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. 

With the smell of coffee floating in the air, a few fluffy clouds rolling by in a vibrant blue sky and peaceful birds going about their business, the wellbeing walk starts.

Using the canal surroundings and our personal life experiences, we are weaving a fictional story step by step, with its bones, flesh and all the finer details, letting everything around inspire us, and then getting the imagination to fill in the gaps.

As we slowly move towards Harrison Park, I think about stories and what they give us: they teach and inspire, provoke thought and entertain. They give us insights into other worlds and other lives. They show us how to play with language, with allegories, idioms and metaphors, with puns and fantastical characters. They take a multitude of forms and are a way of bringing people together and forming bonds through communal experience.

As we smile and laugh while developing our story’s plot, the experience of shared joy, known as collective effervescence, brings about increased wellbeing and so much more – I left feeling energised, inspired, creative and curious about the world around me.

Collage of images from a wellbeing walk at the Union Canal in Edinburgh.

At the end of each of the four Canalside stories workshops, I’ve asked the participants to share with me how they felt by writing down one or several words best describing their emotional state at the time. The idea behind it was to write a poem, our shared story, using these words. Huge thanks to everyone involved and contributing their words, it was a pleasure sharing all these experiences with you.

Rooted in Nature

Amidst the blue and green, nature’s face,
A healing balm for the weary city’s space,
Wide-eyed, we notice the details, the tiny, the vast.
And gather moments. Will they last?
With childlike awe, we’re inspired anew
With excitement, we watch our inner selves grow and renew.

Just like the plants and the trees,
Awakened by the songs of the breeze,
We’re all connected by nature’s wild dreams.
Connected by threads that have always been,
Sharing the creative spark we feel within.

And as the mind finds solace, a moment of ease,
In nature’s embrace, our muse starts to speak.

Colouring the canvas as she whispers tales untold,
With each stroke of her brush, we hear them unfold.
Out of this world, or rooted right here
Each brings some happiness
Floating, or spinning, in the air.
And so, following the nature’s stories we find our groove,
Amidst the blue and green, we positively move.
Hopeful and calm, the anxiety wanes,
For in the natural world, our hearts unwind.

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.

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