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Closer to the Edge have developed as a group of musicians working together predominantly as a singing group, with some instrumental support. Over the past year individuals and the group have begun to experiment beyond their base of singing covers, to writing, performing and recording some of their covers in local settings. The group have developed a keen interest in promoting positive messages about mental health recovery, challenging stigma and misperceptions with wider audiences. The group are currently focussed on developing their song-writing and composing. Closer to the Edge are currently supported through Scottish Arts Council (Creative Scotland) Music outreach and participation funding and by Stirling Council community and cultural services for a year-long composition and mentoring porgramme.


The project builds and sustain work undertaken within the Stirling Artspace programme for adults recovering from mental health issues, which supports a group who self-identify as ‘Closer to the Edge’. The project is supporting the group to sustain existing work whilst opening opportunities for structured development in the areas of song-writing, composition and recording as well as developing performance skills and experiences, as this emerging band grows in confidence and focus.

 The programme is running from October 2009 till the end of October 2010, offering the following elements of development for the new and existing participants:

  • structured programme of song-writing and composition running alongside ongoing sessions for the core of the group
  • Mentoring support in song-writing and performance technique by professional band, Skerryvore, combined with opportunity to perform as support act alongside this and other professional acts.
  • Individual centred approach to developing skills and talents by consistent engagement of lead musician
  • Wider promotion of positive images of mental health issues through performance programmes in local community and professional arts venues
  • Advice and support from Tolbooth music development officer
  • Progression and development for emerging musicians balanced with increased social engagement and participation.

The musical creations will be achieved by way of collaboration between the entire group including the current class composers/musicians, lyricists and singers.  Most of the group express they have at some time written poetry lines, prose or small written personal diary notes which affect themselves family and friends. ‘Love’, ‘rejection’, ‘fears’, ‘hopes’ and ‘aspirations’ were just some of the interested topics suggested. There was also additional themes brought up which were more relevant to ‘mental ill health’ including ‘people’s rights’, ‘equality’ and ‘emotional well being’.

Closer to the Edge have only on occasions had the chance to experiment with original song structure and many class members are very excited with the possibility of furthering this. In the past this has only been possible when the class was smaller in numbers and everyone was in agreement to give patience to the song writing process. Group members Ewan McCabe, Duncan Cullens have periodically come in with Song writing ideas which every now and then are developed into full songs with harmony arrangements. Additionally Group members Susan Steadman and Joanne Mcque have brought in lyrics on one occasion which we turned into song structure developing melodies and arranged into song form.

 The main reason this has only been possible on certain occasions is that song writing process takes patience and dedication. Certain participants on a Wednesday come along to just sing and have fun and would not feel an interest to song write therefore we would need to separate the sessions, in order not to lose existing members. The over-all plan would be to incorporate the new songs into Wednesday’s vocal group and perform and record them to enable the group to further promote themselves whilst taking control of the full creative process including the artwork for the CD album.

 As the success of the Wednesday music group has been built on voice and vocal development, the Song writing would go hand-in-hand and be an excellent compliment program. The class have agreed that the Song writing Workshops would add further creativity, be an expressive outlet and be beneficial to the already successful Artlink Wednesday singing programme. The Song writing program would differ very much from the singing program as it would be working with people on a more one-to-one basis developing their creations and giving them an outlet for creative expression.

The structure of the programme is by exploring each of the four central musical elements which make up a song;-

  • Melody – Should be catchy and original.
  • Lyrics – Meaningful or poetic imagery, colourful or abstract. Generally speaking, people should relate to the song on some level.
  • Structure – Proper use of creative song structure which is round and complete.
  • Harmony - Proper use of harmonic structure to build fullness to the composition.

Singing Sessions

The group  meet weekly for a two hour session, with occasional holiday breaks. The sessions focus on social engagement, music-making and providing the first step of access to the programme for new and existing participants.

 Composition and Songwriting Programme

This programme is running for twelve weeks over the course of a year and is tailored for small groups and individuals to develop their approach and understanding of approaches to song-writing and composition. The lead musician programmes the sessions in collaboration with ‘Closer to the Edge’ and Artlink staff. The outcome will be a series of new works.

Mentoring Programme

Skerryvore are engaged to take a mentoring role with the group. They offered some performance technique based support at the beginning of the programme, preparing the group for a support act role in a professional performance at the Albert Halls with Skerryvore as the headline act to be confirmed for a date in November 2009. Skerryvore have built in additional mentoring support over the course of the year, with a total of four sessions. These have and will focus on performances, song-writing and collaboration as well supporting the group to bring their individual and diverse musical interests into the process of music-making. The group will offer ‘Closer the Edge’ a live case study of successful approaches to developing new work, as a band that has successfully moved from performing existing material to writing their own music. They have also been able to tailor this approach to emerging needs from the group over the course of the year.

 The group will also be able to access some advice and guidance, and if necessary mentoring support from music development officer at the Tolbooth, Stephen Hume provided in kind .

