Cultivating Communities @ a-n Assembly Aberdeen

Gaada, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick

Dain’ Hings workshop, Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick

Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick

Assembly Aberdeen. Photo: Abby Quick

Aberdeen is an anchor-city for Shetland. It’s where the 12 hour boat docks on mainland UK. It’s the starting point for many holidays. It has the closest university, the closest art school. It’s often our nearest hospital for many routine procedures. It’s also where you are flown in most medical emergencies. Aberdeen is the final destination for many islanders, and is where many of our lives begin. It is, therefore, a place forever present in the conversations and lives of those in the far North. Aberdeen is far (260 miles) away, yet it is our closest neighbour. Shetland needs Aberdeen.

At the beginning of July, we were very excited to be invited to take part in a-n Assembly Aberdeen. This was the first a-n Assembly event in the UK to be organised by a collective – Aberdeen’s own contemporary art collective Tendency Towards. The event heard from a range of collaborative projects from across the UK and Gaada’s contribution was to a panel discussion Cultivating Communities. Taking part in the discussion was myself (Amy Gear) and fellow co-director Daniel Clark, as well as Grand Union’s Collaborative Programme Curator, Jo Capper (Birmingham) and a-n CEO, Julie Lomax (Newcastle/London). Together we explored the realities of engaging communities in Urban and Rural settings through contemporary art projects, and hit upon many similarities shared between our wildly different environments.

Our conversation was set against the backdrop of Aberdeen's creative scene, which in the last 5 years has flourished thanks largely to a few people (few enough you can count them on 2 hands). Members of Tendency Towards are at the heart of this change. As a group of young artists, they chose Aberdeen (over the usual central-belt cities) as a place where they can cultivate a community ­­– recognising it’s identity is far richer and diverse than simply just a city steeped in oil. This idea of artists embedding themselves in communities underpinned the entire day, which in various ways celebrated and examined some of the communities across the country which are currently engaging their idiosyncrasies head-on to develop incredibly valuable and creative closed loop art ecologies. Present were an eclectic spread of artists + organisations who spent the day learning from each other, expanding supportive networks, and hopefully sowing the seeds of a few future partnerships. Opportunities to forge these links are absolutely critical in the seriously competitive and harsh creative climate we currently exist in.

Big thanks to Tendency Towards and A-N for reaching out to us!

You can read a-n’s writeup of the day over at their website.

– Amy Gear

P.S. a-n is turning 40 in 2020! They do great work creating opportunities, support, and development for artists so if you aren’t already aware, go check them out! We look forward to celebrating the big 4-0 with them next year!