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#CMEdi Speaker Catch-up: Hazel Johnson

In Edinburgh, since 2014, the month of May has signalled a creative pilgrimage. A flocking of creatively inclined folks, forming community and reclamation at Hidden Door Arts festival. In September of last year, we had the good fortune to welcome their director, Hazel Johnson, as a speaker at CreativeMornings Edinburgh!

Fresh out of their 2018 line-up, Hazel and her team were still wiping the sweat from their brows - whilst simultaneously running an emergency campaign to secure the future of the festival. Since then, the Save Hidden Door campaign has achieved phenomenal success, thanks to donors, volunteers, and community ralliers just like you!

So, here we are, in May of 2019. The stellar Hidden Door Arts Festival 2019 line-up launched, with tickets on the go, and a whole new round of fun in store for the creative city that is our home. What better time to catch up with Hazel, reflecting on her introduction to our CMEdi community, and all of the inspiring things that have taken place since!

Photography by Suzanne Heffron 📷

Audrey: Hey everybody! Audrey here, with Hazel of Hidden Door Arts, following up on our CreativeMornings Edinburgh event last September - where Hazel was our speaker, on the theme of ‘Chaos’!

So, it’s been a fair few months now… 

Hazel: Yeah, a while ago now! 

Audrey: A good amount of time for many things to have happened. And, perhaps, some positive, productive reflection? 

Hazel: More chaos! 

Audrey: Oh, I bet! It’s all looking great though!

So, thinking back, to the preparation for your talk - can you give us a little insight into how you went about that? 

Hazel: I had a really useful phone call with Alex (CMEdi host), talking through the theme, event, Hidden Door, and the spaces that CreativeMornings Edinburgh community create. My paid employment also gives me a lot of experience in giving lectures and presentations. So, I wasn’t too phased.

The nice thing about having the opportunity to chat to Alex on the phone was that she painted a picture of what exactly it might be like, and managed my expectations of crowd size. And, even little things, like with the length of the presentation, knowing that it was ok to run over a wee bit. So, preparation wasn’t too much, but just enough. To set the scene like that with me, it was really good.

I also really appreciated that training was offered. Had I wanted or needed it, the fact that that was something I could have pursued was very, very good actually.

Audrey: I’m so glad that the chat with Alex was so helpful, and that you weren’t very nervous about speaking to us all.

It would be great to hear about the lectures and talks you give with your work, too. Can you give us a little insight into this experience? 

Hazel: That sounds a little bit grand! *laughter*

So, my job is with Historic Environment Scotland. In project management and policy review. There’s a lot of going out and speaking, letting people know about what we’re doing. Or at least there has been that element of talks over the course of the projects that we’re doing. As well as facilitating workshops, and that kind of public interaction.

On top of that, I get asked to talk about Hidden Door fairly regularly. More so over the last two years. For example, I do an annual talk for students of the Festival & Events Management course at Edinburgh Napier University.

It’s experiences like these that make the process of getting up in front of a very friendly bunch - which the CreativeMornings Edinburgh crowd definitely are - very easy.

Photography by Suzanne Heffron 📷 

Audrey: We were are all very excited to see you! 

Hazel: Yeah, it was great! The reception was wonderful. It was a very stimulating environment to be invited into. Lot’s of interested people, and at that time in the morning there were some very interesting faces as well… everybody seemed a lot more awake than I was!

Audrey: We’re always really keen - even from the queuing, on our way in!

Hazel: Oh yeah, that queue!

Audrey: It was amazing. Early risers, all so eager to see you!

Hazel: It was crazy! Awesome… Good queue CMEdi! *laughter*

Audrey: Yeah, that was pretty special! Good queue folks!

Was that at all what you were expecting? Even just in general - the people, the vibe?

Hazel: There were probably more people there than I expected, which is good!

With the vibe, I didn’t know what to expect - but it was so much warmer than I could have expected. I know that sounds like quite an undefinable thing… I expected it to be a group of interesting people, but I wasn’t really sure why, or how much, they would want to hear about Hidden Door. But, actually, they were all super, super interested from the word go.

The sea of faces was a very warm and receptive one, so it was all even better than I had expected. It was a particularly welcoming environment. 

Photography by Suzanne Heffron 📷

Audrey: So, that was your first time at CreativeMornings?

Hazel: It was! And with the added bonus of being able to hang-back and hang-out with members of the community, after the talk.

Audrey: Oh, that was so lovely. It meant a lot to us all!

So, looking from the outside in, before you’d been to the event, what was your impression of CreativeMornings Edinburgh?

Hazel: It was really good! I don’t think you could improve the way you convey the real nature of the events and community. You facilitated enough information for me to go and look up what the event might look like. Seeing the photos of previous events, and the way that this is all connected to a much wider, international group of talks. There was a lot of great information available so I could ready myself!

Audrey: So, when you were up on that stage in that moment - you’ve already said that there were lots of happy, smiling faces looking back at you. How did you feel? Did you feel like you were all of a sudden part of a community?

