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The Creative Space of Fife

Local Venues for the Artistically Curious

The St Andrews Fresher might not consider the town’s three-street spread a “hot-spot” for all trendy or up-and-coming arts venues. And that’s likely because it isn’t. Although there are gems — The Byre, Aikman’s, Balgove’s Night Markets, The Vic, which The Saint lauded last semester, The Fraser Gallery, Wardlaw Museum, the St Andrews Heritage Museum & Garden — the incoming St Andrews student likely wishes to look elsewhere. For most, elsewhere means Glasgow or Edinburgh. Dundee if one wants a shorter commute and is not looking for an overnight stay.

But need not let the shortage of happening arts venues in St Andrews force you to look beyond a local bus commute in Fife. There are spots to investigate, and maybe even enjoy, that encourage giving back to and respect for local creatives.

Located in the heart of the picturesque Fife harbour town, Crail Pottery is a popular and necessary spot for the St Andrews student. Although Crail Pottery offers no outsider participation in the ceramics medium, customers get a close look into the space’s workshop. The craftsmen complete their entire process in-house: throwing, decorating, glazing, and firing. Stephen and the late Carol Grieve first opened Crail Pottery in 1965 and later passed the business to their children. According to the website, Crail Pottery specialises in Earthenware, stoneware, terracotta planters, and raku. The selection is exceptional. Crail Pottery serves as a spot to source gifts for the family and oneself that excite one’s inner-artist, and, as a venue to witness the ceramicist’s creative process.

The pieces are beautiful. The decorative choices, delicate floral, geometric patterns, or seaside scenes, reflect Fife’s natural beauty. Reasonably priced given the labour and craftsmanship that go into the product (roughly £15-20 per mug) and a wonderful token representative of the local arts scene. I purchased my first and only Crail mug in second year, and I intend to take it with me when I leave St Andrews. Unless, that is, I drop it, which is likely given my poor track record with glassware maintenance.

Crail is also home to the Crail Folk Club. Tony Kingsbury of the Crail Folk Club told The Saint : “Crail Folk Club has been going for nearly 40 years bringing high quality musicianship with an emphasis on entertainment. We open twice a month with a range of styles from traditional to blues and contemporary”. Reinstated in 2021 after forced enclosure, the Crail Folk Club invites guest musicians to play in the Community Hall in Crail, which, Kingsbury elaborates, “has wonderful acoustics augmented by our PA system”.

As of now, Crail Folk Club’s calendar lists a Singers’ Night on 14 September and folk singer-songwriters Siobhan Miller, Katie Spencer, and Rob McHale on 28 September, 12 October, and 26 October respectively. “In the past,” Kingsbury explains, “our high spots have been Eddi Reader, Barbara Dickson, and Gnoss”. If one is keen to drop in and play a few songs, on Singers’ Nights the club welcomes anyone to perform in a smaller, more intimate environment. Kingsbury recommends buying tickets online for shows in advance — fairly priced at £10-15 per performance, and £2 for Singers’ Night.

Folk music is part of a longstanding tradition in Scotland. This Crail collective offers both access to a nationally familiar genre and therefore context for musical development in Scotland. This context is invaluable, and, in my view, expedites emotional attachment to a place. All this to say, going to these performances as a musically-curious individual will bring a student closer to loving St Andrews and Scotland more broadly.

More from the East Neuk of Fife. Between Elie and St Monans lives Bowhouse — the lover-of-anything-artisanal-and-seasonal-and-homemade’s dream. A market and creative space, Bowhouse’s primary mission is to distribute Fife’s crops, East Neuk’s malting barley, beef and lamb, wheat, potatoes, broccoli, oil-seed rape, and fruits, to local business and families. On Market Weekends, you can find both the local produce and food trucks in addition to jewellery and homeware. Visitors also have the opportunity to learn from the local traders and producers through workshops and cooking demonstrations.

Another win, there’s sometimes music. On past trips to a Bowhouse Market Weekend, I’ve inhaled something halloumi-y and delicious from one of the food trucks while a live band played in the background. Market Weekends take place over the second weekend of the month from March to December. Open 10:00-16:00 both Saturday and Sunday, with no entry fee.

Additionally, Bowhouse hosts arts-related events. On 15 July, photographers Alexander and Sophie Lindsay displayed “Space to Breathe”. There was a Healing Herbal Remedies Workshop with Fife herbalist Rosy Rose on 22 July, and Twelfth Night performance in early August.

Bowhouse may be a bit remote, but if you have access to a car, this market and multimedia venue is a must-visit.

Also located within the Bowhouse complex is local brewery, record store, and music venue Futtle, opened by Stephen and Lucy Hine in 2019. Let not the size of the petite colourful space fool its visitor. The offerings are extensive, with plenty to satisfy an array of artistic explorers. To the foodie, Futtle offers its own natural beers and ciders. Their refreshing beverages, made from various foraged goods, are a nod to the Scottish coastline. Despite my limited knowledge on the production of quality beer and soured relationship with the IPA, I can attest to the quality of Futtle’s crisp, salty, and refreshing seaweed beer. For the live-music junkies among us, Futtle also brings in musicians to play in the intimate space. Last I was there, I saw experimental folk artist David A. Jaycock play an early evening set, followed by London-based DJ Miche, who curated and mixed a selection of soul, funk, and disco records. And, finally, for the vinyl-collector, Futtle also functions as a record label. Futtle Records sources rare vinyl across genres and releases compilations.

The Fire Station Creative located in Dunfermline appears as another multimedia space. The collective’s building, an older art deco style Fire Station, is a site in itself. The venue has a daily cafe, a monthly exhibition in its gallery, and weekly weekend musicians. From 1 June to 30 July, Fire Station Creative displayed “En Plein Air”, a show by Ian Maclachlan Scott, who studied at the Glasgow School of Art and focuses on landscape paintings. Previously, it hosted a Fife College Showcase, “40 Years of Printmaking in Fife”, and “Dazed”, an exhibition by recent Edinburgh College of Art graduate Leah Moodie. The weekend performers cater to several genre interests. In addition to music, visual art, and food, the collective offers yoga, upholstery classes, and life drawing in its classroom space.

For the Fresher with an artistic agenda, these venues serve as launching pads. And they’re only what I found in my field research or preliminary internet perusing. There’s more to discover, and the eager fresher might just be the person to continue the investigation. So before you make a beeline for Glasgow or Edinburgh for your next creative pursuits, first look closer to home.

Illustration: Shalina Prakash

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