festival exhibition and events by artists-in-residence at Abbeyhill Primary School

Dave Pratt | Sylwia Kowalczyk | Romy Danielewicz | Heather Rikic and Citadel Arts Group

featuring guest-artists Caroline Brockbank and Bernie Hewitt

spanning Abbeyhill Primary School windows, your screens and our urban greenspaces

curated by Iliyana Nedkova as part of the 16th annual festival Colony of Artists

18-19 September 2021 | 11am-6pm | FREE

Join us for a festival weekend with a difference!

Every third weekend in September for the last 16 years we have opened the doors of Abbeyhill Primary School – with its two Victorian buildings and large playground – as one of the exhibition venues of the Colony of Artists festival. We were hoping to open our brand-new outdoor classroom and community garden for this festival weekend. Yet, the smallest global disruptor has interfered for a second year now and prompted us to ‘open’ three new exhibition platforms instead – windows, screens and greens! It is the windows of the school, the screens at your homes and fingertips and the urban greens at Holyrood Park and Leith Dockers Club that our artists-in-residence have taken over for our new 2021 festival line up under the title WINDOWS, SCREENS & GREENS!

In 2013 we started with only five artists-in-residence projects bringing the wonder of contemporary arts to every child and teacher through partnerships with various funders and organisations! Since then we have welcomed over 50 professional artists to the school inspiring over 200 children a year to create, exhibit and perform at Colony of Artists festival weekend.

Up, Up and Away

school windows mural trail

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The windows of the school are the new exhibition platform for Up, Up and Away (2021) – our 16th Colony of Artists festival centrepiece now that the school’s Assembly Hall is out of bounds in these extraordinary times! Take up to the skies with our trail of school window murals created by some of our 200 pupils and illustrator-in-residence Dave Pratt. Pay tribute to James Tytler – the first person in the UK to fly by ascending in a hot air balloon in 1784 from nowhere else but our own Abbeyhill. Our tribute to Tytler on the school windows and your screens via this website will grow and change over the next few months as our resident illustrator continues to work with every pupil and class teacher in the school well after the Colony of Artists festival launch!

Remember to take a glimpse at the school windows every time you are in the Abbeyhill area and combine this with a visit to another Tytler homage – one of Murally People’s latest Colony of Artists murals on the corner of London Road and Maryfield.

Look out for the new release of Abbeyhill Primary School Daily Waffle, too!

The Assembly Hall in the Main Building of Abbeyhill Primary School has always been our festival hub since the annual Colony of Artists started in 2005.  Year on year each class would mount their own take on a themed exhibition there. We have kept this festival spirit alive and a new class teachers-led themed display has accompanied each of our artists-in-residence exhibitions on view throughout the rest of the school grounds since 2014. The class teachers-led displays featuring all pupils, from Nursery to Primary 7, have included  Endangered Species (2014), Flower Power (2015), Summertime (2016), Dazzled (2017), Farewell to Aileen Patterson (2018), No to Single-Use Plastics (2019), Bee Kind (2000) and now Up, Up & Away (2021) is flying off the Assembly Hall’s walls and using the school windows as the new murals platform, instead.

Surrealism for Surreal Times

school windows mural trail and a video tutorial (3.30 min) for your screens

The surrealists who pioneered this movement in 1924 would probably feel ‘well at home’ in these surreal times. Watch, cut and collage following this ‘stay at home and be surreal’ video tutorial by Sylwia Kowalczyk – our photographer-in-residence. Devised by the artist amidst the COVID-19 pandemic for her Primary 6 co-artists, it is packed with practical ideas for collage and montage-making – some of the signature techniques Sylwia uses in her photography practice, too.

Take a break from your screens to experience the site-specific surreal mural installation on the school windows, including a bounty of surreal poetry as some of the highlights of the artist residency which ran in-person in and out of the Primary 7 classroom throughout April, May and June 2021.

