Words With Carrie

Edinburgh, a city known for its diversity and culture, is full of fascinating exhibitions, stories and communities. Here, Carrie Alderton talks about her work in bringing them all together…

What’s your connection to the Lothians?

I moved to Edinburgh to study, and just fell in love with it here, the city, the people, the weather… Now I think of myself as an adopted Scot!

What are some of the best things about living in the Lothians?

Well the best thing about Edinburgh is the incredible range of food – especially the Thai and Vietnamese food you can now get on Bristo Square, in Caravan and Saboteur, and the amazing curries and falafel around Nicolson Street.

My favourite place to go for a little love affair with the city is on the Mound, on the benches in front of New College. Sitting there reminds me of my uni days: you feel so connected to the history of Edinburgh, with John Knox looking over your shoulder, you can look out over all of the city, and sometimes see rain, sun and sleet simultaneously!

Are you a ‘gloomy-fog-over-the-castle’ or a ‘summer-on-Princes Street-gardens’ type?

I’m more a Sunshine on Leith kind of gal!

How would you introduce us to your career/life/passion?

My passion is interfaith dialogue and community cohesion, a concept which plays out completely differently in Edinburgh compared to other cities in the UK. Whereas cultural and faith groups in other cities are sometimes quite ghettoised, here in Edinburgh we have a fantastic level of social integration. A huge part of my work is just drawing people’s attention to that.

I have been working on a project for the last year and a half called Our Story with the Edinburgh Interfaith Association. We began collecting oral histories from our diverse cultural and faith communities, and presented them in a variety of formats: mainly in an exhibition at the Museum of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile (running until the end of April). I’ve also produced a variety of educational material, and a travelling exhibition, for schools and community groups. We’re talking about the concept of identity – what does it mean to be a Scot and also belong in another culture?

The aim is to show – and celebrate – how diversity is actually interconnected: Catholic Irish immigrants, Jewish Eastern European immigrants, Indian and Pakistani immigrants all amalgamate to make the amazing Edinburgh footprint.

Is there a typical day?  What does it involve?

The great thing is that each day has been different. For about a year I was going round to people’s houses, their communities, or meeting in coffee shops, and getting to ask really fascinating people about their memories, their opinions, their culture and their identity. I met some wonderfully inspiring people and they opened up to me in a way I could have never anticipated.

Then I got to work with the amazing team at Edinburgh Museums who helped me curate the exhibition. One day I was lucky enough to walk through the Museum collections, all stored in racks in a giant warehouse, to select some of the artefacts to go in the exhibition. We’ve displayed these next to artefacts from each community and images taken by local photographers of religious festivals and communities in the city. Now I’m taking the travelling exhibition around, doing talks occasionally, and trying to spread the word!

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

Launching the public stage of the exhibition in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament. Alison Johnstone MSP sponsored us and introduced the project – and I displayed the travelling exhibition there. Over 100 people came, all from different faith and community groups: there were so many different types of people, and clothing, you could see turbans, headscarfs, kippas, saris… It was hugely satisfying to know that these people wanted to gather and celebrate the project, and could see something of themselves and their communities represented in it.

And when you’re not working? 

I love going to lectures: I’ve been along to a few organised by the Alwaleed Centre recently which have been fascinating. I also enjoy film screenings, galleries, and a lot of dancing – so Edinburgh and Glasgow are my perfect playground, really. But apart from that, just curling up with a good book – Ngozi Adichi is my obsession at the moment.

Find out more about the project at:





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