Issue 215
Winter 2020/2021

The Artwork Logo

Apr 14, 2021

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ArtWork Newspaper Issue 215
Winter 2020/2021 (6.82MB)

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Co-operation Leith-style

A community interest company at work

WITH THE RETAIL and arts sectors facing huge challenges to survive since Covid-19 hit, it has also brought about a huge surge in shopping locally and supporting local businesses. One such local venture is The Leith Collective CIC (a community interest company – a cross between a charity and a social enterprise).

Opened in September 2019 at the Ocean Terminal shopping centre in Leith, The Leith Collective is a unique retail space of over a 100 artists working together to promote and sell their work. With increased emphasis on community, shopping locally, sustainability and recycling and upcycling, it enables all artists, whatever their situation, to sell their work.

"It's by working together as a true collective that enables all members businesses to grow and develop and sharing everyone's expertise throughout the local community," says Sara Thomson who founded and runs the Collective alongside a group of some 37 dedicated volunteers.

Thomson was brought up in Leith – 'an original Leither' as she calls herself and after studying photography, decided to set up The Leith Collective.

"We don't turn any creative away and if they are stuck we can help them look at ways to build a business in the commercial world. The work made by our amazing artists/makers includes rabbit heads made from old books, lamps made from old fire extinguishers and rings made from old spoons."

As with any venture, starting off is often difficult: "Our biggest challenge was having to self fund everything to start it up and we still do, so financially it's been hard. Without the support we have received from Ocean Terminal this may never have been possible on the scale it is now. We also wanted to be very different from other retailers that may be like us and we have definitely achieved this, so that was a challenge for us."

As well as providing artists with a place to sell their work, The Leith Collective also promotes upcycling and their main ethos is – reuse, relove recycle.

"We believe that we need to start making more efforts to protect our planet, for us and for future generations," says Sara.

"We run free workshops for schools and clubs to educate in a fun way about the importance of upcycling and recycling. We also promote mental health and well being by supporting a lot of makers with mental health issues – they gain confidence through working in the shop which can lead to work placements as well as impacting positively on mental health.

"One of our aims is to change retail into a sustainable way of life by teaching and showing that you can buy and still help the planet. Our customers and the public love our ethos and what we stand for and they love the community vibe we have – also you are not welcomed in the shop by a salesperson, you are welcomed by one of the maker or artists and that's beneficial for both parties.

"When lockdown began I came up with mask making for the makers who were suffering financially and managed to get a donation to buy materials and a sewing machine to get started. We took orders daily and delivered and have also donated hundreds of masks to charities and schools.

"Lockdown was a challenge but we did not give in and we went out to deliver during the whole time to keep money coming in for makers and artists. We received amazing support from our local customers who sent us encouraging messages and bought so much from us to help us survive."

Marianne Hunter, an artist known as 'Edinburgh Inky Fox,' creates illustrations of various wildlife around Edinburgh, with a fox being the main character, having adventures around the city.

She joined the Leith Collective in August 2019. "It's given me a great platform to sell my creations, and their ethos has inspired me to consider the environment more and I'm looking into how I can reuse, recycle and up-cycle to create my art. Being in the collective and helping in the shop allows me to meet the public and other artists. This is a brilliant way to get feedback on my work and inspiration for new ideas."

Heather Wood, whose bold colourful work mixes Scottish pop culture and landscapes, joined the Leith Collective in August 2020. "I've been given the freedom to curate my own mini shop area and can be as creative as I like," says Heather. "There's a strong sense of 'artist community' and it's a fantastic place to be a part of!"

So if you're looking for Christmas gifts, or for yourself, head down to The Leith Collective and get some original art created by original locals.


The Leith Collective - 1st Floor Ocean Terminal. EH6 6JJ Edinburgh. 07447 659999


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