 Performance Programme

Closer to the Edge have recently had the opportunity to perform at some small scale local community events, including one showcase at the Albert Halls in Stirling. The group has generated further interest which has led to invitations to perform at further local events, some related to community planning and mental health awareness. The programme has offered them the opportunity to perform to a wider audience, as a supporting act to Skerryvore in November 2009 as well as to take up further opportunities with support over the year.

 Artlink Central have had further opportunities to link and perform with other bands, Skerryvore, Jack Vampire and Created from Silence in 2009, with plans to perform with Little Eskimos and My First Tooth in October 2010. The performances aim to widen Closer to the Edge’s audience, targeting younger people and promoting mental health awareness to large audience.

 The programme will culminate in a performance as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival 2010, where the group will be able to perform their new work made over the course of the programme. The Tolbooth makes an appropriate venue for this celebration of the group’s achievements.

Who takes part?

Participants are adults from the age of 18 (currently quite a wide age range is supported although majority are under thirty) and we will continue to actively recruit new members to the singing workshops. We envisage high numbers of these participants to participate in the Songwriting and composition sessions and all of them to participate in the recording, to varying degrees. The average group size is 9 at the current time, with just under thirty different participants in 08-09 with an average attendance of 12 per week. Some participants will attend occasionally or will stop attending when they are in employment, many keeping a loose association with the group and supporting events. Others participate regularly and are very committed looking forward to each weeks rehearsal. Some people move on as they recover from mental ill health, while others commit due to their passion for music and to maintain social interaction to support them in staying well or progress in their recovery.

How this fits with Artlink Central and Artspace

This programme supports the artistic development of one Artlink Central’s very well-established Artspace programmes, responding to the needs of regular participants and supporting Artlink Central’s ongoing artistic development. The strategic aim is to identify and trial pathways for progression for musicians and participants engaged in the Artspace music programme for adults with mental health issues, supporting emerging musicians and the emerging group ‘Closer to the Edge’ to build on skills and experience whist continuing to support new participants who join the group. The programme builds on the inclusive nature of the Artspace model but offering stronger art form development for participants.

Leadership and Direction

Dee Faulds is a professional composer and film maker, specialist in audio and film production. He has been commissioned to work with Sky Television, RSAMD, a number of NHS boards, RSNO and Sony BMG amongst many companies. He has worked with Artlink Central since 2004 as a freelance musician, working predominantly with people experiencing and recovering from mental health issues as well as in Cornton Vale Prison. He has also worked with Toonspeak, SWAMP and the National Trust, where he participated in a pARTners residency scheme and he was engaged on the Royston Road project with Fablevision in Glasgow. (CV attached).

Dee has been working with ‘Closer to the Edge’ for a number of years, providing a consistent artistic singing programme in the community for people experiencing and recovering from mental health issues and is best placed to support the group in its development as a drop-in group to emerging band.


A driving sound of bagpipes, accordions and fiddle, fused brilliantly with kicking rhythms of guitar, bass and drums, Skerryvore are a young band blasting their exciting sound to audiences from the Western Isles of Scotland, to the thousands at Celtica in Italy! 

An all male band, they have been dubbed the ‘boy band’ of traditional Scottish music!! The roots of the band come from the West Coast of Scotland and in particular the tiny Island of Tiree, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.

Their debut album, ‘West Coast Life’ was awarded album of the month on BBC Radio Scotland’s Celtic Connections program in August 2005. Their 2nd album, titled ‘On the Road’, was released in July 2007 and went to re-press within a week of its release. With album sales now approaching 10’000, Skerryvore are a band capturing the hearts of audiences of all ages, at home and abroad. 

Over the past 3 years, Skerryvore’s transforming, explosive sound has seen    them touring and performing at festivals world-wide including Celtic Connections, Hebridean Celtic Festival, MOK Festival, MagiaCeltica & Celtica Festivals in Italy and the Netherlands. Throughout their travels they have appeared alongside the likes of the Peatbog Fairies, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Lingalad, Sensational Alex Harvey Band, and also performing with Donnie Munro (formally Runrig) and Wolfstone at the Rock Celtic festival held at Glamis Castle in September this year. Skerryvore make their debut in the USA in 2008 by accompanying Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond for performances at the Ryder Cup in Louisville, Kentucky, before blasting their sound to crowds in Chicago. 

Skerryvore’s highly anticipated 3rd album is due for release in 2009, and will see their tour expand for debut performances in Canada, Portugal and Spain.

Skerryvore has worked with Artlink Central in Cornton Vale Prison and are committed to continuing to work locally in community settings and schools as they build their career as a professional band. They are keen to share their experiences as a band that has developed its Songwriting over the last couple of years with ‘Closer to the Edge, as well as support the band in developing confident performance techniques and approaches. They will also headline a professional performance opportunity for ‘Closer to the Edge.’


Artlink Central’s new director has consulted with ‘Closer to the Edge’ to develop a broader understanding of participants needs and routes of development and this project will be the first, of hopefully a series, to respond to user’s needs and identified development areas and support progression and artistic development of the programme.