Hazel: I would say I felt like I was speaking to a community, which I could readily become a part of when I join at more events. I absolutely intend to come to them in future!

But, the “speaking to a community” absolutely didn’t change the fact that I felt welcome. I felt a part of it.

An interesting thing for me, when I’m giving a talk, is that it’s almost form of performance isn’t it? So, there’s possibly a line drawn; but that’s my own line that I’m drawing, rather than one that was drawn by somebody else, for me.

Audrey: And, now, you’re not up on the stage. You’re a part of the community… we feel that!

Hazel: Oh, I have made made to feel that, too. Absolutely!

Certainly, being invited to join everyone for coffee afterwards, the newsletters that I now have signed up to and get - it also helps that I work with Chloé, one of your organising team members! And Chloe is an absolute Diamond of a person!

I would definitely say it’s something I feel I am now a part of. 

Photography by Suzanne Heffron 📷

Audrey: Were there any special moments during your morning with us? Perhaps even interactions or things that came about as a result that stand out to you?

Hazel: Oh yes. The interactions on the day, with yourself included. Everybody was so welcoming! Briana, Alex, and you. And, the chap on camera and audio…

Audrey: Oh, Callum!

Hazel: Yes, he was great. He had to come and hook me up for the microphone, and test. But he did it in a very natural way.

When I’m doing presentations, one thing that can freak me out is being mic’d up. Not because I don’t like being amplified, it’s because of the idea that I might break the equipment, or it might go wrong. Because, you can be fairly confident about what you’re saying, but to roll with the punches of the technological failures is something that everybody is perhaps a bit more concerned about.

So, he made that whole process really easy. Which is nice. It might seem like a small thing, but, you know… going in, as the first thing in your morning, that was - for me - quite an important part.

Also, the coffee! Absolutely important! Then, afterwards, quite a few people stayed back to talk to me, ask questions, and chat about the content of the talk. One or two potential opportunities potentially, also, came out of it.

Overall, it’s so very worthwhile. Oh, and! I got invited to do Creative Circles, about a month later. And Morvern [the organiser] was really upfront - she said “Off the back of your talk, would you mind coming and doing another talk!” She’s fantastic.

Audrey: That’s fab! So, would it be right to guess that you might recommend others join in at CreativeMornings?

Hazel: Yes. Hands-down, definitely. As a speaker, and more generally as part of the community. I can’t wait to get more involved.

Audrey: Were there any other highlights to the experience of the morning?

Hazel: That venue was a really nice environment for taking part. In the number of times that I’ve been to the Fruitmarket Gallery, it was nice to go there and feel like I was actually contributing something, as well as going there and looking at all of the other amazing stuff that everyone else is always doing.

These are very important spaces, for people to go, learn, and see things. I felt like I was a part of that - on this particular morning, especially.

Audrey: That’s a very interesting way of looking at it. When we do a talk in a museum or gallery, recognising that it all of a sudden becomes a contributor to the space. Not just a sense of being visitors. That’s really special.

Hazel: Along with breakfast. It was amazing! Everyone was just really going for it.

Audrey: Oh yeah, those mini breakfast taco-bowls and beautiful cakes, they were flying off the tables! Thank you Homespun Kitchen!

Photography by Suzanne Heffron 📷

Hazel: There was also the ice-breaker activity. With the theme of ‘Chaos’, everyone took someone else’s name badge, going on to either find the owner of the badge or become who they imagined them to be. That was really, really fun.

Thanks to Alex for coming up with that idea, and getting me to contribute in on it. I can imagine there’s a lot of fun to be had when you create ice-breakers like that for different themes and speakers!

Audrey: Something that we see after events, related to the more personal level for individuals, is a shift in perspective. About creativity, community, and themselves. Related to that, how did you walk away feeling, after spending the morning with us?

Hazel: That’s a really interesting question actually. I think I always find that preparing a talk does focus your mind slightly. Now, the theme obviously means that you’re writing it with an angle, perhaps. Or, a steer. But, with what we’d just come out of with Hidden Door, has been a huge period of uncertainty - and I hadn’t given a presentation or talk since the festival in May 2018. Usually I give tours and presentations during the festival, but we came out of that festival with quite a lot of debt - despite it being hugely successful. This meant we had leapt straight into fundraising, right after.

So, being able to almost press pause on that train of thought, and look over all of the previous years’ successes, and challenges; all of it together was a really nice way of resetting myself, and my approach to the organisation. We’ve been in emergency mode. To be able to talk and, I guess, reignite my own enthusiasm for the project - that preparing of the presentation was actually quite meditative. A really good opportunity for me to stop and go “You know what? Yeah. Of course. This is why we do this.” It doesn’t matter that we had to go out and find funding.

Being right in the middle of the ‘Save Hidden Door’ fundraising campaign in September 2018, when doing the CreativeMornings Edinburgh talk, was pretty much the beginning of when we were having to sit down and figure it all out. So, it was good.

