City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Art Festival Brought Out the Kid Critics


By Jane Frere - Posted on 03 September 2012

One of the main aims of the Edinburgh Art Festival, which ended yesterday, is not only to present a programme of international and emerging artists in established galleries, but to venture into areas not always associated with art in order to attract new audiences.

This summer saw artistic events in the most unexpected places, whether screenings of film works by young artists in shop windows in Rose street, the performance of Martin Creed’s All the Bells on The Scotsman steps, or even while shopping for clothes in The White Stuff, in Edinburgh’s most prestigious retail area George street.

The flagship store already decked out with an eclectic mix of retro objects, planted in-between faded cottons and floral patterned garments; Scalextric sets winding under picnic park benches not to mention a herd of stuffed animal heads nailed to the wall create quirky decor with a discernible whiff of the ubiquitous themed experience that's de rigueur these days.

So it should be of no surprise that the shop’s directors gave their top floor over to celebrated TV comedian Harry Hill for his EAF debut exhibition, entitled ‘My Hobby’, showing brightly coloured, witty folk art paintings.

“Everybody is an artist”, Joseph Beuys famously asserted, and so it would seem even when fully occupied by the maelstrom of celebrity. When he’s not on the screen, Harry Hill admits he finds time for his “hobby” while relaxing in front of it.

Whatever the intention of the EAF, this alternative entry into arts programming clearly paid off for the shop. Customers filled all floors turning August into a lucrative month in what was expected to be a poor season.

Everyone's an art critic

However it may not have been only the pull of Harry Hill attracting the hordes from the comedy Fringe circuit into the retail-cum-arts sphere.

In the adjacent top floor room, The House Of Fairy Tales, a children’s arts charity based in London, founded by artists Deborah Curtis and Gavin Turk (of YBA fame) was invited by the EAF to bring the whole shebang north to create a pilot scheme that would encourage children of all ages, with adults, to not only engage with the geography and history of Edinburgh’s streets but the art embedded within it.

Boasting well over 1,500 visitors, the space was transformed into a buzzing newsroom with a workshop area encapsulating the excitement and spirit of festival fever. Using richly illustrated maps and task sheets with clues from a specially published festival paper, The Hoft Examiner, written, edited and illustrated for kids by kids, the project included an interactive game in the form of a problem solving mystery trail across the cities art galleries and museums.

Youngsters were encouraged to write about their experiences in the form of critical reviews to be selected on merit for the final issue to be circulated around schools. There’s hope that the scheme might even be incorporated into the school curriculum.

Empowering children to be heard as critical and engaged young citizens of a city that boasts the most popular arts festival in the world augurs well for a future generation of young festival goers.