A few years ago I produced a work call 26 Doors Between My House and Yours – pictures and poems on the significance and symbolism of doors. When I saw an event called Doors That Open I felt that I ought to review it. However, I knew it would be difficult to write up an event at St Margaret’s House arts complex on London Road without mentioning recent news. While I didn’t want to make this review about an ‘issue’ it seemed inevitable that it would creep in.
Sáras Feijóo was just one week into her three-week artist’s residency when people heard that St Margaret’s was to close its doors on the artistic community based there. Known collectively as Edinburgh Palette, this is a hive of creative people from artists to sculptors to theatre-makers and more, with studios, galleries, and spaces for a diverse range of activities besides.
Sáras was invited to reside in the gallery on the third floor to explore creativity, connect with the community, reach out beyond the walls (thanks to the internet!) and collaborate with local and international artists. She held daily live-video sessions (which – significantly – continued beyond the residency period) called 30 Days Creativity, held regular lunchtime discussions, and curated a public event to round off the three weeks on February 17th.
I dropped into the gallery earlier that day for a chat, and the conversation took an obvious turn. When the news broke, apparently everyone in the building was glum and downbeat. That’s understandable, really. Yet, anyone who has met or seen Sáras Feijóo will know that she has an infectious joi-de-vivre, coupled with unquenchable optimism.
Whether the title of her residency was serendipitous or prescient is hard to know, but The Grand Finale was no doubt informed and influenced by the present situation. It seems that creatives are constantly battling with the ‘outside world’ – as if they are in a little artistic bubble that struggles to engage with reality, or else, bursts with the slightest stab at their fragility. When doors are closed on creativity, it takes double the effort to find ones that open.
This is only the case if doors are considered in the physical sense, rather than metaphorical. When I arrived later that evening, it was plain to see that the widest door was the ‘community’ that makes up Edinburgh Palette: this will remain open whatever happens to St Margaret’s House. In her opening talk, Sáras asked us to embark on a journey with her, to discover how we can not only connect but resonate with other people to overcome the ‘creativity blocks’ that close us in.
As artists, Sáras said, we want a result always, but if we embark on a journey of discovery we realise that the techniques (say of painting, or dancing) are important, but being in the right ‘space’ is more about allowing yourself to explore with your creative energy. And so, the audience were invited to explore the space, following arrows along the floor, climbing through a frame to enter one room, to ‘play’ games, and to write ‘before and after’ thoughts on large charts on the walls.
Elsewhere on the walls there was a selection of artwork by Sáras, which she was hoping would find a way out into the world. The journey was illustrated further by collaborations with artists from the immediate community (Sophia Burns, of Edinburgh Palette) to as far away as New York (Molly O’Riley) and photographer Daniel Dabrowski (Poland/Scotland.)
There was music from Dave House (aka, The Reverse Engineer, who will be continuing the metaphor at Hidden Door’s programme launch in March) and a dance/music collaboration between Emma Snellgrove and fiddle-player, Nick Jenkins. Titled ‘Ride the Wave,’ this piece explored the tension of resisting and leading – key themes in the research Sáras had carried out during her residency.
Whether it is our inner fears or the outer doors that prevent our creative potential, the joyful ebullience of the participative aspect was shared by all who attended. Furthermore, the money raised was for the Edinburgh Contemporary Clown Festival, to be presented in early May by CloWnStePPinG – another venture spearheaded by Sáras.
Despite the fact that this event was called The Grand Finale, Sáras was keen to say that it was not a swansong for St Margaret’s House. Just as the grand aria in an opera isn’t really the end – it’s what the audience take away with them when they leave the theatre that matters – Sáras wanted to imagine “all the artists leaving the building with their heads up because the work here is finished… but there are plenty more spaces in the world that need to be worked.” With people like Sáras Feijóo holding open the door, in the face of other closures there is optimism, enthusiasm and, above all, hope.
For more on Sáras‘ Kickstarter campaign for a Contemporary Clown Festival click here.