliant organisers to realise their dream events. It was a wild ride of a Festival and there are so many memories I treasure, even though I managed to come down with a not very creative cold. In spite of that, I sniffled and sneezed my way through the Birds and the Bees board game, finding penguin love to the jungle music of monkeys and birds in Potterrow’s trees. I watched the bright colours drawn out of the dyeing vats by attendees at the Edinburgh Medieval Pigment Project’s event (they’re working their natural magic again this year! Check it out at: Colouring Outside the Lines: Medieval Pigments & How to Use Them.  I loved seeing so many smiling faces folding double headed swans in concentrated silence at the Hyperbolic Origami session.

My wonderful and patient colleague, Lucy Ridley, and I then spent the summer reviewing our processes and the feedback we received from organisers and attendees of the Festival. We came up with a whole raft of experiments to implement in order to test what we could streamline and smooth. We have been delighted to see these changes bearing fruit, as we have worked with partners to update and re-skin our website, have slimmed down and tightened up our application forms and administrative processes and have switched up the way we communicate with and gather together our organisers. All in all the changes seem to be working to make the Festival even more creative, energised and enjoyable than before – hooray!

This year we have a remarkable number of events across an extraordinary range of topics and activities. I can hardly look at the events programme (with the help of our new and improved handy calendar search widget) without wishing I had a cloning machine as I want to go to EVERYTHING!

Some of my highlights are as follows, but I do encourage you to have a look as I bet there will be many, or at least one or two, that you’ll be raring to sign up for…

EMPS: 24-hour Filmmaking Competition

HYPED Local Challenge

Reliving the Rhino Head: Jim Haynes’ Paperback Bookstore Revived

The Mobile Campus: Imagining The Future of Distributed Education at the University of Edinburgh

The Siege of Infosec: A Medieval Perspective on Information Security

Women in Medicine – a Wikipedia edit-a-thon

Keep an eye out for Lucy and me in our Festival Hoodies – we will be popping into events throughout the week and would love to hear all about your Festival experience.

Also a few notes for Festival Organisers before I go:


You’re all doing such a brilliant job – please do keep spreading the word about the Festival and your events. We recommend social media (be sure to use #FCL18 and we will repost), lecture shout outs and popping into other events to spread the word. Remember that promoting the events of others can often mean that they will spread the word about your event so support others and trade promotion when possible.

Impact and Legacy

Don’t forget that your event means more than what happens in the room on the day. How will you capture your event? Will you write a blog about it (if so, please send it to us for posting on the Festival blog post)? Will you photograph it? Will you film it? Will you share it on social media as it is taking place, and encourage your attendees to do so as well? Think about how you will document your event and tell the story afterwards. If your event goes on to have a life after the Festival, making real world changes in the teaching and learning at the University of Edinburgh and beyond – please tell us!

Evaluation and Attendance

Please remember to take attendance at your events and to prepare and send out a post-event survey to your attendees. It is so important to get a sense of what works and what can be improved, both for us as Festival Coordinators and for you as Event Organisers. Try to keep your surveys short and simple and make sure you are only asking questions that will supply information that will be useful going forward. We have a survey template in our resources that you can use if you like.

Think about interesting and creative ways to evaluate your event – for instance, ask people to Tweet/post their reactions, or have them fill out a little sticky note ‘leaf’ and make a feedback tree for people to leave their thoughts on as they go.

Hopefully I will manage to get through the Festival without a cold this year, though one thing is certain – I have Festival Fever and the only cure is a week of innovative, mindful, experimental, playful and joyful creative fun!


Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator

Institute for Academic Development

Designing a Healthy University of the Future

January 31, 2018 - 14:00


Educational institutions that promote health and wellbeing have the power to not only enhance student success, but to improve the health of our communities and wider society.

What is a Healthy University?   

A Healthy University adopts a holistic understanding of health; takes a whole university approach; and aspires to create a learning environment and organisational culture that enhances the health, wellbeing and sustainability of its community and enables people to achieve their full potential (Healthy Universities, 2018).

What is our event exactly?

This is a hackathon style event designed to get students thinking about health in the university setting. A hackathon is a timed competition-style event where teams are expected to get creative and work collaboratively and come up with a design or idea. The event will involve coming up with an innovative idea for designing a ‘Healthy University of the future’.

The day-long event will consist of brainstorming tasks and facilitated design rounds with lots of opportunities for creativity and collaboration. At the end of the event groups will present their ideas, dragons den style, in front of a panel of public health experts and leaders within the university. Several prizes are up for grabs and everyone will leave with a goody bag. Team designs will be showcased on campus after the event.

Why should you come?

The event will challenge you to think on your feet, network and develop skills in critical thinking, teamwork and much more. These skills will be critical both within and beyond your university career. You will also have the unique opportunity to present to public health experts and leaders within the university.

We are looking for students from all backgrounds and disciplines to join our event. Teams will be formed during the event so no preparation is required prior to the event. Lunch and snacks will be provided.

Event Date: Wednesday February 21 10:00-16:30 @ Room G.06, 50 George Square.



View the promotional film here


Yvonne Laird and Jillian Manner

Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy