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Revealing the narrative of the School of Health in Social Science at the University of Edinburgh

Working in partnership with Invisible Grail, this is how the stories and imagination of the School’s people began to take shape and materialised into a new, breathtaking artefact.

This autumn, the School of Health in Social Science at the University of Edinburgh unveiled a new art installation, representing the narrative the School created in partnership with Invisible Grail.

The installation – a larger-than-life coat – brings together the words, stories and aspirations of people from across the School. Now unveiled, the coat has become a symbol of how colleagues in the School experience the purpose and impact of what they do within the University and beyond, into their wider community.

© Sam Sills

The metaphor of the School as a coat, representing shelter, safety and comfort, alongside a carefully sculptured design that is intentionally worn in look, brings tangibility to the diversity of the School’s disciplines and focus on the School’s purpose: to confront and remedy societal challenges.

“The coat, with its juxtaposing hard lines but innate protecting quality, represents the complexity of the issues that colleagues and disciplines in our School seek to address. It has become a metaphor for what we do, who we are and what we stand for, encompassing our compassion and aims.”

Matthias Schwannauer
Head of School and Professor of Clinical Psychology

The idea of a coat as a way to represent the School developed from a workshop delivered by Invisible Grail. Over the course of a series of workshops, delegates unlocked a common purpose and narrative for their School, enabling a greater sense of collegiality and ownership of their future.

“It was quite a journey; we didn’t know where it was going to go but over two workshop sessions we really bonded. It has allowed me to look at my role and the school from a different perspective.”

Emily Gribbin
Head of Student Administration

“The creation of the coat has given the school a tangible identity”.

Seamus Prior
Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy

This sense of community was central to how the coat was envisaged during the design process. It was created by students from Edinburgh College of Art. Delegates’ writing from the programme, which has been etched on to wooden plaques, is stitched onto the outside of the coat. Colleagues’ signatures decorate the lining, with room to add more as new staff join in the future.

“It’s a memorable image to share with each other, and a vehicle to take the school forward in the future” Charlotte Clarke, the former Head of School, said during the launch.

The intentional sculptural look, coupled with the writing decorating the coat, are powerful testaments to the hopes and aspirations of the School as a whole, and its mission to enable a better future for society through the health disciplines.

On working with the School to develop the vision of the coat, Stuart Delves, co-Programme Director, said, “the journey towards the design and production of the coat has been incredibly creative. The staff were game for two immersive workshops. They wholeheartedly participated in the writing exercises that led to the pertinent metaphor along with the haiku and fragments that are either incorporated in the artwork or included in the catalogue.”

All photography © Sam Sills

The coat installation stems from the ‘Curating our Narrative’ project that Invisible Grail ran in partnership with the School of Health in Social Science.

If you would like to find out what we could do with you to draw out a narrative for your team, department of institution, take a look at our bespoke work or please contact Paul Gentle, Academic Director.

Case study

University of Edinburgh: Curating our narrative

Over a period of six months, Invisible Grail worked with Professor Charlotte Clarke, former Head of the School of Health in Social Science, and her colleagues at the University of Edinburgh to enable them to curate a shared narrative for their School.

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