Gray’s School of Art Graduate Degree Show 2021

The Gray's School of Art Graduate Degree Show launches on 9 July. Sustainability is the focus of many of the students' final year projects. The show, named Onwards, is the second that the school will hold online due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

With expectations high for another year of high quality, inspiring work, Gray's reached out to tell us about some of the graduates who's work will be on display.



Tom Andrew

One of those exhibiting, is 21-year-old product designer 3D design student, Tom Andrew from Torphins. With a keen interest in the future of transport and an environmental consciousness, Tom has created ‘TEXTAM’. This is a light-weight and highly functionable skateboard that reduces the reliance on private cars.

Tom says: “I want to challenge current modes of transport. Currently, mobility in urban locations is environmentally unfriendly, congested, and unsustainable. I have created a compact and sustainable skateboard that tackles short but important journeys.  I want to challenge urban transport issues and to push micro-mobility into the future.

'Textam’ provides a practical solution to the first and last mile often needed at the beginning and end of a trip made on public transport.  While you may take a bus or train for most of your journey, your final destination maybe too far to walk onto. Microbility products such as my lightweight skateboard, Textam, plug the gaps often found in public transport routes. In turn, this will reduce the need for private cars in city centres. As a result it will make cities such as Aberdeen, greener and cleaner places to live.”

Leanne Daphne

Another student with an environmental ethos at this year’s degree show, is Communication Design graduate, Leanne Daphne Goodall. 26-year-old Leanne-Daphne recently won the Scottish Kelpie Illustration Award. In addition, Penguin Books put her in the shortlist for their Student Design Award 2021. She uses illustration to tackle the effects of climate change through a fantasy adventure story, Hollow as she explains:

“The story for ‘Hollow’ is heavily influenced by the issues we face today. For example, global warming, pollution and over consumption.  My project had to appeal and educate young audiences in a fun and engaging way. Hollow embodies the concept of a living planet and plays with the question of how we would treat Earth if we could see it as a living creature instead of a resource? I want people to see the world in a way where we can empathise with it instead of just seeing it as a resource to harvest.”

Digital 3D art with a pink background and strange insect-like objects filling the space.

Maria Laidlaw

Jewellery designer and 3D design student, Maria Laidlaw showcases a collection of jewellery. She created her work from repurposed scrap metal to make intricate jewellery. With a rich cultural heritage, Canadian born, Maria hopes to inspire other creatives to embrace sustainability in their own work. She is passionate about addressing our throw-away society.

Maria said: “I have always been quite practical and dislike waste of any kind. As a result of our times and a desire to work more sustainably and ethically, it only seemed right to me that we use materials that could be repurposed in some way. I feel very passionate about this and believe that artists and makers can be pivotal in changing social perceptions. I adore old things and take inspiration from their stories. That’s whether it's material, architectural or historical. I hope people who view my work will consider its material legacy.”

Other Highlights

Other highlights from Gray’s Digital Degree Show, Onwards, include Fashion & Textile design student, Cameron Lyall who is showcasing a unisex collection of clothing called ‘NO-PLACE’. His work was inspired by a trip to a desolate spot at Balmedie beach, north of Aberdeen. He invites viewers to go on their own reflective journey as they watch a 3-minute screening, set in a dimly-lit atrium, where they can find their own ‘NO-PLACE’.

Head of Gray’s School of Art, Libby Curtis, said: “Our students have created an exceptional body of work for this year’s digital degree show, Onwards, which we look forward to unveiling to a global audience at our launch event, on July 9. Sustainability underpins a number of our graduate projects and demonstrate how forward-thinking our creatives are.”

What you need to know

Gray’s School of Art graduate degree show, ‘Onwards’, officially launches online to the public on Friday 9 July and runs for ten days. Throughout the show, there will be a mix of talks, interactive workshops, fashion shows and music.

Visitors will be able to explore a traditional archive of artists, with a simple click through of art works, featuring audio descriptions and visual images. Organisers will give attendees the option to explore the exhibition in a more experimental way. Visitors will take part in an immersive journey, as they navigate their way through a series of 3D virtual spaces.

Robert Gordon University, Gray’s School of Art, Digital Degree Show, ‘Onwards’, has been developed in partnership with Gray’s students, Gray’s School of Art’s creative unit Look Again, which hosts a biennial festival in Aberdeen, and Aberdeen-based design agency Design and Code.


Read About Gray’s graduate Indie McCue. His gallery of animations in partnership with Look Again added a touch of couloir to Aberdeen City Centre.


The Fittie, Aberdeen

Using art and culture to improve life in Aberdeen

Lesley Anne Rose is the co-founder of Open Road, a creative operation based in Aberdeen. They use art and culture to improve health and wellbeing and the local environment. Her work at the Fittie Community Development Trust recently caught our attention. We asked her about Open Road's background, her hopes for the development and how we can build a better future for communities.


At Open Road we believe that culture and creativity inspired by people and place transforms lives. 

The Covid-19 pandemic, movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, as well as the local and global impacts of climate change have sparked turmoil, disruption, re-evaluation and, at times, chaos. The stories we tell about ourselves about the world have been tested and re-written. Long-silent voices are being heard. The push to make the world, and all of our lives, more equitable and sustainable grows ever stronger.

