TEA FOR THISTLE
2016, AIR THISTLE FOUNDATION, CRAIGMILLAR, EDINBURGH
An artist residency which took the form of;
- Research and creative response to local archives from both the Craigmillar Community and the Thistle Foundation. With a focus on studying the stories of of informal social spaces and hospitality within both the Foundation and community settings.
- Community engagement, working with local residents to run pop up cafe events for the public, which interpreted aspects of social history and brought together members of both the Thistle and Craigmillar community to connect, reflect and consider the future of key local resources.
- Creating a commissioned artwork for the new Thistle Foundation Hub, in the form of a bespoke tea trolley with interpretive and useful contents from hand engraved tea pots to table games and coasters printed with archival materials.
The Thistle Foundation is a health and wellbeing charity based in Craigmillar, Edinburgh. Craigmillar as a community emerged as a ‘social engineering attempt' in the 1940’s to dissipate the inner city overcrowded ‘slums’ through the provision of new housing schemes at the edges of Edinburgh. The Thistle Foundation at the same time, based in Craigmillar, was leading the way - with forward thinking housing design which provided suitable and accessible homes for ex-service men who lived with physical disabilities, facing life long residence in care institutions, separated from their families.
The project studio was in the former recreational therapy building at the Thistle Foundation, latterly known as the Garden Cafe and then the Garden Suit. It no longer runs as a cafe, nor was the cafe relocated or planned to be, but at its time it played an important role in facilitating the integration between residents at Thistle living with disability and the wider Craigmillar Community, breaking down pre-existing stigmas. I found the cupboards in the Garden Suit packed full of crockery, stainless steel milk jugs and the industrial kitchen still well equipped.
The pop up cafe events brought people together who had not been to Thistle for long periods of time. One original Thistle resident who had long since lost touch with the Foundation came along with his own designs for a piece of sculpture for the new building. Returning to each cafe event he re-established a relationship with the charity and his sculpture is now a permanent feature outside the new hub.
The final pop up cafe event was run almost entirely by volunteers, a group of women who termed the events ‘Tea for Thistle.’ Part of the aim of my process was to demonstrate what could be done with this resource and to question the resources that could be on offer with in the new Hub. In order that in the future the space could facilitate residents to continue to connect with one another, through their own hospitality as they have done in the past.