As a result of being shortlisted for an Unlimited Emerging Artist Participatory Award, I was offered some
funding towards mentoring.
I decided I would use this money to develop the original project, and application for the grant; I didn’t
submit a full application before short listing because I found the process overwhelming and anxiety
provoking and I felt out of my depth. My arts practice is grounded in zine making and DIY culture, I am
self-taught and don’t have any previous experience applying for funding for individual work (rather than
as part of an organisation). This seemed an excellent opportunity both to develop my project and my
practice, as well as build my confidence and understanding when applying for funding.
Because my work is interdisciplinary, I decided the best use of the money would be to work with a variety
of mentors from across the zine and DIY community. In the end I worked with four different mentors:
Hamja Ashan, Kirsty Fife, Rose Sargeant and Nat Acaece, and with Mutual Press, a risoprinting press
based in Craigmillar, Edinburgh.
This is a slight variation from my original plan, but, as is the nature within zine and diy stuff, folks
availabilities varied. I had already selected alternatives to my original proposal, and spoke with Kirsty Fife
instead of Lu Williams as they have similar experience of funding, as well as experience in archiving in
practice and zine making, and Nat Acaece instead of Saffa Khan, who runs the Survivor Library in
Edinburgh, and was able to provide design and graphic mentoring face to face.
My first conversation with Hamja Ashan in June set the tone for the rest of the mentoring activity. It really
stripped back some fundamental assumptions I made, particularly about what the outcomes of a
participatory arts project would look like. We began an on-going discussion about workshop facilitation
and activities, particularly play and how zines are a space for idle thought. As we talked I began to
realise that even the language I used to describe the project, talking about ‘stories’ which draws from my
professional training as a peer support worker, limited it’s scope: stories implies I’m expecting whole
linear narratives, with beginning, middle and end, whereas exploring mental health, itself often
fragmented and non-linear, required a different, creative approach. I didn’t want to replicate recovery
college ‘telling my story’ courses, or conventional stigma busting story-telling. When I’d seen ‘outcome’
on the funding application, I’d assumed this implied a physical outcome from the workshops, and had
imagined a collaborative zine. There were several reasons I moved beyond this. Firstly was a desire not
to lose the immediacy of making and reproducing within the workshops, which was confirmed through
my day shadowing mutual press which was a very joyful and playful experience. Secondly, through
articulating and exploring the troubles with fixed outcomes from zine workshops, I came to a decision,
which my later conversations with Kirsty Fife developed, a that I wanted to include the question:
‘where do we want our stories to go?
into the workshops, and accept, in fact, encourage, workshops to have different outcomes according to a
shared decision made by the group. Kirsty encouraged me not to be afraid to stress the intangible outcomes of the project, and through the conversations with Kirsty and Rose I began to develop my understanding of evaluation in participatory arts, and how this could be actioned, embodied, realised, within (as opposed to after) the workshop.
I realised as the mentoring progressed what a unique opportunity this was for me to take some time
realising an idea, and to strip down the original project and build it up again with firmer foundations. Rose
Sargeant introduced me to ‘Theory of Change’ as a planning tool, which was invaluable in established
what the true goal of the project, and my participatory arts practice as a whole:
I want every person to experiment with different ways of telling.
Rose’s experience organising workshops, and of leading a larger scale project like ‘Drawn Poorly’ meant
her mentorship was particularly useful in thinking about how the project would be organised, and how
things like where I recruited partcipants affected accessibility.
We posed the question:
‘What does good social media use look like?’
One thing I developed my understanding of was the role of / my relationship with a producer. Coming
from DIY culture, where I’m used to being responsible for (and controlling) all aspects of a project,
including administrative tasks, the notion of a producer, and their use, was alien to me.
I didn’t resolve this, but I did develop my understanding. I’m not sure the project needs a producer,
because I don’t like the division between administrative and artistic work. I think, especially in
participatory arts, the ‘administrative’ tasks can’t always be disentangled from the artistic. I can
understand the need for producers, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for my work. I did however realise
that to grow the project as I want to would probably mean collaborating with another practitioner and this
would be to its benefit.
Impact and Legacy
The impact of the mentorship activity on my participatory arts practice has been significant – building my
understanding of outcomes and evaluations particularly. Taking my initial project idea to my mentors and
developing it with their input, feedback and experience has allowed me to really understand building an
arts project, thoughtfully and intentionally, from the ground up. As well as being able to creatively
experiment with risoprinting, I have developed my skills, and expanded my personal practice, with an
increased confidence creating digital content (such as this evaluation zine) which I hope will make my
zine making practice more accessible in the future. I definitely want to develop this further. I hope, also,
to have built enduring networks which will offer mutual support beyond the scope of this mentoring
The final four pagesof the mentoring evaluation zine are: 1) a scanned hand-filled in ‘Theory of Change’
document, 2) notes from a skype conversation with Rose Sargeant, 3) notes from a skype conversation
with Kirsty Fife, 4) notes from a skype conversation with Hamja Ashan.