It reignited my optimism, because it felt familiar. It was nice to be able to talk about something we had been working on for 5 years, and frame it in a way that said “This is a really special and important thing to me” and, as it turns out, to a lot of other people, too.

Audrey: Quite a few members of your team came along, with you. Did that make it seem like a team day? A kind of celebration, and reflection?

Hazel: I didn’t put it on them to come along, so it was incredibly lovely to have them there. Although, it did heighten my fear that I would say something wrong about their areas of expertise at Hidden Door! *laughter*

Within our team, everyone one is so skilled and dedicated, and has a lot of autonomy over the different things that they do. For example, I don’t do any of the content.

But, no, it was so nice that they came along. That’s one of the nice things about Hidden Door; we are very supportive of each other’s endeavours. I did say to them “Please do come, by all means! But, can you sit at the back? So I don’t have to look at you?” *laughter* That is one of the few things when I’m giving a talk… what will make me a little bit nervous is when there’s people I know really, really well in the audience. It’s the only thing that can really rattle me!

Nevertheless, a particularly lovely thing was that some of our events volunteers came along, as well as members of the core team. These were volunteers who had just done stewarding shifts at the festival, along with some people who had asked if they could be involved in future, so they could learn more about it. And, we had people come along who had worked with Hidden Door in previous years.

While I knew, with some confidence, that I’d see hands go up in the air when I asked “Who in the room knows Hidden Door, or has been to Hidden Door?”, I was overwhelmed at just how many hands would go up in the air. It was lovely to see those familiar faces, and catch-up with a few folk that I hadn’t seen in a while.

Audrey: It sounds like you have a fundamental understanding of that special vibe we find so hard to describe, in the context of CreativeMornings. Sure, Hidden Door has a different cycle in time, and magnitude per occurrence, but it has that ‘special something’. You’ve done that. You’ve got people giving their time, and wanting to see you again.

Hazel: Yeah, absolutely. There’s something that, whenever we get a new influx of volunteer stewards - there will be brand new people, but there also will be people who said “my friend can’t come this year, but they said I should definitely come and do it, because they had such a good time previously.” or something like that. And then, you have the people that keep coming back.

And, when you really look at it, what we’re asking people to do is invigilate artwork, or steward drunk people. They get perks, and hopefully get a lot out of it. We try and work it so that they do. But, we’re asking something of them, and yet they come back! I’m always just a bit like “Wow! I can’t believe you’re here again!”, and it does remind you that people are good. People are really good!

There are people out there who just like doing something because it’s a good idea. Rather than necessarily thinking “oh well, what am I going to get out of this?”. Sure, they might get some free tickets, but, in the grand scheme of things, their time is so valuable. I’m always very aware and appreciative of that. 

Photography by Suzanne Heffron 📷

Audrey: Do you have any messages you would like to send out to the CreativeMornings community, local and global?

Hazel: I would love to send out my thanks. Thank you for thinking of me, inviting me to contribute to your community and space. It was such a beautiful experience.

Also, for the opportunity to shout about the work we were doing specifically around the fundraising. The awareness raising of the festival and organisation is great. It looks big and shiny from the outside, so to be able to talk people through how it actually happens - that it is all volunteer run - is no small thing. Thank you for that, as well. 

Thank you so much to Hazel for taking the time to catch-up with us, and for sharing these incredibly valuable behind-the-scenes insights!

If you’re in Edinburgh between 30th May and 2nd of June, 2019, make sure to make time to head on down to Hidden Door, at Leith Theatre! There’s visual art and performances, both filling and surrounding the venue, all free for you to explore. As well as a mind-blowing array of night-time performances, for which tickets are flying off the digital shelves - grab yours on their website at

If you can’t be there this year, cure the FOMO by following them on instagram @HiddenDoorArts, on Twitter @HiddenDoorArts, and on Facebook @HiddenDoor 📲🎨

Inclusivity & Creativity with FreeAgent: Meet the FreeAngels!

April’s #CMInclusive themed event is a very special one with our friends and sponsors over at FreeAgent! Each year, the FreeAgent team raises awareness and funds for selected charities. With CCLASP being one of their charity partners for 2019, it’s extra special to have the charity’s founder, Valerie Simpson, speak to all of us at the CreativeMornings/EDI community! All of their charity collaborations are organised by the FreeAgent FreeAngels - a group of FreeAgent team members, dedicating some of their work hours to fundraising events and activities. Each of them combining creativity and a passion for inclusivity - in the workplace, and wider communities. 

It’s a pleasure, then, to introduce Stuart McEwan. A support accountant at FreeAgent, he’s a dedicated member of the FreeAngels group; described by co-workers as: 

“ …an unfailing champion of FreeAgent’s FreeAngels team, who organises these events for us to get together, have some fun and raise money for our charities.  He is also great at encouraging people to use their volunteering day to help out all sorts of worthy causes.

Making events, fundraising, and charity sponsorship activities happen must take a whole lot of passion and creativity. Can you tell us a little bit about what this work entails for your team?

It involves creativity, conversation, and elbow grease. Effective fundraising starts with imagination, and develops arms and legs through research on similar ideas, and the creative minds of those who involve themselves in the task. Following the dream, comes the sharing. For an event to be successful, it needs people to both shout about it, and to get involved in it. The communication and teamwork around this middle stage is paramount to its success. Lastly comes the hard graft. Even the simplest of fundraising takes time, and more hard work than was originally planned for.

What attracted you to this work? And, what’s the special story behind how you came to be in the role?

After leaving university, I went straight into becoming a pre-school teacher and realised how rewarding giving back to society and helping others was. I managed to rope in (read: guilt trip) another 7 of my fellow graduates into joining me in running the Edinburgh Marathon in 2010. We raised £8,000 for Alzheimer Scotland and I took charge of organising the fundraising - and that was me hooked! When I joined FreeAgent in 2017 and found that we put forward charity runners for the marathon, I quickly offered my fundraising experience over the prior 7 years.

Stuart and his team, at the end of the 2018 Edinburgh Marathon 🏃

What aspects of these initiatives do you find the most fulfilling, and inspiring?

I think that the sense of fulfilment and inspiration comes in two main ways. The first is being able to help support people in a meaningful and significant way. Everyone has the ability to help others, and I get real satisfaction from knowing that I can directly change people’s lives.

The second is watching the FreeAgent community come together. We’re lucky to have an incredibly diverse workplace of staff, and when fundraising activities such as our bi-annual scavenger hunt are run, it’s amazing to see individuals across different departments, genders, races, ages, disabilities, and nationalities, and their partners, come together to help raise money and awareness for the same cause.

When planning and creating these initiatives, events, and partnerships, where/what/who do you find yourself looking to for new ideas?

I genuinely believe that inspiration is everywhere, and that the more you look, the more you see. I try to explore every avenue, and never rule out anything. The internet is the greatest help, as the chances are, that if you have a good idea, it’s probably been done in some way before. I’ll either create an idea myself, or take inspiration from one i’ve seen or heard about, and then bounce it off of family, friends, and colleagues until it becomes something else. Being in regular contact with charities always helps, as they’re able to provide insight into prior events that you can’t know unless you’ve been directly involved it in.

FreeAngel’s Fundraising: Fancy Dress 💃🏽 and Halloween Bake Sale 🎃 

Is there anything, or things, that make FreeAgent a special place/team/organisation to do this work in/with?

Absolutely. The diversity and inclusiveness of FreeAgent is special. Working with people from every walk of life, and from all corners of the world, enriches both the community feel, and the life experience of mixing with large numbers of people who have a completely different story to you. We’re also a very forward-thinking and enterprising company, so topics such as charity and sustainability, and empowerment and equality, are always very high on the agenda.

Can you tell us about any unique/inspiring/special moments that stand out in your memory from your time doing this work with FreeAgent?

There was a moment after the 2018 Edinburgh Marathon had finished, that the FreeAgent charity runners all came together for a collective photo, and for congratulations between ourselves. It was an occasion of success and gratification. Each one of us had overcome a real challenge, and in doing so, was helping to make the world a better place. You can’t buy moments like that.

The FreeAgent Team Charity Fundraising Xmas Jumper Day 🎄 

Our motto at CreativeMornings - both local and global - is “Everyone is Creative, Everyone is Welcome!”. With this in mind, what inspirational words and/or advice would you give to the CreativeMornings community, and how they can also nurture their creativity?

I’m sure that there are many useful ways to nurture creativity, but the one I’d like to recommend that gets overlooked so often is volunteering. The benefits of volunteering are almost endless, and they’re all likely to directly or indirectly help to improve creativity. It engages you with a wider community, opens up new potential avenues to explore, reduces stress levels, develops new physical and interpersonal skills, and broadens the human experience of being around, and helping, others.

Stuart McEwan - FreeAgent Angel, and #CMInclusive Champion 😊

One last question! Our theme this month is ‘Inclusive’. What does this word mean to you, in your life, work, and creative pursuits?

Inclusivity to me, is realising and making true the fact that we can make a better ‘we’, by bringing together lots of different 'mes’.

My advice to anyone on this would be to surround yourself with as many people as you can that are different to you. You can’t make soup when you only have water.


Thank you so much Stuart for giving us this wonderful glimpse into life as a FreeAgent FreeAngel, and all you do. What a healthy dose of inspiration - applying and nurturing our creativity really can be done anywhere, and include everyone!  

We can’t wait to see you all our next CreativeMornings/EDI event! Make sure you head on over and say hi to our friends from the FreeAgent team while you’re with us this Friday morning. They really are the nicest of folks, ready and raring to conversate

Edinburgh is hosting the CreativeMornings Mini Euro Summit in May! This very special summit will see CreativeMornings volunteers from around the world joining us at our Friday 24th May event!

With the Creative Mornings international family descending on us in Edinburgh, we’re looking for members of our community to host them on the night of Thursday 23 May.

