‘When you put the books together in the same room they start talking to each other’: Sigrid Nielsen, co-founder of Lavender Menace Queer Books Archive
Lavender Menace, the first queer bookshop in Scotland (known at that time as ‘lesbian and gay’), opened in 1982. The shop sold hundreds of openly queer titles being produced by new gay and feminist publishers – and later by mainstream publishing companies. It also created safe space for the community and hosted queer author events, launches and parties.
In 1987 the shop expanded and re-launched as West & Wilde Bookshop. In 1997, like many queer booksellers and presses worldwide, it closed due to changes in the publishing industry.
After the success of James Ley’s 2016 play about the shop, Love Song to Lavender Menace, founders Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielsen reopened Lavender Menace in 2019 as a popup bookshop with a new project – to create a queer books archive, preserving copies of out of print queer books and set up a database to list queer books and record readers’ views and stories about them.
As a result of the generosity of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, they have recently expanded their programme to include many new projects. Edinburgh Art Festival are collaborating with Lavender Menace as part of their work with artist Sean Burns, which includes an event hosted by Sigrid and Bob to reflect upon personal and political experiences of HIV in Edinburgh during the 1980s and ’90s. This discussion will explore the personal experiences of inhabitants of Fairy Heights – the colloquial names given to a housing block in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket area – where several queer people lived in the 1990s and ’00s.
Illustrated by Cat Gordon
“As an artist who is driven by the desire to tell stories, my stand alone pieces consist of densely filled compositions with lots of elements. I use these as a base to weave narratives into, showing multiple different interactions, relationships and ideas within one piece.
For this project, I knew that I needed to tell the story of Lavender Menace Returns and showcase the different characters you could meet when you spend time at queer archives. The characters emerging from the books represent different parts of queer history, from lesbian bikers to non-binary icon, Joan of Arc, there is a wealth of experiences and stories to uncover.
I wanted to create a dynamic scene in which the books come to life, each one part of an important narrative that links queer history together. I also wanted to use bright, joyful colours to create an eye-catching piece and show the joy that can be found within this community.”
Visit Cat’s website | @catgordonillustration
‘I call the Book Festival my holiday at home, the oxygen and the food for the year. It goes too quick for me!’: Mark McManus, audience member at the Edinburgh International Book Festival
Edinburgh International Book Festival is one of the world’s largest celebrations of the written (and spoken) word. Marking its 40th anniversary, this year’s Festival takes place from 12–28 August in the leafy grounds of Edinburgh College of Art. Discover over 500 events for adults and children in the 2023 programme.
As a charitable, non-profit making organisation, the work of the Book Festival also stretches far beyond the month of August. The Communities Programme Team work closely with local organisations throughout the year to create inspiring and empowering events for people of all ages and backgrounds.
The quote that Zhuojun Liu has beautifully illustrated comes from an interview with Book Festival supporter Mark McManus, conducted as part of the "Four for 40” fundraising campaign. Mark has been attending Edinburgh International Book Festival for over 20 years and is widely known among the team for his generosity, insightful questions to authors during Q&As, and for attending dozens of events each August. As a wheelchair user with significant additional needs, Mark says the Book Festival means so much to him because “it’s a space where I feel appreciated as a whole person, and not just looked at because of my disability”.
Illustrated by Zhuojun Liu
Zhuojun Liu is an illustrator who comes from China and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2023. She is interested in narrative and image-making, such as making picture books. Zhuojun loves reading books and enjoys participating in various book activities. She was very honored to be invited to create a poster for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. During the poster creation, she wanted to express the diversity and pastoral care of the festival that Mark McManus mentioned in his blog post. In Zhuojun’s illustration, she intends to show the lively atmosphere of summer Edinburgh, and hopes everyone can enjoy the book festival this year!
Visit Zhuojun’s website | @zj.lart
"Today I learned that atoms are really small but also really important": participant feedback
Alongside their celebrated Science Festival which takes place every April at venues across Edinburgh, Edinburgh Science Foundation is one of Scotland's largest science outreach charities, presenting year-round Learning and Community programmes.
This quote reflects the foundation’s mission is to inspire, encourage and challenge people of all ages to explore and understand the world around them. They do this through projects such as Generation Science, which brings immersive science shows and workshops directly into primary school classrooms all over Scotland, from the Scottish Borders to the Shetland Islands.
Every year they run Careers Hive at the National Museum of Scotland – an reimagined interactive careers event for 11–15 year olds that is free for schools to attend and encourages young people to consider further study in science and technology subjects.