As part of POLSKI project enabling over 10 artists of Polish heritage to take up residency at Abbeyhill Primary School through a curatorial partnership with Polish Contemporary Art Organisation since 2015

Party Portal

an audio play (5min), a documentary (8.30min) and a short story (short read) for your screens

The jewels are missing! Enjoy a cautionary tale of planetary crisis, cake fights, time travel, birthday parties and old Polish legends.

The audio play Party Portal, the accompanying documentary The Jewels are Missing and the short story Crystal Animals and the Ocean Planet chart the progress of an experiment in collective authorship and performance making with Primary 4 and 5 pupils conducted by Romy Danielewicz – performance artist-in-residence at Abbeyhill Primary School throughout 2020 and 2021.

“While the audio play is a more linear record of our work, the video functions as a sort of ‘the making of’ documentary, destabilising pedagogical or artistic authority. Shot mostly by the Primary 4 students themselves, here is a testimony of a multidirectional process and collective authorship.” Romy Danielewicz

Read the short story Crystal Animals and the Ocean Planet below or download it here


The first animals were made out of water packed tightly into crystals. There were crystal pigs, crystal frogs, crystal mammoths. None of the crystal animals had to hunt – they got their energy directly from their planet. Each morning, their chandelier heads would disappear under the planet’s surface, drinking its heat and looking towards its core.

Although the animals could communicate with each other through telepathy, nothing ever happened on the crystal planet and so there was little to talk about. The animals were lonely and bored. They spent long hours completely still, breathing in the cold cosmic air.

Long hours changed into days, days into weeks, weeks into years. The animals stared into space with their crystal eyeballs. Staring into space was an art. You were allowed to look, but you weren’t allowed to really notice anything.

One day a comet passed by the planet of crystal animals. No animals paid it any heed. No animals except one – the Curious Tiger, who could not stand staring into space any longer and looked up to the sky to see the comet instead. The comet, which looked kind of like a space flume, swooped down and swept him up, carrying him into the milky way of another galaxy.

On the milky way, the tiger met other animals who were similarly besieged by curiosity and whisked away from their mother planets. The animals floated like this for a while, not sure how to speak to each other. They only knew telepathy.

The telepathic signals they were sending were so strong that the animals from the crystal planet sensed them. One by one, they raised their heads to see what was happening. As soon as they did that, the comet scooped them up and carried them out of the crystal world. All animals were curious now, and looking with interest at the new world beneath them.

They saw a planet brimming with water, unlike anything they had ever seen before. Not the hardened rows of crystal they knew from home but endless seas, glowing lakes, hurtling rivers and lush expanses of ocean shimmering in the wind. This planet spoke to the animals. They concentrated hard and redirected the comet towards it through the sheer force of their will.

One by one, the animals dropped off the comet. There was only one animal which did not want to descend upon the ocean planet – the Curious Tiger who, as it turned out, was actually scared of water. The tiger remained on the comet, gliding through the universe alone, nourishing itself on stardust and milk.

The animals lay in the shallow prehistoric waters of the ocean planet, unsure where to go from here, or indeed, how to move at all (remember they were crystal). Drifting, they started to soak up the water. With this extra moisture, they realised they could move their limbs and frolic on the surface of the beautiful planet. The animals opened their mouths and spoke to each other in purrs, yelps and roars. They were joyous but also hungry since there was no land for them to hunt on. Many of them couldn’t breathe underwater and thus had to remain afloat at all times.

In the meantime, the comet has made a full circle through the universe and returned with Curious Tiger on board. The tiger, very lonely now, saw all the animals swimming merrily in the ocean and thought, “Despite my fear of water, I really just want to be with my friends”. And so Curious Tiger took a sharp breath and joined the others, jumping to safety from a great height. When the tiger fell, the splash generated a tidal wave that swept all over the ocean planet. It knocked the excess water out into the cold universe, creating a new world and clearing a land for all animals to live on, loud and joyous.

As part of POLSKI project enabling over 10 artists of Polish heritage to take up residency at Abbeyhill Primary School through a curatorial partnership with Polish Contemporary Art Organisation since 2015

Back in 2015, we invited the Polish Contemporary Art Organisation to co-curate POLSKI at our school and build on the success of their latest group exhibition WAVES. Just like WAVES, POLSKI showcases Polish artists and artists of Polish descent at different stages of their artistic practice working with various media — photography, creative writing, printmaking, installation, collage, film, ceramics and performance.