If you have a sofa, box room, or blow-up mattress to spare, for an incredible member of the Creative Mornings family, please let us know!

Email us at with the following details:

- Your name

- Your address

- The type of accommodation you have to offer (bed, floor, or sofa).

Thanks so much!

Edinburgh is hosting the CreativeMornings Mini Euro Summit in May! This very special summit will see CreativeMornings volunteers from around the world joining us at our Friday 24th May event! With the Creative Mornings international family descending on us in Edinburgh, we’re looking for members of our community to host them on the night of Thursday 23 May. If you have a sofa, box room, or blow-up mattress to spare, for an incredible member of the Creative Mornings family, please let us know! Email us at - with the following details: - Your name - Your address - The type of accommodation you have to offer (bed, floor, or sofa). Thanks!

Edinburgh is hosting the CreativeMornings Mini Euro Summit in May!

This very special summit will see CreativeMornings volunteers from around the world joining us at our Friday 24th May event!

We’re looking for community members to host wee field trips after the main CreativeMornings event. If you’ve always fancied yourself a tour guide, showing similarly minded creative folk a favourite part of the city - like all of your favourite coffee spots, a tour of Edinburgh’s brutalist architecture, or a walking tour of all of your favourite Edinburgh sites - the Euro Mini Summit Field Trips are for you!

If you’re interested, email the following to

  • The name of your tour
  • How many people it can include
  • Your name
  • Your contact details

Once they’re all in, we’ll be in touch to let you know if your tour has been selected to be offered to our Creative Mornings International family.

An Interview with March’s #BrawBagel Challenge Winner - Kristina B. Royer!

Our sponsors over at Bross Bagels are pretty darned stellar when it comes to collaboration and creativity - and CreativeMornings/EDI is a community with which they let those talents and values shine! Not just bringing their dangerously delicious treats to our events, but also inviting us to bring our collective, creative talents to their menu! 

Each month, we invite you to submit your Bagel ideas, taking inspiration from the CreativeMornings global theme. The result? The #BrawBagel Challenge! Each monthly champion - hand-picked by Mama Bross herself - wins the honour of having their culinary creation featured on the Bross Bagels menu for the next month! Such delectable glory 🥨 🥇

Our #BrawBagel Champion for March 2019, inspired by the global theme of “Water”, is Kristina B. Royer! 

Kristina’s bagel creation features a Salt bagel, wasabi cream cheese, dried nori seaweed, pomegranate seeds, lox (or without for veggie option). 

Of course, we wouldn’t want to pass up the opportunity to learn a little more about the sources of her creative genius. So, we caught up with Kristina after she received her winner’s announcement. Read on for foodie inspiration, costumed legendry, and tips to spark your creative minds…

📸 Our March #BrawBagel Champion, Kristina! 

Hey Kristina, it’s fab to meet you - and congrats on your wonderful creation! We’d love to learn a little more about your creative journey. The path you’ve taken to CreativeMornings Edinburgh, and becoming a bagel artiste…

- What first drew you to come along and join the CreativeMornings Edinburgh community?

I’m an artist and curator from Washington, DC  and had attended a CM event there. When I realized Edinburgh had a chapter, I joined the email list and started coming to events. I wanted to meet other creative types and get inspired by the talks.

- Which CMEdi event was your first? 

It was Intention with Eileen Hall at Fruitmarket, in July 2018. 

- Which CreativeMornings speaker has been your favourite - in Edinburgh, or any of our fellow 199 chapters around the world? 

Jannica Honey, who spoke at Codebase last year - her energy was amazing as was the photography project she presented. She was so honest about her own experiences, and I felt the whole audience really connected with her.

- Now, let’s get to the tasty stuff - your bagel! What dishes in your dining past influenced such this sumptuous concoction? 

I love sushi and my bagel creation is basically a deconstructed suhi roll housed in a bross bagel. The wasabi cream cheese spread has some heat and coolness to it. The nori sheets offer a salty kick, and the pomegranate seeds add bursts of flavour. The way they pop reminds me of how my siblings and I would burst seaweed pods on the beach when we were kids.

- With regards to the theme of #CMWater, which elements felt the most important for the creative culinary statement you wished to make, and to the balance of flavours? 

Thinking about days spent at the beach, I wanted something that was a little salty and a little sweet. Like drinking a soda-pop or eating ice cream on the beach with the salty air all around you. 

- Have you had Bross Bagels previously? 

My husband and I have been active stalkers of all Bross bagelries since they opened. We usually haunt the Leith location because of its proximity to our home, but we’re moving to Portobello next month and will probably be at the Porty location every Sunday. The Montreal is my tried and true, but I also love the vegan options when I want to switch it up. 

📸 Kristina & her husband, a.k.a. Hall & Oates 2.0! Creative Costumes for the win! 

- If you could offer the CreativeMornings Edinburgh, and Global, community one creativemessage… what would it be? 

