As co-director of arts social enterprise Inverkeithing Arts Initiative I collaborated with local artist Rosie Gibson on her Afternoon Tea event on 15th October 2015. The event was the culmination of her five day Trading Wisdom Art Event on Inverkeithing High Street. Trading Wisdom was one of the numerous art events taking place around Scotland in the Luminate Festival from 10th-17th October 2015.
In an original project in 2014 Rosie had gathered ‘Nuggets of Wisdom’ from local people born between 1925-35, her mother’s generation, messages they would like to pass to the younger generation. For this follow-on project, Trading Wisdom, she put together the nuggets and local 'trades' in the town in a five day live arts installation. The idea was to celebrate:
"both the grittily lyrical wisdom of my mum's generation and also the shops and businesses in the High Street. I was curious about what happens if you put the two together."
Our part in the collaboration with Rosie was to create a stage for Afternoon Tea in the local Civic Centre where it was to be held. The Afternoon Tea was a chance for everyone involved with the art event to come together and celebrate. Rosie made hand-made chocolates for her guests, and delicious cakes were served, made by local bakers. Bristol Branch provided the afternoon’s music.
We developed a theme of a drying green on a summer’s day, based on Rosie's examination and interweaving of concepts of work and play. We wove the nuggets of wisdom amongst everyday washing using embroidery, luggage labels and stencils - on baby clothes, men’s shirts, pinnies, football boots, pillowcases and washing baskets, and even the greeny poles themselves. We served tea to the guests from large stainless steel teapots, and our pinnies bore the message 'work and play as if you are living in the early days of a better nation' on the pockets, a favourite of Rosie's by Scottish author and artist Alastair Gray.
Our inspiration came from the nuggets of wisdom from the generation of Rosie's mum: the girl who worked at the now long demolished Caldwell's Paper Mill and walked up and down the Mill Brae, the mother who provided endless meals for all of her grown up children, the hope that new technology could free us for more time to spend with our families, and, indeed, the shops and businesses of Inverkeithing High Street who gamely agree to take part in the project.
We all shared in the sense of hope, optimism and determination. We hope it continues to remind us to take a moment's break from our work, and stand on the drying green in the sunshine, imagining a better future.