Festival 2023

The To Absent Friends festival took place across Scotland from 1-7 November 2023.

It was an opportunity to remember, to tell stories, to celebrate and to reminisce about people who have died but remain important to us.

Information about some of the events that took place is below.

The Library of Legends

Drawing by John Martin Fulton and Russell McGovern to give an idea of the art project The Library of Legends. It's a sepia watercolour showing an autumn tree with books in the branches, and leaves and hearts blowing in the wind. People gather under the tree to read together. One uses a wheelchair. The branches and roots mirror each other.Organised by artists Russell McGovern and John Martin Fulton in partnership with Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief

1-7 November 2023, daily from 10am to 4:30pm.

In a portable cabin at Potterrow Plaza, the University of Edinburgh

This event is open to the public in person and online (no need to book in advance)

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of To Absent Friends, Good Life, Good Death Good Grief and artists John Martin Fulton and Russell McGovern invite you to the Library of Legends, a public interactive artwork popping up in central Edinburgh from 1-7 November.

The Library is a place where people can hold and share stories in memory of someone who has died. You are invited to do this by creating a page to add to the Library. It can be artwork, a story, a poem, or whatever you think of. There will be art supplies, available guidance from the artists, and a calm, relaxing environment where you can also just drop in to look at the books or admire the murals on the outside of the Library. The Library can be visited on a drop-in basis anytime during its open hours.

If you're not in Edinburgh, you can send in pages by post or online from anywhere in Scotland

Community groups can also schedule a free art workshop at the Library during the week by emailing jmfultonart@gmail.com.

Visit the Library on Instagram at @library_of_legends2023

Illustration credit: John Martin Fulton and Russell McGovern

Reflecting Together workshop

Organised by Say Something Dundee and Remembering Together Dundee

Monday 6th November 2023, 4-6pm

Coldside Library, Dundee

This event is open to the public

Join Remembering Together Dundee and Say Something Dundee to share personal experiences and memories of loved ones lost during the pandemic. 

This will be an informal and relaxed event as part of To Absent Friends Festival 2023.

For more information contact kirsten.wallace@vandadundee.org

Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Remembered

Organised by Sacred Sanctuary

Monday 6th November 2023, 7pm start

Dysart Community Hall, Kirkaldy KY1 2TD

This event is open to the public

Come join us as we remember our loved ones, in a safe and respectful way.

By lighting a candle.

By bringing in time for sunshine and rain, joy and pain.

We will have so much going on, we are sure there will be tears of sentiment and hopefully sentiments of joy.

Image credit: William Fitzsimmons

I Had a Dream

Organised by The Open Museum (Glasgow Museums community outreach team) in collaboration with Iman Tajik 

4 November 2023

The Burrell Collection, Glasgow

This event is open to the public

To Absent Friends is an opportunity to revive lost traditions and create new ways of remembering those who have been lost.

As part of this year’s festival, artist Iman Tajik will screen “I had a Dream” which references the many lost and unrecorded deaths at borders, especially at sea, from migrants and refugees arriving through treacherous sea journeys, in search of a better life to another land many miles from their own, and more increasingly than ever, to UK shores.
Hands feature in several of Iman’s works with their powerful ambiguous meaning of waving, extending and welcoming or help and drowning. Today, Iman invites people of all ages to participate in the launch of a new project by contributing a handprint in clay to the “wall”.

Iman Tajik is an Iranian artist and photographer based in Glasgow. Through photography, sculpture, installation and performance he “performs the border”, inspired by personal experiences of crossing geographical borders and socio-political barriers to insist on the right to freedom of movement. You can visit his website here.

The Burrell Collection has several artworks and objects which engage with historical moments of migration, including the painting “The Refugees”, attributed to Honoré Daumier.

Illustration credit: The Open Museum

Windows of Reality: 100 Puppets and Stories from around the Highlands about COVID-19

Organised by Creativity in Care CIC

Friday November 3rd 2023, on the hour every hour from 12:30-6:30pm

Jim Love Studio, Eden Court, Inverness

This event is open to the public

You are invited to come along anytime between 12.30pm and 6.30pm for an exciting installation with stories, puppets and a short film called 'Windows of Reality' supported by The National Lottery Community Fund Scotland.

On the hour, every hour, we will share stories about all-embracing life experiences about Covid-19 through the eyes of some of the 100 puppets. The stories and puppets were created by people from Caithness, East and West Ross-shire, Sutherland, Inverness-shire, and Lochaber.

Thanks to everyone involved including Centred Scot, Evanton Wood Community Company, Cromarty Youth Cafe, #CromartyFourWays, #FamiliesLivingWithLongTermConditions, #HighlandAlcoholAndDrugPartnership and all the creatives, choreographer, musician, puppet director, artists and makers.

See a 5-minute clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt8C0D7w1Ow

Content warning: there is a lot about death (through illness and suicide) and about grief which is being shared at the event.

This event also creates space for people to share their own stories.

You can find out more here.

Image credit: Creativity in Care CIC

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