Take yourself on a solo art-date once a week. I learned this from the Artist’s Way book by Julia Cameron and it really helps get your creative juices going. On your lunch break or on a day off or a free evening, visit a gallery exhibition, go see a film, or see live music. There are tons of free arts events all over the city and by making a rule to fit one thing (outside of wherever you work) per week you connect more with the city and people around you. - Do you have any creative works you would like to share? 

Are you looking for art for your creative workspace? I can help you purchase, rent, or commission artwork by local artists. Contact me through my web site 

Well, that was a wonderous, appetite building, creative ride indeed! Thank you so much Kristina! 

If you’d like to try your hand at becoming our next #BrawBagel Champion, entries for April are now open! So, get your culinary thinking caps on, get creative with this month’s theme of “Inclusive”, and send us your best bagel ideas - at: 

#CMWater With CreativeMornings Edinburgh

Our Perth chapter chose this month’s exploration of Water and Sofia Varano illustrated the theme. It refreshes our bodies - in and out - upon waking, and throughout our waking hours. Diffuses the nectars of beans and leaves into the beverages that set us up for fully charged, creative days. Keeps our car, bus, and motorcycle engines cool. Maintains hydration as we walk and cycle from place, to place - enabling journeys to inspiring places, spaces, and communities. Water, the theme of March’s CreativeMornings events, is - quite literally - a key ingredient in our vitality.

In keeping with this aqueous theme, you all swept in with a refreshing morning joy. Greeted by delicious Bross Bagels, and coffee from The Milkman. Oh, and… a very special, sustainable surprise in the form of stylish reusable cups, from our sponsors at FreeAgent

A special gift to members of the CreativeMornings Edinburgh community, the FreeAgent cups are wonderful contribution towards our goal of being 100% waste free and sustainable. If you picked one up at the event, we look forward to seeing you bring them along to all of our future events - and thank you for all of your donations! All of those coppers, coins, and notes that you deposited in the donation bucket added up to £40.02, all of which will go to the charities CCLASP and the Refugee Council!

Nourished and buzzing from the sweet energy of our monthly community reunion, we were all keen to hear from our speaker, Anna Deacon. A wild swimming photographer, what sets her apart is not just an astonishing eye for light, movement, and natural beauty; but, also, a true presence for the acts of living and connecting in the contexts in which her photography takes place. 

In September 2018, the context and community that drew Anna in was that of the Scottish wild swimmers. Meeting them around Scotland as they took their chilly dips and dives in cool wilderness waters, Anna herself became a wild swimmer - sharing in the revitalising experiences, hearing the stories of her newfound network, and capturing the rosey red cheeked smiles on their faces as the emerged from lochs, seas, rivers, and oceans. 

The photography and stories Anna shared in her talk reveal wild swimming to be something genuinely special. Nature’s own healing resource, those who heed her waving, watery call are finding a new process of relief from anxiety, burnout, pain, and grief.

Ending her talk with a conversational Q&A, you all engaged with passion. Clearly inspired by Anna’s wonderful talk… and, perhaps, hearing that call to wild waters, too. 

If you, like so many of us, were enthralled by the messages shared by Anna during her CreativeMornings/Edinburgh talk, be sure to follow her adventures via her blog on, on Twitter @WildSwimmingPh1, and on Instagram @WildSwimmingPhotography

The month of #CMWater may now be over, but hopefully it’s inspired you to continue your journey into new found creativity, community, and revitalisation. In the words of E.E.Cummings,  “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.”

We can’t wait to see you all at our next event, all on the global theme of ‘Inclusive’. May you have the good fortune to explore the global community that awaits. It’s only ever just a click away… At CreativeMornings 🗺️

Credit: Event Photography by Ellie Morag

Back in December 2018, we got to meet the founder and director of Braw Beards, John Jackson. A mighty fellow, who found inspiration in his experience of rehabilitation for extreme sports injuries. The result? A world leading beard care brand, that’s attracted the love and attention from those of all genders, crafts, and interests around the world. 

Last month we got the chance to catch up with John, and find out a little bit more about his time up on the CMEdi stage, and becoming a member of our fab creative community! 

Photography by Ellie Morag 

What was the preparation for your talk like? Were you nervous about what to expect?

I was a little nervous in the build up to the talk. Myself and the CMEdi team sat down and discussed how to structure the talk so that definitely helped keep me focused. There is so much to the Braw Beard story and timeline it was tricky to fit into a 20min talk but CMEdi helped condense it nicely.

How did you feel up on the stage, in front of our CMEdi community? Did you find yourself easing into it once you got going?

I was nervous walking to the stage, but once the first sentence was out I started to relax. After I got the first laugh from the crowd, it reminded me I was in good company.

Were there any special responses and/or interactions before, during, or after your talk which stood out in your memory?

After the talk there were a lot of people thanking me for the talk and saying it was inspirational, which is always nice to hear. If someone takes just a little bit of inspiration from the talk, it’s a good feeling. I remember someone asking a question along the lines of  “How many employees do you have?” and they were stunned when I said none haha. I’m ALWAYS busy, that question opened my eyes, maybe I need to get some staff to help out!

