Lewis Hou, Fun Palaces' Scotland Ambassador has joined us at Voluntary Arts Scotland to show how the arts and sciences can work hand in hand.

Why have a 'Scientist-in-residence' at Voluntary Arts Scotland?

The arts and sciences aren't as divided as people often think. Consider the influence of technology on fashion or visual arts, the chemistry in paints and ceramics, and the deep physiological understanding of the body through portraits, dance and yoga.

Science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine aren't separate from the arts, and form a fundamental part of our creative everyday lives.

Through a partnership with the Fun Palaces campaign, which promotes culture at the heart of communities and the celebration of 'Everyone an Artist, Everyone a Scientist', the Scientist-In-Residence role at Voluntary Arts Scotland will help support creative, participatory explorations of science and art with communities across Scotland.

Introducing Lewis Hou . . .

Lewis' background is in neuroscience research (specifically brain anatomy and evolution/music) but he is also a fiddle player and dancer, having worked in community science and education for many years.

One of his main projects, the 'Science Ceilidh', combines traditional arts and science education and Lewis feels passionately that everyone should be able to engage in science, and enjoy using the arts as a 'common language' to explore science with audiences who might not typically engage with it.

Funded by Paul Hamlyn and the Wellcome Trust, the three-year Fun Palaces Ambassador project began in November 2016, and is an action research project involving five ambassadors and hosts (including Voluntary Arts Scotland) across the UK. The project will explore community-led participatory arts and sciences and over the three years, each ambassador will experiment with ways to improve community-led arts and sciences in their local region. 

Here are the broad aims of Lewis’ Fun Palace Action Research project and residency with Voluntary Arts Scotland:

  • Capture the diverse nature of community-led cultural activities already happening across Scotland. 
  • Understand the barriers to engagement/participation of arts and science across Scotland.
  • Provide support for community-led arts and science collaboration through signposting, development of resources, bridge-building across communities and being a point of contact.
  • Develop relationships in Scotland between schemes and organisations that provide opportunities to participate in arts and sciences (at Science Festivals, university public engagement/outreach, campaigns such as Get Creative, Voluntary Arts Festival, Big Draw, 64 Million Artists, British Science Week)
  • Establish, scope and evaluate cultural projects that demonstrate 'best practice' to provide evidence of impact, especially favouring longer-term, co-produced, community-led, truly collaborative and/or working with traditionally un-engaged audiences. 
  • Pilot new funding schemes across arts and science participation and advocate for better resourcing and access to funding.

Current Projects:

Voluntary Arts Festival Mind & Body (including small grants programme)

This programme is encouraging community groups across Scotland to experiment with arts and sciences during the Voluntary Arts Festival (5-14 May 2017). It provides small grants and event development support from Lewis, including (but not limited to):

  • linking groups to science resources or local scientists
  • helping groups plan, advertise and evaluate their events
  • helping facilitate, where possible, long-term relationships and activities.

Leith Labs

Developed from a Fun Palace event in 2014, this regular science-residency connects visitors at Ocean Terminal shopping center in Leith with access to researchers from Edinburgh's four universities. There are free workshops and activities at least once a month, and in between shoppers can post any science questions into the community postbox, which are then answered by scientists. These questions also dictate the themes for future monthly events, ensuring activities are community-led.

New Scots Culture Jam 

Working with  local refugee and migrant communities in Edinburgh to explore and share culture, the New Scots Culture Jam includes music, dance, science, storytelling, poetry and beyond. 

Get in touch:

You can find our more about Lewis’ role with Fun Palaces here: www.funpalaces.co.uk/scotland

You can also get involved in the active Fun Palaces Scotland facebook group

And if you’d like to get in touch with Lewis, please feel free to send him an email on [email protected] or a tweet @fiddlebrain or give him a call on 07813743662.