Human Threads is the culmination of over 20 years of work by Artlink and the Cherry Road Learning Centre in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian. Artlink’s primary mission within this partnership has been to explore ways of involving people with profound and multiple learning disabilities in the creative process – through listening, learning and working slowly with those who care as well as those who are cared for. In doing so, we have built a deep respect for the dignity and lived experience of people who are so often excluded.

“It might seem so simple—a gentle brush on a face, a ball jiggling in a hand — are all incredibly powerful moments of communication. We create a new language together through trial and error over years of working” Laura Spring, Artist

Human Threads is the first exhibition of its kind, based on the understanding that art is a language shared, a generous site of intersectionality and humanity. The artworks encourage us to spend time together, to find comfort and enjoyment in that experience. From a silk sail swaying in an artificial breeze to a sapphire blue ramp translating audio into a felt sound; bubbles flowing from a tower emitting intermittent bursts of light and smoke; light projection flooding objects, textures and colours through a magnifying water lens; and inner worlds in which hand carved figures dance in the light – each installation within this gentle fairground offers an ever-changing and immersive encounter. The exhibition will also serve as a location for a programme of live events, each designed to exaggerate a sensory aspect of each artwork and add an element of the unexpected.

All of the works respond to the sensory interests and preferences of a small group of people with profound learning disabilities living in midlothian. Post-pandemic, there is much we can learn from taking the time to work together, of valuing our differences, supporting each other, and understanding just how connected we all are.

In the end it’s not about what you are or even who you are. It’s about what we are together. That’s what’s important. The fact that we all need each other, that we need positive relationships, and it’s this that makes us human – Liz Davidson, Cherry Road

This exhibition is dedicated to the people who didn’t make it through the pandemic, to the people who couldn’t leave their homes, who lost all their supports. And to the carers who struggled to cope.

Artworks by: Matthew Ronay, Laura Aldridge & Lauren Gault, Adam Putnam, Wendy Jacob, Laura Spring & Claire Barclay.

Performative Collaborations by: Kevin McPhee, James McLardy & Francesca Nobilucci.

Curated by: Alison Stirling and Nicola White in partnership with Tramway.

What people are saying

Becky and I really enjoyed playing for Human Threads yesterday – such a wonderful welcoming space! The installations and lighting SO good for drawing out improvisations. Alex South, Musician

We had a great time, the Birds sounded beautiful in the space… Wondeful exhibition, and wondeful piece to play! Ruta Vitkauskaite, Musician
Thank you again for putting  on such a lovely exhibition, we all feel super relaxed after today’s event which was AMAZING!! Mother/Carer

Human Threads perspectives

Everyone has their own perspective on the exhibition. What follows is a cross section of these experiences – to establish  a fuller picture of the artworks and their impact.  We learn from taking the time to understand the specifics of involvement, we understand that each person has their own very particular way of being involved. Our intention is to share these different perspectives to establish a more generous understanding of each other and the common ground we share.  

WORKSHOP AT CHERRY ROAD | Ruta Vitkauskaite and Stephanie Lamprea

This workshop was a bit of an experiment. The musicians were asked to explore slow time with staff and service users. Sometimes the experimental is just what people need. Just listen………..

WHALE OPERA | The Spatial Opera Company

As part of Human Threads The Spatial Opera Comapny performed Whale Opera, a piece which combines whale song, voice and violin. Spatial Whale Opera is one of the first works by SPO, which has now developed into multiple experimental opera projects, all based on the idea of spatial sound travel. Spatial Opera Company are a … Continue reading WHALE OPERA | The Spatial Opera Company

COLLECTIVE ENDEAVOURS | Aya Kobayashi and Alex South

For several years Aya (dance) and Alex (clarinets) have been improvising movements and sounds together as part of Glasgow-based Collective Endeavours. In their first duo performance they provided a dynamic and playful response to all aspects of the exhibition, combining bravura, elegance and tenderness.

