Inesa Vėlavičiūtė has created a series of creative responses to Canalside Stories, a series of four workshops brought by Fountainbridge Canalside Community Trust and creative practitioners as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival 2023. The workshops invited people to creatively explore and experience the value and role of green and blue spaces in looking after and improving mental health. 

Picture the scene: on a warm, sunny(ish) autumn day, a boat takes you on an artistic journey while cruising along the canal at a leisurely speed. The glistening artificial waterway invites the mind to wander free, igniting ideas that will spin a story while observing an idyllic picture of nature’s beauty: ducks gliding through the water, geese flying high in the sky, all the greens and yellows, and other wildlife colours inhabiting the area.

Using the canal surroundings, the element of water and personal life experiences as inspiration, we create a fictional tale together, bringing out our inner children, excited about the creative process, with a heightened sense of curiosity and interconnectedness with all that’s around. And although we are fully present in the moment, our thoughts are also given space to drift, drawing us closer to the natural world. What a brilliant way to reawaken the senses and rejuvenate the mind.

Collage of images from the workshop on a canal boat, with the heading Take a Look in the centre.

As I disembark the wide-beam barge, I think about the storytelling process of preparation, creation and reflection we engaged in for the past hour, and a fresh perspective on familiar landscape of the canal environment it brought to me. Walking down the cobbled path I look at the water and ponder about this place I find myself in almost daily, coming here to relax, to think, to take a breath of fresh air or stretch my legs.

It has been a part of my life and my story for over 10 years and has witnessed the many different emotions I experienced in its presence. Inspired by this thought and the ever changing patterns of the moving water, I started creating videos that portray my feelings and thoughts reflected on water surfaces.

Inesa Vėlavičiūtė is a Talking Heads volunteer living in Edinburgh. A translator and ESL teacher as well as visual theatre and puppetry critic, she is passionate about words, storytelling and communication around mental health and other social issues we face. Wanting to contribute her skills to build an informed, sustainable and caring society we all want to live in, she currently also works for Community Justice Scotland on the Restorative Justice service project delivery. You can follow her on Twitter @IVelaviciute and Facebook.