Creativity, emotion and connection

Over 2016/17, Iriss continued its work with the frontline workforce with The View From Here. The project this year aimed to:

  • Promote public understanding of the impact of care and support and the contribution of the frontline workforce
  • Celebrate the contribution of people who work in care and support
  • Understand and share frontline experiences of providing support, specifically focusing on the emotional impact of caring.
Storytelling workshop

We invited practitioners from the public, private and voluntary sector, to engage in creative workshops to share their experiences of working in social services. These workshops were an opportunity for practitioners to share their experiences through storytelling, as well as learn creative skills that they could take back to their workplace. We created a safe space for practitioners to build rapport with each other and to reflect on their practice.

Creative workshops

We were pleased to host three creative workshops for practitioners across Scotland with support from Magi Gibson, Vox Liminis and the Village Storytelling Centre. These workshops were attended by a range of practitioners from social work and social care, and represented public, independent and third sector organisations.

Creative Writing

The poetry workshop, led by Magi GIbson, was an opportunity for participants to engage emotionally with their roles. The poems that emerged from this workshop tell the very personal experience of people who work in care and support. One participant said:

I got quite emotional today and realised how connected I am to what I do

The workshop group benefited from sharing specific experiences which might not be understood by the outside world, like the impact of the death of people they worked with on their lives.

When I come home to my family..  You can’t talk about it and share what you do

Participants felt excited to take the skills and experience they learned at this workshop back to their places of work, for example, integrating poetry into their work with children to connect creatively with families.


The songwriting workshop led by Vox Liminis provided the opportunity for participants to feel heard and collaborate musically. The group was surprised at how natural the singing and songwriting felt, despite initial concerns:

When the manager first kind of said we were going singing..I honestly thought she was joking… But it’s good, and it’s good to share your experiences as well.

The group also felt that the workshop was an opportunity to feel less invisible, and help other people in the outside world understand the job they did. They felt that the creative approaches had application in their roles, and might open up avenues for communication with the people they supported.

Everything I’ve learnt today, every single thing I’m going to take forward and use

This workshop culminated in three emotive songs, each about the complexities of working in care. The song ‘Fight or Flight (Anne Marie)’  uses the analogy of a love affair to communicate the support workers’ relationship with the job. ‘Frontlines’ examines the experiences of practitioners when faced with pressures and the desire to be the anchor for the people they support. Finally, ‘I’m still at home’ tells the story of the supported person, reaching out to their support worker to see them for who they really are.


Iriss collaborated with the The Village Storytelling Centre to support practitioners to explore narratives through letter-writing. This opportunity prompted the group to really reflect on the idea of stories, and how to incorporate storytelling into their own practice.

I really enjoyed it… It was thought provoking and it certainly made me think more about how stories are told

The group collaborated to write a letter about their joint experiences, but also welcomed the opportunity to share their own personal stories. We have widened this opportunity to all social service practitioners, who can submit their letters online.

The workshop also opened doors to the frontline practitioners’ thinking about what it might be like for the person they support to share their stories, particularly when they may feel they need to hold back for certain audiences.

Today was really fun and engaging.. And I think that through using practical activities it’s a good way of putting you into the shoes of the person that you’re working with… How does it feel to tell a story when you’re not allowed to tell parts of the story?

The workshops were evaluated positively, and further strengthened our understanding of the potential of creativity to support the workforce. The stories and outputs developed are available online, and showcase the strength of emotion and connection of Scotland’s social service workforce.


Throughout the year, we also developed a series of portraits with the aim of bringing care work into focus by showcasing individual practitioner profiles. Andy Archer, Iriss’ creative advisor, travelled across Scotland to speak to a cross-section of the workforce. The portraits tell the story of the day to lives and motivations of the integrated workforce. Andy reflected on this process:

I met each person individually and we chatted for about an hour. During that time everyone opened up to me, and felt confident enough to tell me exactly how it is.

I loved hearing their stories and it was a privilege to learn first-hand about the important contribution they make to society. I was struck by their commitment, passion and positive approach to their work, despite a number of obvious challenges. People doing these jobs need their voices to be heard.