Creative Learning: An Interview with Rosie Priest

Earlier this year, Ivy Z.A. Edwards joined Stellar Quines for a work placement. During her time with us she has produced articles and interviews. Here she interviews Rosie Priest, our Creative Learning Associate, about her role at Stellar Quines and her ongoing work towards her PhD.  

First off, can you please give a brief overview of what you do in your role as Creative Learning Associate? 
Stellar Quines’ creative learning activities are an opportunity to use the creative tools we’re familiar with to work with women across Scotland and to explore, create, make and play. Often, we utilise theatre as an opportunity to share the stories and voices of those who are not often seen on stage: currently, we are running creative learning projects with Muslim women living in Glasgow, young mothers based in one of Scotland’s most socio-economically deprived areas and young women accessing services to counteract social isolation. The work I do allows these women to explore often difficult themes through theatre. This does not always mean standing on a stage and performing; for some it is just sharing their experiences through informal storytelling in small groups; for others, it is crafting plays and seeing their stories enacted on stage; whilst others make videos and play. How creative learning activities are developed and evolve is always in collaboration with the people who will be taking advantage of these opportunities.

A lot of our creative learning is tied to the productions we make, and our theatre production Fibres in late 2019 saw our creative learning travel across the central belt and deliver to a multitude of groups impacted by the themes within Frances Poet’s beautiful and brilliant play. From large theatre groups to individuals impacted by the Glasgow shipyards, this project involved a maelstrom of creative learning.

I understand my role as identifying important groups and individuals who could utilise our tools and supporting them in developing and creating projects I am equipped to deliver. I honestly believe my position within Stellar Quines to be one of the most exciting! I work with different people in different places across Scotland every day.

What inspired you to work in the creative industry? 
This is a bit of a tough one – I come from a visual arts background and I am currently amid a PhD exploring the impacts of collaborative visual art practices on young people. My primary creative output has always been visual art. I’m really lucky that I grew up with an artist for a mother, she is a real inspiration, but was always far too energetic and interested in people to be a ‘traditional’ artist (locked up alone for days with nothing but an easel for company).

I really found my feet at university, to be honest, I struggled with the concentration needed at school for visual art, and whilst I thrived within dancing and theatre, I never wanted to be on the stage myself. When you’re young, quite often there isn’t an understanding of what other creative opportunities there are out there, like being a director, a choreographer or different types of visual artists. Anyway, at university I got my first job giving tours at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow and fell head over heels for talking about art with people. I started playing with paint in a way I couldn’t at home – with energy and enthusiasm and MESS – and worked for Timorous Beasties for a while doing some screen printing: the physicality of pushing and pulling ink across screens really worked my energy out. Being messy and being with people became my passions and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get into creative fields? 
Creativity comes in a lot of forms. I always stumble when people exclaim “I’m not creative, I can’t draw!”: we’re often taught that creativity comes with some hierarchical understanding of skill, we’re often marked and graded at school on our creativity in art and drama and that can be a stumbling block for a lot of people wanting to work within the arts. I would encourage people to talk, to reach out, to send organisations like Stellar Quines an email! There are lots of different opportunities for those out there who are interested, so my main advice would be to play and to explore. When we get to a certain age, around 11 or 12 years old, we’re often encouraged to not play anymore, and for me, the arts are all about the opposite of that, they’re about playing and using our imaginations. So – play!

Can you please tell us more about your radio show on EH-FM?  
This is my little passion project! My show is called Sounds of the Second Sex and is all about sharing music by womxn and non-binary people. A recent study highlighted that women make up 21.7% of artists, 12.3% of songwriters and 2.1% of producers. Only 10% of Grammy winners are women: my show is about sharing and supporting their music, whilst having fun and talking about contemporary feminist issues with different monthly guests. My ultimate aim is to start promoting womxn’s bands under the Sounds of the Second Sex and release a few records, not-for-profit of course! But that is a long way away!

Can you please tell our readers a little a bit about your PhD thesis and why you chose it? 
The title can be a little clunky but is “Collaborative Art and Transformation: An exploration of the visual art outreach programmes for disadvantaged young people in Scotland”. Whilst there is a wealth of case studies exploring the impacts of art interventions on young people, there is yet to be a robust longitudinal study exploring art’s impact. The arts are funded with a huge emphasis placed on the potential for them to have ‘transformative’ effects (the new cultural strategy for Scotland even states the three aims of culture are: strengthening culture, transforming through culture, empowering through culture), but the realities of this effects are yet to be known. Whilst there is a lot of anecdotal evidence supporting arts positive impacts on individuals (including my own experiences), there is yet to be any robust, thorough research exploring this.

I don’t know if I chose the PhD, I think it chose me: I spent a lot of time as an arts facilitator and creative learning associate emphasising the need to work collaboratively and for long periods with groups and individuals, however, this is not always possible under current funding structures. I find that creative learning is often side-lined as a side project and not fully ingrained within art practices despite the primary reason the arts are funded by the government is for their transformative and empowering abilities: abilities primarily rooted within creative learning practices! My PhD really came out of a need to better understand the impacts my creative learning practices were having, and how I can better support the sector through my knowledge. I’m keen that my research doesn’t just influence my practice, but governmental policies, arts funding as well as art practices as a whole… basically, I want to change the world, or at least, my little segment of it.

Listen to Sounds of the Second Sex at www.ehfm.live/residents/sounds-for-the-second-sex