My Voluntary Arts Week started at 6am on the launch day, as I travelled by bus, train, ferry and Land Rover to reach Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran for the Arran Woollen Woods opening event. This was my third trip to the island, my first being to meet Sue Mills, Head of Education at Brodick Castle & Country Gardens and the Arran Theatre and Arts Trust, where I floated the idea of staging a Woollen Woods project. My second trip was in April to attend a Woollen Woods skillshare at Whiting Bay Village Hall, where I was delighted to see the imaginative and skilled creations that had been made thus far.

So, having seen the project grow over the last seven months, mainly keeping in touch by phone, I was delighted to be back at Brodick Castle, where I was greeted by over 70 school children who were excitedly waiting to plant their woollen flowers. These had been created in felting workshops led by the Arran Ranger Service, in partnership with Trish and Alison from ‘Spin Off’ – a spinning, weaving and dying group that meets on the island. I love how nature, craft and community have come together as part of the Woollen Woods project, not only on Arran but at Arlington Court in Devon, Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire, Talkin Tarn in Cumbria, Rushcliffe Park in Nottinghamshire, The Diamond Jubilee Wood in County Antrim and The Palm House in Merseyside.

Sue, who was very much the driving force behind Arran Woollen Woods, was unable to make the launch due to health reasons. In an opening speech, Kate Sampson, Head Ranger at Arran Ranger Service, acknowledged Sue’s hard work and we had a round of applause for all of the groups and volunteers involved in the project: Roots of Arran Community Woodland, the Arran Ranger Service, Eco Savvy, Arran Visual Arts, Spin Off, Arts in Mind and Arran Theatre and Arts Trust.

It was a joy to see the children race to plant their woollen flowers and stomp off into the gardens at Brodick Castle, with the Woollen Woods map in hand. Lots of pointing of fingers and ‘oohing and ahing’ ensued as we followed the colourful arrows and stumbled across woolly delights hidden in the trees and scattered among the undergrowth.

When the school children went home, the Champagne and shortbread came out, as members of the community and groups involved in the project gathered. We heard poems from local writers that were themed around the woods and shared stories of the many Woollen Woods workshops that took place in classrooms, village halls, green spaces and kitchen tables in the lead up to Voluntary Arts Week. One of the ladies involved in running felt workshops with school pupils as part of the project told me that she had been experiencing some health problems recently and that taking part in the Woollen Woods had helped her heal.

My next Voluntary Arts Week stop-off was the Horsecross Voices Choir Crawl, a project led by Horsecross Arts, which invited members of the community to come together, learn some songs and go ‘on tour’ aboard a vintage bus.

Many of the venues along the Choir Crawl were involved in Festival of Museums and so the group themed their songs to complement each event, from ‘Happy Birthday’ (Stevie Wonder style) at the AK Bell Library which was celebrating it’s 21st Birthday to a more poignant WW1 medley at the Blackwatch Museum morning remembrance and finally a rendition of ‘Food Glorious Food’ at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, which is where I caught up with them. I loved watching the choir perform and seeing passersby stopping in their tracks to listen – but more importantly it was great to see the choir, who were mere strangers just four weeks ago, working together and sharing a moment of joy.

Debra Salem, who led the choir through their four rehearsals and the Choir Crawl, said: “It was exhausting but a lot of fun. Singing in different venues was quite wonderful.

This event is a great example of how cultural venues and arts groups can work together to create something special – I am looking forward to sharing the Perth Choir Crawl as a case study in the Festival of Museum workshops later this year, to inspire more collaborative projects for Voluntary Arts Week 2016. Read more about the Horsecross Voices Choir Crawl here.

My next Voluntary Arts mission was to install the #loveto photo exhibition at Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh, which you can still see on display until the end of the month. These prints (which you can see on the Voluntary Arts Scotland Facebook page) have been sitting in the office since they first went on show at Creative Exchange so it was great to get them out again. Each photograph features an arts group from Edinburgh in their regular meeting space (be it café, library or workshop), sharing how being creative makes them feel.

Pieces of art in themselves, these photos were taken by Derek Anderson and Dave Smith as part of a collaborative project with Edinburgh College and Creative Exchange, to celebrate International Volunteering Day. It was fascinating unearthing the arts groups that meet nearby our office; from sword dancers to the local Mineral and Lapidary Club – there really is an art/craft form out there for everyone and such passionate volunteers that work to create these opportunities.

I finished off my Monday with some sewing and a pint at ‘Say it Ain’t Sew’ – a free sewing class that meets, 6.30-8.30pm, every Monday night at Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh and 6.30-8.30pm every Tuesday night at Hillhead Bookclub in Glasgow. The class activity was felt finger puppets, which I must admit I was initially a bit apprehensive about. I rarely get time to sit down at my sewing machine anymore and when I do I have an endless list of clothes that need altering and half-finished projects so I don’t often just get to sit and sew for the sake of it.

Day seven was the Voluntary Arts annual Epic Awards Ceremony at BBC Media City in Salford. This is the fourth Epic Awards I have attended and each year this event reaffirms to me why I love what I do and celebrates the dedication, skill and creative energy of voluntary arts groups across the country.

All I can say at this point is watch this space for more information on Voluntary Arts Week activity across Europe and opportunities for international collaborations ahead of Voluntary Arts Week 2016.