Jan Patience

BEATRIX Wood is one of those whirlwinds you occasionally meet in the creative world who wears many hats in the course of a day's work. In Wood's case the roles range from filmmaker to visual artist, writer, horsewoman and, perhaps most surprisingly, crofter.

As a teenager in the 1970s, Wood wrote, painted and made costumes for Manchester Youth Theatre, roaming the Pennines on ponies and with punk bands. She went on to make award-winning films with her own production company, run a farm in Cornwall, marry, have a family, move to a working croft on South Uist, start a production company called TrixPixMedia, and become a widow. Because she knows no other way, throughout it all she kept the fire of creativity burning brightly.

Loading article content

Wood could be a poster figure for Luminate, Scotland's creative ageing festival, which began last weekend and runs throughout the month of October at locations all over the land. Its stated aim is to link the generations through creativity.

Luminate's programmes includes exhibitions, special film screenings, workshops, performances and more. All of it happening at a care home, village hall, community centre, theatre, library or arts venue near you now.

Wood, who lives in the township of Dreumasdal on the isle of South Uist with her two teenage children, laughs when she says she is still – at 52 – "in the workhorse years".

Taking a break from editing a forthcoming BBC Alba film which charts the crofting calendar in Dreumasdal, she tells me about her experience of being part of an experimental "pilot lab" facilitated by Luminate earlier this year.

This week-long residential course saw six artists come together at Cove Park in Argyll and Bute in February to reflect on how an artist can sustain a creative life well into old age.

"I wasn't sure what it was going to be like before I got there," says Wood. "I didn't expect there to be so much talking. I probably thought, since I had this time 'out of my life' I would be able to draw and paint more. I remember having a moment when I just wanted all the talking to stop. On reflection, I realise something was going on. My mum was dying. In fact, she died the next week. You realise you have less time. You are next in line."

The lab was led by Luminate in partnership with Edinburgh-based theatre company Magnetic North and a-n, the largest artists’ membership organisation in the UK. Wood was joined by five other artists, all over 50. They were; Ian Cameron, Kate Clayton, Annie Peel, Frank McElhinney and Lesley Wilson.

Luminate director, Anne Gallacher, says the lab was an experiment which emerged out of a need for Luminate to support and nurture creativity in older people on a year-round basis.

"As people get on, it's not unusual for them to study an art form they studied to a high level when they were young. I had a hunch that there was need out there for some kind of support. When we advertised for applications last November we had over 130 applications and the quality was superb.

"It provided an opportunity for the artists to work together with people in similar situations. One of the participants, Frank McElhinney, talked talked about having been to art school recently, where his peers were very much younger. This offered the chance to share with people at same stage in life.”

McElhinney, a project manager in the distillery industry prior to graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in 2014, says that coming together with other artists has been one of the best parts of taking part in the lab. "A group of us are now working together on various collaborations," he explains. "The main one of which could result in a future exhibition to coincide with Luminate 2019."

Annie Peel, who graduated form Edinburgh College of Art in 2014, is in her sixties and paints on a large scale from a small farm in Kirkcudbright. She says: "The discussion with fellow ‘late-starters’ was both uplifting and reassuring, especially as three of us were recent graduates without a typical peer group.

"It’s great to be able to bounce ideas around with people who share perspectives. I welcomed the opportunity to work collaboratively and to learn from artists from other disciplines. I gained some valuable insights about ‘making space for me’ – not as easy as I had hoped in retirement. It’s been a life-changing experience."

LUMINATE VISUAL ARTS HIGHLIGHTS

Face to Face presents a series of portraits of young and older people at the Highland Print Studio in Inverness. The photographs are by pupils from Fortrose Academy and Black Isle Youth Development. Highland Print Studio taught the pupils both film and digital photography, focusing on portraiture. The young people learned by taking photographs of each other and then took portraits of older people from their local dementia cafe. (Until 31 October)

www.highlandprintstudio.co.uk

Associations is an exhibition of new work by ceramic artist Carol Sinclair at Kirkcaldy Galleries. Inspired by the experience of being a carer for a family member living with dementia, Sinclair uses thin layers of porcelain to explore the role of memory, personal connections that define us, and the confusion caused when associations are lost. (Until 29 October)

www.onfife.com

Luminate: Scotland's Creative Ageing Festival, www.luminatescotland.org, venues around Scotland until 31 October