Peace… Calm…Relief…

…just some of the words used by participants to describe their experience at the New Scots Creative Arts Residency, held by the Bield at Blackruthven.

Funded by the Reaching New Scots Fund, with thanks to the National Lottery Community Fund, this fully-funded residency is for artists with lived experience of seeking refuge in Scotland.

10 artists from Ukraine, Syria and Iran, based across Scotland, are taking part.

We visit on the penultimate day of the residency in February 2023. Located just outside of Perth, the first impression of the Bield is of a place of tranquillity. This is confirmed stepping into the art workshop – music playing gently, a log-burning stove flickering, the scratching of charcoal or pastels, the scraping of seats as artists get up to replenish their paint pots from the plentiful store cupboard.

Everyone is working on their own project, testing out some new techniques, developing ideas.

One artist tells us that in all the time she’s spent in Scotland, she’s never had time like this for herself. Between work and studying and navigating rebuilding her life, it’s hard to find time to be creative. But here, she has felt relief, and is loving having a full cupboard of art materials to play around with.

All artists will also receive £400 each to spend on art materials, to enable them to continue to develop their work after the residency. They will then be back here in October, leading up to an exhibition of their work.

Finding joy…

We leave the artists working on their projects and pop across the courtyard to the lounge, where facilitators Karen and Steve are leading a workshop on Playback Theatre. The group are working towards a performance later this evening, sharing stories and improvising together.

In real-time you get to see a group of people interpreting your story, and can provide feedback on whether they captured it well. It’s good fun, with loads of positive energy and laughter, and everyone is particularly excited by a horse called Molly – but its purpose runs even deeper than that. Finding common ground, building community, celebrating human experience, finding joy, healing.

Another artist, from Ukraine, tells us how much it means to her to have this space to be creative and remember who she is. With so much going on, it’s nice to reconnect with this side of herself too, which has been neglected while she deals with fleeing her home, the ongoing invasion, fears for family and friends.

Reality is never far away. You can see it in the paintings, hear it in the stories, it comes up in conversations. But just for a few days, all that external noise is dulled.

The group get a chance to escape into the creative sides of their minds, surrounded by serene countryside, friendly staff “that are like family”, and a store cupboard full of art supplies.

Watch this space for news about their exhibition in October. We look forward to returning!


Find out more about the Reaching New Scots Fund.

Learn more about our work with communities.

Chris Afuakwah
Author: Chris Afuakwah