MOMENTS WHEN WE COLLIDE | James McClardy, Kevin McPhee, Francesca Nobilucci, Alan Faulds & Tracy Vec


The first part of a two part performance.  Jonathan wanted to explore how the audience would feel music or hear music, rhythm as a universal language . The ‘conversation’ started with Jonathan playing drums, slowly the audience started to take part, dancing and playing drums along with him.

NATURE MUSIC FOR VOICE | Stephanie Lamprea – part 1

Soprano Stephanie Lamprea performed solo pieces for voice, based on the sounds from nature and improvised to accompany the acoustics of the exhibition. She completely captured her audience.  Her voice was truly beautiful.  The exhibition shifted onto a different level.  

DYNAMIC DJ | DJ Dynamite

DJ Dynamite is one of the youngest members of KMAdotcom, a group of artists with and without learning disabilities. His mobile sound system Dynomobile was built in the KMAartists studios and runs off its own battery. DJ Dynamite plays all over Scotland at festivals and events. He played lots of different music and yes, you … Continue reading DYNAMIC DJ | DJ Dynamite


Puppeteer Jemima Thewes created and performed a short, improvised performance with one of her unique shadow puppets. Animating the artwork created by Laura and Lauren using her shadow puppetry skills, storytelling, further enhanced by music and song.  

GONG BATH | Daniel Padden

Gong Bath by Daniel Padden was a unique and immersive sonic experience. People could participate or just observe. When you relaxed into it, the special sonic power of gongs, let the soundwaves wash over you. In past workshops at Cherry Road, people connected with the sonic and vibrational power of the gongs. Its both therapeutic … Continue reading GONG BATH | Daniel Padden



This workshop was hosted by Ruta Vitkauskaite, MD of CoMA Glasgow and attended by regular musicians from CoMA Glasgow. The group rehearsed Emily Dolittles’s Gardenscape, where musicians and singers imitated bird songs, and from this they made their own soundscape to correspond with the sounds of exhibition. CoMA musicians performed ‘birdsongs’ by Emily Doolittle within … Continue reading GARDENSCAPE | CoMA


FEEL THE BEAT | Ubuntu Vibes

A vibrant and exciting piece inspired by West African music and dance, clowning and the magic of feeling the world from a different point. It lifted our spirits and made us smile for the rest of the day. Ubuntu vibes is an Edinburgh-based group – Raquel Ribes Miro, Beti Mencal and Andy Cooke. All have … Continue reading FEEL THE BEAT | Ubuntu Vibes

FAIR PLAY | Red Note Ensemble – part 1

A playful, inclusive, and interactive sharing of the exhibition through live improvisations performed by Red Note Ensemble inspired by the intricate landscape of ‘Human Threads’. The musicians interacted with artworks and visitors exploring the exhibition, blurring the lines between ‘audience’ and ‘performer.’  This work was not mic’d   The musicals placed themselves next to the … Continue reading FAIR PLAY | Red Note Ensemble – part 1

SUBMERGENCE | Alex South & Becky Milne

  Alex (clarinet, bass clarinet, interactive electronics) presented a part-composed, part-improvised set built around the idea of immersion and featuring music by composer Jan Foote inspired by humpback whale song. Alex’s improvisations  attended closely to breath, bodily rhythms and the dark microtextures of bass clarinet sound. This was incredible.  In an email sent from someone … Continue reading SUBMERGENCE | Alex South & Becky Milne

DANCING NEAR FELT MOUNTAIN | Miller Academy of Irish Dance

Four Irish dancers performed, the sound of their dance steps was at the same time recorded and channelled through Wendy Jacobs’ Human Threads exhibit, Felt Mountain. The artwork is a ramp leading to a level platform, which has been specially engineered to carry low frequency sound. Observers experienced the performance, both visually, physically, and sonically, … Continue reading DANCING NEAR FELT MOUNTAIN | Miller Academy of Irish Dance