We have loved having you as a speaker; but, also as a community member – you are now part of the family! Related to that… 

Would you recommend taking part in the CMEdi community and events, as a speaker and/or attendee?

100% yes. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure what to expect so I went along to the talk previous to mine to get an idea. Again everyone was friendly and there’s a relaxed atmosphere. Plus you’ll always learn something new. If you get the opportunity to do a talk at Creative Mornings, DO IT.

What aspects of both experiences stand out as particularly special/important?

As an attendee - the relaxed atmosphere and wealth of knowledge in the room. There’s a good chance there will be someone in the room in a similar position to yourself.

As a speaker - the preparation and promotion from the CMEdi team. They care about you and want to see you do well so they’re willing to help with any advice you need.

What positive things have resulted from your experiences, and connections made at CreativeMornings Edinburgh? Collaborations, projects, or simply an increased sense of optimism… they all count!

After doing the talk, it has made me keen to do more. I really didn’t enjoy speaking in public before but after doing a few talks (CMEdi being the most recent), the response from the audience has always been welcoming and enthusiastic.

Head on over to the Braw Beard Oils website, scroll to the bottom of the page, and get yourself signed up to their newsletter! With fun events, blogs, and general updates on the go, you’ll be glad to stay in touch!  Plus, check out the Braw Beard Championships film - a promo for the epic event held every year… could you be the 2020 Braw Beard champ?! 

#CMTradition with CreativeMornings/EDI

Reunited for one final CreativeMornings/EDI event in 2018, Friday 14th December saw our community bundled up within the art-filled walls of the Fruitmarket Gallery. Freshly brewed coffees, rosey cheeks, and Festive Schmear Bagels!

Festive Schmear with Bross Bagels

While pre-event speculation on what exactly “festive schmear” could be veered off into the suspicious, Larah Bross - AKA, ‘The Bagel Lady’ - soon cleared it all up, in the most delicious of ways. With a fine array of toasted chipotle and cheddar bagels, filled with pomegranate cream cheese. Sweet, savoury, and a little smoky zing! Schmeckt gut!  

Sweeping us away from the temptation of seconds, we pulled up a pew in the main gallery. Front and center, the bearded legend John Jackson began his talk…

Photography by Ellie Morag.

Founder and director of the Braw Beard Oils brand, and movement, John has had a wild and bumpy ride to where he is today. An accomplished racer in mountain biking, downhill and endurance competitions, it was injuries incurred through his sport that brought John to his beard maintenance calling.

Whilst in rehab for these injuries, he learned massage therapy - an educational experience that led him to discover the world of oils. His eyes now opened to what these natural substances could provide, he was inspired to seek new ways they could be of used. Clocking his girlfriend using similar concoctions to keep her hair in tip-top shape, an idea was born… Braw Beard Oils, for the hair on your face!

“All the feedback was really positive, and that’s when I decided to make it a business” - John Jackson, Braw Beard Oils.

Little did John know how successful his brand would become. Not just for the fantastic products at the heart of what they do, but also - arguably - because of the character, community focus, and commitment to giving back that the Braw Beard Oils team brings. Just peruse their Brawtherhood gallery, sponsored athletes and ambassadors, social media channels, and the crowds that gather at events that they attend - you’ll see a grand beardy movement, with global reach, and support for numerous good causes, such as Cahonas Scotland!

We can’t wait to share John’s full talk with you, when the event video is broadcast. In the meantime, treat yourself, and the fine lookin’ facial hairs of you and your loved ones… check out the Braw Beard Oils blog - delving into everything beardy. From How To Get The Salvador Dali Moustache and How to Deal with a Beard in the Wind, to How John Avoids Eating His Moustache!

Closing the show was our own little tradition. The #CMEdi Festive Jumper Competition! 

Well done to our winner, with their crackin’ B&M reindeer sweater. We hope that Toblerone set you in good stead for a braw festive season! 

While we celebrated our community in festive fanfare, nearly 4 years after #CMEdi first began, for other CreativeMornings chapters around the world this special experience of “monthly breakfast lecture series for creative communities” is brand new!

For their first ever event, CM Tucson (Arizona, USA) had community building local artist, Melo Dominguez, as their speaker. Mel’s artwork being a direct expression of Chicanx culture, political issues, social issues and environmental issues - blending treasured old traditions with the present-day needs and motivations of the communities they work with.

With the CM Tucson community, Mel shared the joy she finds in using creativity and activism to create a difference throughout Tucson - find out more about Mel’s artworks, and community initiatives, and contact them at 🎨

CM Medellin (Colombia) gathered for the second ever event, with the fantastic John Fredy Asprilla - AKA “Sprint” - of the Son Batá Cultural Collective! In his talk, Sprint introduced the crowd to the vibrant ways in which this collective brings diverse creative traditions new life, through their two core aims: 1) Show young people that it is possible to express and achieve their dreams, and 2) Reconstruct black identity, and community in urban territory.