While WAVES stands for the constant movement, outflow and influx of Polish talent to the British shores, POLSKI extends this metaphor to include the migration wave of Polish families and young people that started in 2004 when Poland joined the European Union. POLSKI focuses on the ripples of creativity at the heart of Edinburgh’s Abbeyhill Primary School by inviting 2 or 3 Polish artists-in-residence per academic year to bring the wonder of contemporary art in the classroom to every learner from Primary 1 to 7 through a series of residency projects.

We are grateful for the continued financial support of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Edinburgh and the active involvement of all the Polish families and young people in our school and wider Abbeyhill community.

POLSKI artists since 2015 Sylwia Kowalczyk | Romy Danielewicz | Zu Dominiak | Joanna Lubonska | Dawid Gumula | Jolanta Dolewska | Anna York | Agnieszka Mietkiewicz | Kristin Mojsiewicz | Sylwia Kolasinska | Monika Szydlowska

The Aliens

live theatre performance indoors | free but advance booking required

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It’s 1940: just after the Dunkirk evacuation. Can a World War shake the friendship of two Leith lassies – Lizzie Preston and Gina Ricci?

Our drama company-in-residence at Abbeyhill Primary School Citadel Arts Group presents The Aliens adapted from William Haddow’s novel Leithers One Family by Laure Paterson and directed by Adam Tomkins. Performers are Alison McFarlane, Debbie Whyte, Mairi Jayne Paterson and Anthony O’Neil. Music by Jim Bryce. Artistic Director Liz Hare.

Please note that this family-friendly live performance is indoors in a COVID-safe environment with a restricted seating capacity limited to 30 people in the audience adhering to Scottish Government guidance for social distancing, wearing masks and signing up on arrival.

Date and time

Sunday, 19 September 2021

11:00 – 11:30 BST

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Leith Dockers Club Ltd

Academy Street



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Colony of Artists Family Ceilidh

participatory dance performance outdoors | no need to book in advance

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Fancy starting your Colony of Artists Sunday experience with a wee jig in the park?

Well, you can if you head to Holyrood Park Parade Ground to take part in the Colony of Artists Family Ceilidh promising fun Scottish dancing outdoors for all the family with Ceilidh caller Caroline Brockbank at CeilidhKids, accordion player Bernie Hewitt of Traditional Dance Forum Scotland and Heather Rikic – our choreographer-in-residence at Abbeyhill Primary School who has been busy throughout August and September 2021 devising a new dance together with all Primary 6 pupils inspired by social justice concepts such as equality, fairness and human rights while learning ballet, hip hop and Scottish traditional dance.

Bee safe – bring your mask, dancing shoes and friends!

Date and time

Sunday, 19 September 2021

11:00 – 12:30 BST

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Holyrood Park Parade Ground

Queen’s Drive



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Windows, Screens and Greens at the 16th Colony of Artists 2021 is curated by Iliyana Nedkova as part of the ongoing programme of artists’ residencies for spreading the wonder of contemporary arts to every pupil and teacher in and outside of the classroom

Curatorial support by Iga Bozyk | Katherine Chisholm | Wendy Timmons | Sally Ketchin | Keith Martin | William Forrest | Lorraine Pritchard | Abi Flowers | Charlene Kay

In partnership with Colony of Artists | Polish Contemporary Art Organisation | Citadel Arts Group | Ceilidhkids | Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh | Traditional Dance Forum Scotland | Holyrood Park Education Centre, Historic Environment Scotland | Leith Dockers Club

Projects supported by Colony of Artists | Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Edinburgh | Traditional Dance Forum Scotland | Freelance Practice Support Fund for Edinburgh | Abbeyhill Primary School | Abbeyhill Primary School Parent Council | 10 Villages City of Edinburgh Council Community Fund | Scotmid Coop Community Fund