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Health of the Sublime

Health of the Sublime is a multi-year project mapping the lived experience of wellbeing and the sublime in the natural world and the threat to that posed by climate change. We are thrilled to announce that we have just been awarded generous funding from Creative Scotland for the second phase of the project in addition to their generous funding for year one. 

About the project

Health of the Sublime is a multi-year project offering free tuition in creative skills as we map the lived experience of wellbeing and the sublime in the natural world through the lens of climate change. Participants can choose from free courses in video, nature writing and poetry, audio, and for some housebound clients, virtual reality. From the artworks and writings they make, we will make an interactive map online, in VR, and in real life. The project has received generous funding since it's start from Creative Scotland. Year one spanned 2022-2023 and concentrated on documenting the lived experience of wellbeing in the natural world. The next phase begins mid-April 2024, also focusing on our lived experience of wellbeing in the natural world but through the lens of climate change. In addition to our regular courses, we'll also run Climate Fresks, a card game where everyone learns more about climate science by thinking together creative map making workshops, host many a creative map making session of all kinds, as well as collecting personal stories from our neighbours who have seen the most change in the places they love. Originally titled Health of the Sublime in the Mearns, we have recently retitled the project Health of the Sublime to include the breadth of our participants.


Partner organisation

I've partnered with Mearns and Coastal Healthy Living Network (MCHLN) to bring a programme of arts activity to their clients, volunteers, and staff. The remit of MCHLN is to support the wellbeing of people age 50+ in and around Kincardineshire. Clients range in age from early 50s to early nineties. ​Anyone in and around Kincardineshire can participate in the tuition as long as they are 50 or older. We invite everyone to participate in our public facing events including our open mics.

The project

Participants can join free programmes of tuition and engage in one-off ways too. The creative activities give participants tools, skills, and heightened awareness to document their well-being experience through audio, video, writing, making, and for some, virtual reality. Some housebound clients will be given training in building their own immersive experience of the natural world in virtual reality in which to experience well-being whilst be assisted with building blocks for their making, including drone footage of their beloved places and 3D models to inhabit. An interactive map based in online and VR is made of these participant-generated artworks. This map informs my own new body of multi-disciplinary work in video, performance, virtual reality, sound, installation, and sculpture. I will develop site-specific artwork inspired by the lived experience of wellbeing and site-specific climate crisis threat to these participant decided sites. Performances, installations, and sound works will be inspired by, made with, and potentially participant-made, will further poetically articulate the lived experience of wellbeing from immersion in the natural world. Delivery of the programme largely piggybacks on current methods MCHLN has in place already to deliver services, with additional methods where needed. This year-long programme of creative activity will be offered to staff, volunteers, as well as clients of MCHLN, helping to achieve one of MCHLNs goals of providing more opportunities and well-being for their volunteers. ​

We will soon be announcing the free tuition programme for the next phase. We will also be collecting stories of the natural world, changes seen over a life time, inspiring work in nature writing/nature poetry, video, audio, and for people who might not be able to participate in another way, one on one tuition in virtual reality. All tuition and events are free. To become a participant, you just need to be 50 years or older and live in or around Kincardineshire and the Mearns, (south eastern Aberdeenshire).


The aims

I hope through this project to foster skills to heighten awareness of wellbeing so participants access those feelings more often, in the natural world and outwith it; to bring new connections between clients, staff, and volunteers of MCHLN and the wider community focusing on our individual and shared experiences of the world and our interdependence with each other and the planet; to empower each participant with respect for, to have confidence in, and value their distinct voice and experience by helping them hone multiple expressive skills, as well as digital skills, providing opportunities of sharing that voice and experience with other participants and more widely with our neighbours. ​


My experience of shielding and isolation from other people in the North and Highlands of Scotland for most of the two years following the start of the pandemic was spent in total sensory immersion in nature. Incremental changes in water, plants, animals, atmosphere, and most especially sound, highlighted gains made when humans drastically changed their behaviour, forced by Covid-19. I was without a usable studio for most of that time and was so fortunate to spend the first lockdown on a 13,000-acre, nearly human-less remote landscape in the Highlands. This experience has formatively changed my practice and life. I have since relocated to rural Aberdeenshire, surrounded by animals, birds, trees in a pastoral idyll. One that is being fast destroyed by frequent winds 40-60+ miles per hour and frequent storms completely decimating woodlands. The woods and mountains are where my experience of wellbeing is at its apex. I want to share this heightened experience of wellbeing in the natural world and bring focus to the threat to this experience climate change poses. And thus Health of the Sublime in the Mearns was born.

Climate change is affecting the livelihoods of southern Aberdeenshire people now. This area is highly agricultural, has nearly 30 miles of coastline, forests, and mountains. It is hoped this project will lead to less impactful, wasteful, and carbon-heavy behaviours and activities in participants lives, and also larger organisations, companies, farms, and ideally governmental change.

About the project
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