About Citizen

Citizen is a long-term  creative programme working in partnership with the Edinburgh International Book Festival and other organisations across the city. The project aims to give a voice to communities, offering local residents an opportunity to explore their connection to each other and their relationship to their local area, looking at how local conversations are heard or echoed on a national or global level.

Eleanor Thom has been appointed as the Citizen Community Writer-in-Residence, and will be working through North Edinburgh Arts with people living and working in the North of the city as well as in partnership with WHALE Arts Agency (Wester Hailes) and Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre (Moredun).

Citizen is part of Edinburgh International Book Festival On The Road, a series of events and activities around Scotland throughout the year.  Citizen is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and funded through the PLACE Programme, a partnership between the Scottish Government— through Creative Scotland — the City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Festivals. For more news and updates about the project, please visit

Citizen Winter Warmer

Saturday 20 November 

NEA Citizen Winter Warmer Website Graphic

As the air turns crisp and the nights get longer, join the Edinburgh International Book Festival at North Edinburgh Arts for the second Citizen Winter Warmer — a day of heart-warming fun and fantastic events with authors and artists, celebrating local community voices and creating opportunities for new stories to be heard.

Citizen Winter Warmer is presented by the Edinburgh International Book Festival and North Edinburgh Arts, and is part of Book Week Scotland.

The Great Big Story Show
Sat 20 November, 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Tickets: £3/£2 (Good Neighbours)
Ages 7+

Join the Edinburgh International Book Festival for an afternoon of excitement for all the family! Fun-loving duo Macastory bring their hilarious songs and stories to the stage, while illustrator-extraordinaire Eilidh Muldoon needs your help to make a beautiful map of North Edinburgh, featuring all your favourite places. Chat with writer Luke Winter and give him ideas for a brand new story written live in front of you, then hear from much-loved children’s authors Maisie Chan and Elle McNicoll. They read from their new book The Very Merry Murder Club, full of Christmassy crimes, festive foul play and murderously magnificent mysteries – perfect for inquisitive kids!

Stories and Scran
Sat 20 November, 5.30pm – 7:30pm
Tickets: £5/£3 (Good Neighbours)

*Please note: due to unforeseen circumstances, Jenni Fagan is no longer able to appear in this event as previously advertised. Andrew O’Hagan will join the existing participants. *

Enjoy a nourishing night of writing and stories, discussion and delicious food as the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Citizen participants share stories of local life and celebrate the impact North Edinburgh Arts has had on the community ahead of its refurbishment.

The brilliant Scran Academy team provide a three course dinner (included with your ticket) while you enjoy a tasty blend of local voices and professional writers, hosted by Scran Academy founder, social entrepreneur, youth leader and campaigner John Loughton. Hear from community writers of all ages who’ve taken part in Citizen’s creative conversations over the past two years as they present new creations, memories of the area and more. They’re joined on stage by the award-winning novelist and essayist Andrew O’Hagan as well as poets Courtney Stoddart and Ryan Hay, who share their own work and reflect on what community, identity and home mean today.

Who Lives in a Place Like This?
Mon 15 – Sat 27 November
Free exhibition

In 2019, local photographers Karmen Bermudez and David Coxon took to the streets around North Edinburgh Arts to shoot the urban landscape, capturing incredible images which inspired short written responses from visitors to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. As part of the Citizen Winter Warmer celebration, these photos and the writing inspired by them return to the community that birthed them.

This free exhibition in the NEA Café also includes images and words created by young people from The Alternative School at Spartans Community Football Club. Their work, compiled in a zine by designer Emily Wylde with support from writer Leyla Josephine, combines disposable camera photos with poetry, rap, drawings and collages. From selfies and football action-shots to reflections on lockdown life and dreams for the future, their creativity offers a vital snapshot of the young people’s lives, a sense of their world and their community.

Meet Eleanor Thom

Eleanor, a novelist (The Tin-Kin) and short form fiction writer, will be meeting regularly with local people at North Edinburgh Arts to share stories and experiences about what being a citizen today means. Eleanor will work with writers, musicians, illustrators and other artists to inspire local residents to tell their stories of life in Muirhouse and surrounding areas, and share their views on community, home and their relationship to the wider world.


“I am a community writer-in-residence, and if you have been at North Edinburgh Arts recently you may have seen me there. But perhaps you don’t know that I am looking for people to work with, anyone who likes telling their own stories, or reading and writing. I’ll be working primarily with adults.

Since December I’ve been gardening and knitting, and talking to people, and for the next month or two I want to meet more of the people who use North Edinburgh Arts or live nearby. So I’ll be reaching out in search of anyone with a story to share.

You may wonder why a writer would go to a knit and natter group, especially because I admit I’m not a skilled knitter. The last time I picked up a pair of needles I was pregnant with my daughter, now nearly five. Suddenly there I was, flustering with a very tangled hank of yarn. But I’ve already met people at the group who like to chat and tell stories, even if they don’t consider themselves writers or storytellers (yet). This writing residency will be entirely about people telling their own stories. I will ask questions, provide prompts, suggest themes, and work alongside everyone who wants to take part, but the stories will belong to the storytellers, not me.”


Click here to read a full blog post about Eleanor’s initial experiences at North Edinburgh Arts and how to get involved in the project.

Citizen is part of Edinburgh International Book Festival On The Road, a series of events and activities around Scotland throughout the year.  For more news and updates about the project, please visit

What has happened so far

In May 2019, North Edinburgh Arts and the Edinburgh International Book Festival held two days of events for school pupils and the north Edinburgh community, as part of our ongoing Citizen collaboration.

On Thursday 9 May, pupils from three participating high schools – Liberton, Broughton and Craigroyston Community High schools – took part in creative sessions and discussions exploring their sense of personal and social identity, community and belonging, with our Schools Writer in Residence Claire Askew mixing pupils from different schools to create new connections and spark new ideas.

Then on Saturday 11 May we welcomed hundreds of members of the local community in for a free day of fun, interactive, discussion-starting activities, as well as an event sharing the stories and voices of local people taking part in our Citizen residency, led by author Eleanor Thom. A free community meal capped the day, bringing neighbours together to eat and talk about what they’d done throughout the day and how they felt about their community. Citizen continues into 2020 – look out for information on how you can get involved or speak to a member of staff. We’re planning another Citizen celebration for May 2020 – details coming soon!

Eleanor shares her experiences of the first year of the project in a blog post. Click here to read it.

Shelf Life by Eleanor Thom

After spending some time with Paul, our Sharing Shelf coordintator, and a few people who use the shelf, Eleanor wrote  a short story about it, weaving in the themes of recent elections and Christmas. Click on the link to read it: Shelf Life

Shoes - Sharing Shelf  Tins - Sharing Shelf

Diving gear - Sharing Shelf  Baby clothes - Sharing Shelf

If you would like to share your own stories or would like to know more about the project, please contact Eleanor by emailing

Look out for more  information about workshops, events, and a Citizen project box where writing ideas can be picked up and posted.

Image 1  Eleanor Thom ©Chris Dooks

Image 2 Knitwork courtesy of Eleanor Thom

Image 3, 4, 5, & 6 Items at the Sharing Shelf courtesy of Eleanor Thom