I am from Peebles in the Scottish Borders. I moved to Edinburgh to study Scottish ethnology and Scottish literature as an undergraduate before going on to complete both my masters and PhD in the Department of Celtic & Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. My doctoral research (2012) explored the aesthetics, poetics and transformative power of the traditional ballad in performance and practice and was awarded the Michaelis-Jena Ratcliff Prize for ethnology and folklore in 2016. I shared and performed aspects of my fieldwork research with audiences at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival (SISF) at the annual 2016 Alan Bruford Memorial Lecture.
Following my PhD, I undertook post-doctoral research as a fellow at IASH (Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities) at the University of Edinburgh. My research explored the cultural and creative vision of educationalist Patrick Geddes and the connections between ethnology, radical human ecology and geopoetics. My research, with a particular focus on the vital role of traditional arts in cultural renewal, fed into a series of talks and workshops at the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s Celtic Summer School during 2014–2016. Along with with my husband Simon, in 2014 I co-founded The Evergreen Studio in Tweeddale Court, Old Town Edinburgh, inspired by Geddes’ vision. Led by a creative co-op, this studio is still running today.
I am currently a research associate at Heriot-Watt's Intercultural Research Centre (IRC) developing a creative ethnological practice. I have worked in collaboration with Professor Ullrich Kockel publishing work on an emerging Scottish creative ethnology and its potential in a European context, and have co-written work with Professor Máiréad Nic Craith as part of the European CoHere Project.
I have experience of lecturing, teaching and tutoring in Scottish Studies, cultural politics, heritage, ethnology and the creative arts in both higher education (Department of Celtic & Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh) further education (Newbattle Abbey College) and in non-formal contexts. I also have experience of distance and online learning through contributing to the development of a taught postgraduate course in Scottish Culture and Heritage/Cultur agus Dualchas na h-Alba at the University of Edinburgh in partnership with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, University of the Highlands and & Islands. Working with Professor Gary West, I developed new courses relating to national and international debates in culture, creativity, policy and practice. I was nominated by the students for a EUSA Teaching Excellence award for three years running.
Outwith academia I have supported various creative projects and have worked for and contributed to the development of various arts organisations in a freelance capacity, including TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) and its associated networks, working directly with artists, with the public and at a strategic level. During my time here I organised a national conference on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in partnership with BEMIS Scotland in 2016 as part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Working as an ethnologist, I am a director of Local Voices CIC, an ethnological community enterprise that works with different social groups in communities across the country to collectively explore, document and promote aspects of local language, dialect, song, story, music and memory. In 2018 Local Voices ran creative workshops for international research students at the SIEF International Summer School in partnership with the Elphinstone Institute in Portsoy. I also work with the The Shieling Project, a social enterprise leading in heritage and sustainability education bringing the ‘folk school’ approach from Scandinavia to the Scottish Highlands. I contributed an article to the magazine Reforesting Scotland on this place-based approach in education.
In 2017 I became assistant director for the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics and the editorial board of the centre’s journal, Stravaig. In 2018 I organised the first Highland event in partnership with Moniack Mhor, Scotland’ Creative Writing Centre, and the Abriachan Forest Trust celebrating 20 years of community ownership. I was also invited to give the Annual Tony McManus Geopoetics Lecture in Leith in November 2018.
I am passionate about supporting Scots and Gàidhlig. I have produced shows in the Scots language for TradFest Edinburgh | Dùn Èideann and have performed Scots song as part of events at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. I am a Gaelic learner, currently studying on the Cert HE An Cùrsa Comais at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.
I am musically literate and have experience working as a music tutor for children and in community contexts teaching piano and song. I have a deep knowledge of Scottish traditional music and have worked in both paid and voluntary capacities with community organisations dedicated to promoting this music, including Edinburgh Youth Gaitherin’ and Hands Up for Trad. From 2011 - 2013 I was a mentor on The EYG Archive Project, funded by Creative Scotland in partnership with the School of Scottish Studies Archives, working with young musicians to compose new music inspired by archive material.
I am also involved in creative, cultural and community activism as an independent creative producer, facilitator, workshop leader and speaker. I am currently working with the new activist collective Enough! engaging with deep adaptation, degrowth and climate justice, facilitating the community response pilot in Inverness. In recent years I have produced events for the citizen response Architecture Fringe on themes relating to land and land reform - including huts and hutting, bothy culture and community land - launching the LAND/FEARANN website in 2018. From 2012 - 2014 I was involved as a core organiser for the creative cultural campaign for Scottish independence with National Collective, co-producing the touring Yestival.