There are many art and design galleries in Edinburgh, but I doubt if there are many like Gayfield Creative Spaces. This new venture at the top of Leith Walk is the brainchild of Dr John Ennis, who’s given up medical practice to develop a former tyre factory into something special. John and his team have big plans for the building; last month they opened the doors to the press, and now they are about to start their ambitious summer programme.
The building is divided into several spaces. On the ground floor light streams in through the windows: the main area will host exhibitions and events, the first opening on 2 August just in time for the Festival. This will be an international collaboration between India and Scotland, as artists from each country make a critical response to the Bombay Sample Book in the National Museum of Scotland’s archive. In the days of the Raj, Scotland exported printed textiles to India; in the 21st century India exports them to us, and the Indian artists’ works in this exhibition will feature intricately printed fabrics. Scotland meanwhile has turned to a different style of printing, and the Scottish artists have interpreted their responses digitally. The exhibition will also examine the Turkey red dye industry that boomed on the banks of the Leven in the early 1900s, and consider why it ultimately failed.
The kiosk is a smaller space that will be available for artists to exhibit and/or sell their work. It will open with Fragments, an installation by ceramic artist Carol Sinclair on the subject of memory loss. John Ennis is particularly committed to exploring the links between design, well-being and health, and the exhibition will be the start of a ongoing programme highlighting this increasingly important subject. During August, plans are to create a small retreat for those who are ‘festivalled-out’, a quiet place to sit and contemplate Carol’s work.
Meanwhile in the depot, the imagined grounds of a summerhouse will be the setting for a design twist on a garden party, featuring works by leading makers from Scotland to the Netherlands. Both of these exhibitions will also open on 2nd August.
The lower area of the building – currently known as The Bunker – is soon to provide studio work space for artists and makers. John is especially interested in textiles, furniture and ceramics but this is by no means exclusive, and he hopes to have a broad mix of residents. Prior to this the space will be used for one-off events which Gayfield will promote via facebook and twitter.
From 7 August Gayfield will launch a series of Twilight Talks on such diverse topics as ‘Too Much Stuff – the ecology of design’, ‘Garden in Mind – design for wellbeing’ and ‘Cloth and Memory – place making and materials.’ Gayfield is strongly committed to reaching out to the wider community, and to this end some of the talks will take place in other venues such as the Yard in Eyre Place and Creative Exchange in Leith. All of the talks are free and can be booked now via eventbrite.
One of Gayfield’s first collaborations this summer will be with Leith Late 14: on 21st (5-10pm) and 22nd (12-5pm) June 2014 Natasha Russell, Kalopsia and Broughton Designs will all be exhibiting. Continuing its plans to explore innovative modes of collaboration in design, Gayfield is establishing links with Ghana, Malawi and South Africa and intends to work with artists from these countries in 2015.
All of the Gayfield spaces are available for hire and can happily accommodate seminars, product launches, meetings, workshops and exhibitions. There is also a common room, which has kitchen facilities and can be used as a break-out area or for lunches, coffee and receptions.
Gayfield will undoubtedly become a major part of the Broughton design and arts community; through its many collaborations it will also reach out to Scotland and the wider world. John Ennis bought the factory in 2001: in 2014 he is about to realise his vision.