They also work with community groups from across Edinburgh to help encourage their members to engage with science, working closely to adapt our programmes to their needs. Beyond the Hive is one of these initiatives, where they bring an adapted version of Careers Hive to young people who are out of formal education or training.
Visit Edinburgh Science Festival website | @edscifest
Illustrated by Donger Liu
‘The poster was designed in a comic style to reflect the quote ‘Today I learned that atoms are really small but also really important.’ The concept is to present an atom starting with a tiny, then zooming in to find out there is a world in the atom. I worked in a psychedelic style, with a swirling background to demonstrate the universe. I used bright contrast colours to highlight the burn of the atom, making the image fun and noticeable.’
Visit Donger’s website | @dong_er_
“The residency really helped my pupils show how special they are – even from another universe they shine”: teacher feedback on the Immerse project run by Imaginate, producers of the Edinburgh International Children's Festival
Imaginate is the national organisation in Scotland which develops, celebrates and presents theatre and dance for children and young people. Its purpose is to improve and enrich the lives of children and young people.
They produce the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, an annual celebration of exceptional Scottish and international theatre and dance for young audiences, with a focus on visually striking performances with high production value. The Festival is attended by 15,000 children, their teachers and families, as well as artists and professionals from all over the world.
The quote for this poster was provided by a teacher involved in their three-year Immerse Project, which ran from 2019 to 2022. Imaginate worked with six Edinburgh primary schools, bringing creative and immersive arts experiences for pupils who need it the most. The programme aimed to partner with schools to develop creativity and imagination and had a huge impact on the social and emotional wellbeing of all the children who took part.
Visit Edinburgh International Children’s Festival website | @ImaginateUK
Illustrated by Daisy Whittle
Energetic and vibrant, my designs capture narratives from everyday life through a playful lens. I care about creating humour filled illustrations that are rich in texture and colour. Because of this, I have found that mixing a wide range of analogue and digital media is central to developing my lively style. I enjoy using my practice to tell stories that deserve to have a light shone on them - no matter how big or small they may be.
With this project, I wanted to highlight the importance of arts-based learning and the ways in which creative programmes have such a huge impact on increasing children’s confidence and creativity. The poster depicts an energetic classroom scene where a group of children cheer on their performing classmates, to convey the togetherness and support that arts-based learning tends to foster. It was really important to me to emphasise fantastical elements here, to reflect the magic, wonder and power of children’s imagination. As the performers tell their story, the imaginary star-filled world they are building only grows and immerses the class further. The scene celebrates the joy of encouraging children to develop their sense of self-expression and voice: even from another universe, they shine.
Visit Daisy’s website | @daisywhittle.illustrator
The Big Scottish Story Ripple and The Stone Soup Collective projects – Scottish International Storytelling Festival
'Something magical was created that day. Sharing and hearing stories, igniting curiosity, and forming connections': participant feedback
The Big Scottish Story Ripple is the Scottish International Storytelling Festival’s annual community and family Programme, which pairs local storytellers with schools and community groups throughout Scotland.
Groups can apply to cover the cost of their storyteller’s fees and in return, successful applicants offer a good deed back to their local community on or before St Andrew’s Day.
In 2022 the Big Scottish Story Ripple hosted over 120 sessions, delivered by 41 different storytellers, with over 3,200 people taking part, sharing over 700 stories together.
The Stone Soup Collective is a series of events, facilitated by a storyteller in partnership with a community hub in their local area, hosting a ceilidh of stories, songs, food and dance, right in the heart of the community.
The Stone Soup is a European folk story in which strangers convince the people of a town to each share a small amount of their food to make a larger meal that everyone can enjoy. At the heart of this story is a message of welcoming strangers, integration, kindness and sharing our resources to enable community strength and support.
The Scottish International Storytelling Festival is the world’s largest celebration of storytelling, anchored in Scotland, a nation of storytellers. The Festival takes place in October each year, as the seasons change with long nights drawing families and friends around the hearth, inspired by the Scottish ceilidh tradition – a community gathering full of tales, anecdotes, music and song. Expert storytellers command the attention of the room as they weave their tales of life, love, magic and mystery, with audience involvement being a key component of the festival.
Illustrated by Cara Gates
‘My name is Cara, and I am an illustrator based in the Scottish Borders. My work is largely inspired by femininity, nature, mythology and folklore, stories and music. My illustration style is very much influenced by Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, Aestheticism and the Pre-Raphaelites. Recently, my work has been mainly digital, but I also enjoy working with relief printing, gouache and water colour paint, marker pens. I have recently also been exploring how I could incorporate my love for yarn crafts, like knitting and crochet, into my practice.
