May 24, 2021

Mutual Affinities: Learning Lab with Creative Scotland and Counterpoints Arts

Image: Rubble Theatre, Manaf Halbouni, St Enoch Square Glasgow, Refugee Week Scotland, Counterpoints Arts Production (Photo: Basharat Khan, 2019). Halbouni’s work was commissioned to sit on the square in Glasgow in public view, with the artist and installation engaging in conversations with passersby. Halbouni’s cars (which have travelled across several cities in Europe) appear overloaded with personal possessions, resembling mobile living rooms, like ‘impossible houses’ offering moving tributes and testaments to loss, resilience and hope for displaced communities around the world.

Counterpoints Arts is delighted to announce the Mutual Affinities Learning Lab programme supported by Creative Scotland.

Led by Counterpoints Arts, the primary goal of the Mutual Affinities Learning Lab programme is to listen to artists in Scotland who have first-hand experience of migration and displacement and enable them to sustain and develop their practice in dialogue with invited arts and community organisations. 

Please see below for details of how to apply.


Mutual Affinities consists of a series of conversations and provocations as part of an extended Learning Lab.  The pilot programme will combine individual Learning Lab sessions with a short period of action research. The aim of this pilot is to deepen learning and understanding of how to support artists with lived experience of migration and displacement and for cultural organisations to work together with artists ethically, professionally and to mutual benefit.

Open to innovative ideas, the Learning Lab will include contributions from national and international practitioners to stimulate new ideas and models of mutual support.  To this end, this initiative is designed so that participants can learn and unlearn together in a collaborative space to imagine what new support structures might look like, driven by the intersectional values of diversity, equality and cultural rights. 

Possible areas of inquiry might include:

  • Lived experience leadership
  • Cross-sector mentoring and skills-sharing
  • Mutual aid practice/exchange
  • Digital Collaboration and skills
  • Local/national/international residencies/commissioning
  • Designing for justice and change
  • Cooperative governance
  • Responding to neighbourhoods and places


Artist selection

Due to Covid-19, we envisage that the majority of the Mutual Affinities Learning Lab series will be delivered online.

We are able to support four artists to participate in the programme. A bursary of £1, 250 is available per artist and relates to 50hrs x £25 per hour. Access support will be met additionally.

The Mutual Affinities programme will be designed in collaboration with selected participants in order to maximise relevance and benefit. 

The structure of the programme is outlined below:

  1. Application by artists
  2. Selection Process by panel
  3. Exploration of immediate needs and ambitions of each individual artist
  4. Invitation to arts organisations to match the artforms and ambitions of the artists and the Mutual Affinities programme. 
  5. Learning Labs x 8 commence
  6. The Action Research period commences.  The action research ‘residencies’ will be determined between the artist and their hosting arts organisation.
  7. Evaluation and learning sessions
  8. Report and summary of collaborative learning by Counterpoints Arts.

Selection Process

The panel will be made up of Counterpoints Arts, Creative Scotland plus artists with experience of migration and displacement based in Scotland. 

The selection criteria will consider:

  • The applicant’s work and track record
  • The potential benefit to the applicant through taking part
  • The perspective the applicant can bring to their matched organisation

The panel will consider the applications and select four candidates against a balance of art forms, different stages in careers, geographic spread and the potential benefit to the applicant.

Arts and community organisations will be invited to participate in the Mutual Affinities Learning Lab programme in response to candidates’ areas of interest and ambition.

Applicants who are not selected will be able to have a follow up conversation with an EDI team member at Creative Scotland.

Time Commitment

Artists and organisations will be expected to attend the Mutual Affinities Learning Lab programme over the equivalent of 10 half days between July and October 2021.  The action research ‘residency’ is to be individually negotiated between each artist/organisation pair and be completed no later than end of October 2021.

How to Apply

Deadline for applications by email only is midnight 14 June 2021

Please send the following to:

  1. No more than 4 sides of A4 and tell us about yourself, your artistic practice and what barriers you have come up against in the development of your career.
  2. Tell us what you would like to get from taking part and how this would benefit you.
  3. Tell us what insight you think you would bring to your matched organisation
  4. Provide no more than 4 links to or examples of your work.

Invited candidates will be notified by 7th July 2021


Counterpoints Arts will prepare a report summarising the collaborative learning from the programme and highlight key insights and opportunities. The artists, matched organisations and Counterpoints Arts will host an online session for the wider sector to attend to discuss and share their learning. 

Mutual Affinities Learning Lab Contact: Dr Áine O’Brien, Curator Learning and Research, Counterpoints Arts

*Context and Background

Partnership Working

This project proposal has been developed through a partnership between Creative Scotland and Counterpoints Arts in response to the need to develop deeper understanding of the barriers faced by artists with lived experience of migration and displacement when building a career in the creative sector in Scotland.  

Following a successful programme in 2019 in collaboration with the Scottish Refugee Festival, Counterpoints Arts led a discussion with representatives in the culture sector, which highlighted the need to review how cultural organisations and artists with experience of migration and displacement can collaborate and support each other to fulfil their mutual professional ambitions.  This will require a better understanding of how different cultural contexts, language and employment patterns impact on the artists’ ability to sustain a career path, and on an organisation’s expectations, delivery frameworks and ability to adapt.

*Project Overview

Strategic Aims

Creative Scotland are members of the implementation group for The New Scots Integration Strategy 2018-2022.

This strategy supports refugees, asylum seekers and our communities to enable everyone to be active citizens, and to share cultural rights afforded to the people of Scotland more equally.

Creative Scotland’s Equality Outcomes 2017-21 aims to support a wider diversity of people to reflect the changing nature of Scotland’s demographic. In order to do this we want to understand ways to recognise different creative practices and pathways to sustained careers.