This generous collective of folks are known for making Medellin resonate, and a whole country dance with its music and its famous phrase:

“¿Estamos Melos? Sisas, sisas!”

[Aren’t we awesome? Yeah, YEAH!]

With our truly awesome event of #CMTradition behind us, we hope the memories will help you bring your own fun and creativity to the crafts and customs we inherit. After all, if the famous Henry James is right, “A tradition is kept alive only by something being added to it.”

We can’t wait to see you all at our next event, all on the global theme of ‘Surreal’ - which also happens to be our 4th Anniversary!!

May you have the good fortune to explore the global community that awaits. It’s only ever just a click away… At CreativeMornings 🗺️

#CMEdi Speaker Catch-up: Jannica Honey 🍯

Like a whirlwind of creative passion and empathy, Jannica Honey took to the CMEdi stage in October; positively inspiring and remaining in the hearts and minds of our community ever since.She’s even got her own Bross Bagel, thanks to the first winner of our #BrawBagel Challenge! With the exceptional response Jannica as received from our community, we were excited to follow up with her after the event to find out a little bit more about her magic. 

For a little extra inspiration, and insight into post-CMEdi-speaker life from your fellow creative, Jannica Honey, keep on readin’… 👇🏽

Photography by Ellie Morag 📸

What was the preparation for your talk like? Were you nervous about what to expect?

I prepared a lot, not only because I was pretty nervous, but also because I thought it is considerate and respectful towards the people turning up to hear from me. I was grateful to CreativeMornings/Edinburgh to be invited, and I wanted to hold that space. You believed I would do an intriguing talk, and I wanted to make sure I delivered. I also recommend people to prepare WHEN they feel uncomfortable, at least then you know you done your best. 

Preparation is like investing, sometimes we get scared when we invest in ourselves.

I felt comfortable before even meeting the team, I knew you all would be ace! My awkwardness lays within me: I find it challenging to hear my own voice for a longer period of time. I thrive on connections: you know that beautiful/exciting exchange of words, emotions and stories? When I do talks I find myself in the land of Jannica Honey only and I sometimes loose the connection, well, nothing to worry about I am talking to my therapist about that… ;-)

How did you feel up on the stage, in front of our CMEdi community? Did you find yourself easing into it once you got going?

I felt like I had some really intriguing/interesting stories to share, and I could see that they were awake and ready to hear me. In fact, much more awake than me.

 I guess what I am trying to say is, I felt very looked after before the talk. So, when I finally had to climb up on that stage and I found myself with the microphone in my hand, I was just felt honed in to being there. I mean, when you end up getting a hug by CreativeMornings/Edinburgh’s film crew after your chat, you know your words have been perceived.

Were there any special responses and/or interactions before, during, or after your talk which stood out in your memory?

Someone asked me about guidance straight after the talk and I figured that my honesty in my presentation unlocked something in him. We spoke about the importance follow “what you are all about” to create authentic work. When I speak about authentic images I simply talk about how to create photography of a certain quality. 

The talk also emphasised something to me, something that I kind of knew about already, how we are all connected and we affect each other regardless we want it or not. This can be positive and negative of course, the beauty with honesty is if you are honest people are just going to respond just like they are open and honest and it is just there where we all connect.

Community & Connectivity around Jannica’s photography.

We have loved having you as a speaker; but, also as a community member – you are now part of the #CMEdi family! 

Related to that,  would you recommend taking part in the CMEdi community and events, as a speaker and/or attendee?

Yes, I would love too! To meet the CreativeMornings/EDI community was like opening a secret door. An entrance leading to not only good coffee and chats, but also learning new things and early mornings. I know that work/art/inspiration happens in connections, and CreativeMornings/EDI facilitates just that in the most relaxed yet professional way.

One of the more positive things that have resulted from my experiences, and connections made at CreativeMornings Edinburgh, is that plenty are now aware of the events that CreativeMornings/EDI put on. Last but not least, your support and guidance has also put me at peace with my presentations.

I feel like something shifted and that shift definitely happened after the morning with you. I also had a lot of interaction on social media, people asking if when I am doing another talk and people asking about it.

I actually think these kinds of events extend way beyond me, way beyond us here in Edinburgh… it is like a mutual positive experience for all participants. The idea of sharing narratives is central for human evolution. At CreativeMornings/EDI we might be in a beautiful high-tech place eating bagels, but these kind of activities have been going on for a very long time, perhaps without the microphone and Insta-stories, more around a fire, sharing, connecting and learning. A reciprocal experience of something changing and evolving… developing.

If, like us, you found yourself looking for more the magical inspiration that Jannica Honey shared, don’t miss out on two workshops that she will be running in the new year, at the Arienas Collective: 

In these “half-day workshops with photographer Jannica Honey, you will consider the questions: What is a portrait? Or to be more specific, what is a good portrait? And do we need to see ourselves to see the other?”

2019 Dates include January 13th, and February 24th. Full details and booking available at: