Climb on your hobby horse

The Scottish Mineral and Lapidary Club are just one of the organisations taking part. Picture: contributed
The Scottish Mineral and Lapidary Club are just one of the organisations taking part. Picture: contributed
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FAST and furious, feet flying and with bendy “swords” which, if not positioned precisely where they are supposed to be have a habit of smacking the holder in the face.

When the Mons Meg Rapper sword dance group hit the floor of the local pub, just about anything can happen.

“We have people who’ve had a bit to drink and want to join in, sometimes because you’re in a pub they will tell you where to go – although usually by the end, they’re loving it,” laughs Trina McKendrick, one of the group.

“It’s an incredible adrenalin rush. And because we do it in pubs, there’s often a bit of drinking and socialising involved.”

It’s not, Trina would probably be first to admit, the first thing someone might consider for a relaxing hobby.

Which is why the rapper sword dance group is about to join other community arts organisations in a unique showcase event aimed at revealing just what they get up to – and how to join in.

They are among dozens of local voluntary creative arts groups preparing to offer an insight into their hobbies – anything from singing their hearts out in a community choir to ­polishing up what appears to be a ­boring stone into a beautifully smooth centrepiece for a pendant or brooch – in the hope they can encourage more ­people to get involved.

Dubbed a Creative Exchange, ­organisations from throughout Leith and Edinburgh will come together under one roof to show off just what they do and how others can join in.

The idea is designed to give everyone with an interest in taking up a new ­creative arts type hobby – from dance to art or simply helping behind the scenes organising events and even mini ­festivals – the chance to see the huge ­variety of groups available.

According to Rebecca Powrie, of ­organisers Voluntary Arts Scotland which promotes and encourages participation in cultural activities, the event is aimed at bringing together existing groups with a whole new generation of volunteers, bringing benefits to all sides.

And the good news for those who can’t sing, can’t paint and definitely can’t rapper sword dance, there’s no need to be expert in any to get involved.

“You don’t need to sing, dance, play an instrument or be great at the arts to be involved in various ways,” says ­Rebecca. “It might be that someone can be involved in a governance role helping to organise meetings or being involved as the secretary or in the finances side or helping with the website stuff. It’s about being creative in the much wider sense of the word.

“Organisations constantly need fresh faces. People come along, volunteer then move on and do ­different things. So there’s ­usually always space for new people.

“Volunteers underpin everything these organisations do and if they do ­different projects, they need people with different skills to help them.

“There are lots of different roles within an organisation, depending on what skills you have.”

While having plenty of members means the organisations continue to thrive and can continue to thrive, there’s a massive spin off benefit for the ­volunteers, she adds.

“There are huge health and well-being benefits,” says Rebecca. “It’s good to give something back to the local area but you find you get something out of it too.

“People volunteer for many reasons, they might be retired, and it’s something to get out of the house or looking to build skills, may be something they want to do as a career in the future, or just have some spare time and are interested in building skills.

“Helping to organise a festival or one-off event can be great for someone who wants to have some experience of running events. It’s great for young people in particular who want some experience before they go for a job.”

The event will give groups like the Wildlife Choir – which usually only ­performs for their own pleasure or at very small private events – the chance to show off what they do.

“I found out about the choir through word of mouth, that’s often how these things happen,” says chair Ginnie Bell, a member of staff at Queen Margaret University.

“I hadn’t sung for a while and wanted to get back my confidence and this sounded like a friendly way to do it.”

The all-women choir practices at Pilrig St Paul’s Church, often focusing on songs with a political edge. “It’s a real mix of people of all ages, some are 
teenagers, some are working mothers,” adds Ginnie. “It’s very supportive and a great way to get away from the stresses in our lives and do something different.”

The event, on Friday, December 5, will be accompanied by a photography ­exhibition compiled by two Edinburgh College BA photography ­students, Derek Anderson and David Hamilton-Smith featuring images of people who are ­involved in local ­creative arts groups holding signs explaining why they love what they do.

A Creative Exchange will be held at The Creative Exchange, Constitution Street, Leith, between 7pm and 9pm on Friday, 5 December.