The impacts of these times on the cultural sector have been seismic as social distancing prevents us coming together
Lesley Anne Rose

The motivation, means and momentum for innovation and unstoppable change are all in place. The impact of these times on the cultural sector have been seismic as social distancing prevents us coming together. New ways to distribute and show work open up and deep inequalities within organisational structures and privilege come under scrutiny. Within the drive for change the power of storytelling, the need for creativity and the role of culture in holding space to heal the past, connect in the present and vision for the future has been keenly felt. 

Owning our identity and history

We know that whoever owns our stories, news, art, and culture, also owns our identities and history. Our aspiration is to empower and enable individuals, communities, cities and countries to own their stories, give voice to their visions and take steps towards healthier and more sustainable futures for themselves and each other. 

Our place and believe that the North is a place of ‘other’ where we do things differently to the South. Extremes of light and dark, global oil and the closeness of Scandinavia influence us creatively, socially and economically. All of these factors, along with the need for compassion, have underpinned a new business plan we have spent the last six months creating. This plan is underpinned by our new mission to be a creative, entrepreneurial organisation rooted in North East Scotland (‘the North’), but with a global vision. We use arts, culture, heritage and the natural landscape which contributes towards health and wellbeing, tourism and environmental sustainability. 

When we saw the launch of Creative Scotland’s Culture Collective, we knew that we could use it to make a positive difference to Aberdeen. 

About Culture Collective

Culture Collective is a pilot programme from Creative Scotland. It aims to build a network of creative practitioners, organisations and communities. They'll work together to create a positive difference locally and nationally in response to COVID-19. The programme focuses on community engaged creative activity, supporting projects where creative practitioners and communities work collaboratively. Importantly they are responding to the impact of COVID-19, providing employment opportunities for creatives. They'll actively engage people in shaping the future cultural life of their community.

Photo by Glen Rankin

Open Road is working with the Fittie Community Development Trust (FCDT) a charity established to support the harbour-side community in Aberdeen. The people of Fittie set up the FCDT to buy an old Gospel Hall and develop it as a venue for the wellbeing of residents and benefit of visitors. Wider Trust aims include community development and partnership working. 

Fittie residents are both long-term and recent. In summer Fittie can receive up to 1,000 visitors a week which creates a complex relationships between locals and visitors. Fittie sits at the mouth of a global oil port. Complexity also exists between the heritage of the past. The current reality of a city pivoting away from an economy dependant on oil and gas. And, as a coastal community, the impacts of climate change on the future of the village.

Bringing on creatives to the project

With the aim of addressing the impacts of COVID-19 and wider social, economic and environmental influences on community and city, our project will contract three creative practitioners to each work in residence for up to a year. One will create a programme of creative initiatives and participatory events to bring the Hall and community connections back to life. Another will further a project focusing on stories of migration in Aberdeen, linking with visitors, other communities and Aberdeen harbour. The third will focus on the impacts of climate change for coastal communities and the transition to net-zero carbon emissions. 

Community cohesion, the movement of people and climate change are all inter-linked. Through collectively developed briefs the artists will reach across the generations of residents. Linking these aspects of community heritage with the impacts of the current pandemic and environmental issues with a vision for a new future. The project's focus will be The Hall.

Creatives are being encouraged to work across, but be respectful to the physical footprint of the community and consider practices such as community mapping. Planning will be responsive to on-going COVID-19 guidelines with digital spaces all part of the plan. We're also bringing on an early career creative producer on board to help us deliver the project. 

Telling the Story of Change

One of our aims is to help people, communities and organisations tell their stories and the story of change. Story telling helps us answer questions so we can tackle problems with courage, risk-taking and creativity. Stories connect people to their passions, to shared identify and hope. They bring re-conciliation and an understanding that we are not the same as before, as well as help re-build for a better future. This is needed on individual, collective, organisational and sector levels.

Through our Culture Collective project we aim to tell the story of change within our community and set this against a local, national and global narrative. This will include live events, podcasts, filmed content, story sharing and other creative outputs. We will link our activity with the wider Culture Collective network, Climate Reality Leadership, the road to COP26 and beyond. 

Granite Fittie Community Hall basking in the sunshine, with a blue bicycle in front of it. Markings on front show it was built in 1951.
Photo by Chris Sansbury

In doing so we aim to raise the profile of the cultural sector in Aberdeen and its potential to work with and make a difference to communities. We'll also provide much needed paid opportunities for freelancers within the sector. 

With recruitment in progress, we are right at the start of this journey. We're excited to see how it develops and are looking forward to sharing progress as we go. 


Find out more

Huge thanks to Lesley Ann for taking the time to share her thoughts. You can find out more about Open Road on their website, Twitter and Facebook. Art and culture in Aberdeen is one of the main focuses of POST and we'll check in on this project in the future.

Also, check out our conversation with Ica Headlam. He is an Aberdeen creative who shines a spotlight on the work of many others. His focus on Aberdeen’s artists, musicians and creative businesses put him at the centre of a renaissance of the city's creative scene.