As part of a collaboration between Jack Arts x Edinburgh Festivals, this poster project aims to highlight the Scottish International Storytelling Festival and celebrate the magic and importance of storytelling, reflecting on one of the many community events that took place in 2022 as part of The Big Scottish Ripple Project. The illustration depicts an older woman retelling her experience of planting trees with her child many years ago, her white hair flowing up to the top right of the poster to frame the image of her memory. Two children stand with her as she speaks, listening with wonder, while light green plants grow and wind upward in the background.’
Visit Cara’s website | @cara.illo
‘I feel alive… the world is here today’: words by Helen, shared by her neighbour Farida, while at the Edinburgh Festival Carnival, part of the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
One of the largest festivals of its kind in Europe, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival takes place every July, bringing world-class international musicians to Edinburgh as well as championing local talent. The festival also produces the Edinburgh Festival Carnival, Edinburgh's largest multi-cultural celebration. Taking place in Princes Street Gardens, this free event brings together local and international artists, creating an awe-inspiring display of costumes, dance and music and presenting the world in one city.
The quote for this poster came from Helen and was shared by her neighbour Farida. Along with her friends and family, Farida has attended the Edinburgh Festival Carnival for several years and this year, she decided to take her neighbour Helen. Helen said she had never appreciated the castle, the trees, or the spectacular fountain in Princes Street Gardens as much as she did that day. The carnival performers made her feel alive and reminded her of the transformational powers of live performance.
Illustrated by Sara Hassan
For this project I was inspired by the vibrant costumes of the Edinburgh Carnival, pairing that with the imagery from the Jazz and Blues festival. I aimed to capture the energetic atmosphere of both events through my poster design. I used gouache to create texture and movement, combining this with hand-lettering for the quote to add to the dynamic quality. I also felt that hand-lettering would allude to the personal nature of the experience the quote describes.
In my illustration practice I enjoy portraying experiences, often drawing from personal experiences for my own work. When working on a project like this poster, I try to capture other peoples’ experiences within the illustrations. I enjoy experimenting with different figure styles and shapes, as I take a lot of inspiration from the variation of figures and shapes used in folk art. Exploring the imagery of both the Festival and Carnival was deeply interesting, as I was able to draw a lot of inspiration from both events for my poster outcome. Having the opportunity to celebrate Edinburgh’s culture through this project was a great experience.
Visit Sara’s website – @saraeveillustration
‘I was moved to tears by the first song’: words from audience member at London Symphony Orchestra performances in hospitals in Edinburgh, presented by Edinburgh International Festival
Founded in 1947, the International Festival was the inspired idea of Rudolf Bing, a cultural pioneer and refugee of the Nazi regime. He joined with civic and artistic leaders to create a cultural event which would transcend political boundaries through a global celebration of performing arts. They welcome the world to Edinburgh, to experience a hand-picked programme of the finest performers in dance, opera, music and theatre.
As part of the London Symphony Orchestra’s residency at the 2023 Edinburgh International Festival, their Learning and Engagement team brought LSO players to perform in four hospitals for patients, NHS staff and visitors during August 2023.
Their Learning and Engagement team have worked in hospital settings on a smaller scale as part of the Festival Favours project in 2021 and through the Jungle Book reimagined project in 2022. This project was the most ambitious work in hospitals to date, and was delivered in partnership with Tonic Arts, the arts programme of the NHS Lothian Charity and London Symphony Orchestra’s Discovery Team.
This project was designed to reflect the Festival’s programme mission – creating the deepest level of experience, through the highest quality of art, for the broadest possible audience – by reaching Festival city citizens who would not otherwise be able to attend. Across three days, fifteen performers players performed for around 1000 patients, NHS staff and visitors. In addition, tickets were given to NHS staff and volunteers who supported the delivery of the pop-up performances.
Illustrated by Zoë Brown
As an illustrator and printmaker, my work centres around community and place. I strive towards an environmentally conscious practice, focusing on telling stories that resonate with my values of sustainability and togetherness. Incorporation of hand drawn textures enforces reflection and physicality into every one of my pieces. I enjoy using my work to celebrate the joy of human stories, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to be involved in this project.
I wanted to highlight the positive impact the Festival’s project with the London Symphony Orchestra had in the hospitals. I was inspired by the incredibly enthusiastic feedback from the first concerts - the power the performances had in providing respite and distraction, as well as making both patients and staff feel valued - really spoke to me.
I chose a minimal blue palette, both to represent the NHS and to evoke the calming atmosphere created by the London Symphony Orchestra’s musicians. The interlocking and gestural images reflect the healing connections that can be made through the experience of live music.
Visit Zoë's website | @zoebrownart