Making the Spark happen

Karen Lawson, Collaborative Learning Lead, tells us about her role in turning an idea into reality and encouraging people to get involved in the Fire Starter Festival 2020.

Karen at the Silent Launch at Kelvingrove Art Museum in 2018

Back in 2016, the Fire Starter Festival started with a few bits of kindling and a couple of sparks. In the short time since then, it has come a long way. The festival, a series of learning events, was ignited to build collaboration across public services and encourages individuals and communities to light their own small fires by exploring creative and innovative thinking. In the mix at Fire Starter – which is run by Collective Leadership (formerly Workforce Scotland) – are government, public services and individuals, all committed to open, inclusive and free events.

The Fire Starter Festival started with a few events hosted centrally and has gradually spread across Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Events are designed to tackle some of the complex issues we face in Scotland, such as raising awareness around rural youth homelessness, and addressing social isolation and loneliness. The festival is also renowned for its inclusion and diversity, like hearing from people in their seventies, eighties and nineties about their journeys to becoming filmmakers and campaigners.

In 2016, the Fire Starter Festival was piloted over a week and has grown every year, with 90 events taking place this year. The ethos of the festival is about being ambitious and creative in igniting ideas for change. The event provides a much needed opportunity for people to meet in a creative space and have conversations that matter.


Technology has increasingly played an important part in both information sharing and engagement at events. We held a Silent Launch in 2018 which allowed attendees to listen to the speakers as well as exploring the creative environment of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. We’ve used webinars to help connect with people and plan to live stream a series of events in 2020 to ensure greater participation.

Our focus is now firmly on Fire Starter Festival 2020 which runs from Wednesday, 27 January to Saturday, 14 February. The event will be themed around what kind of Scotland we are trying to build, and what role does art and creativity play in helping stimulate our imaginations.

I’m amazed at how much the festival has grown since 2016, and astonished by the creativity and talent of the  people across all public services who are trying to make a difference to Scotland. I’m delighted that the festival has spread to both Ireland and Wales providing further opportunities to share ideas and create small fires of change.

Get involved and help us spread these small fires of change

Get involved

​Could you play a part in the festival? We are looking for people within public services, the third sector or community groups to get involved by hosting an event, attending and sharing ideas.

You can also volunteer at events in different ways, from front of house, to taking photos and writing blogs. Contact the Fire Starter team if you’re interested.

Find out more

  • Host a fire starter event to share your innovative practice or start a conversation. You can upload your event here.
  • Attend a fire starter event and make new connections. You can browse all FSF 2020 events here. You can also attend a fire starter breakfast to come together with other firestarters and share ideas.
  • Sign up for the Fire Starter newsletter to keep up-to-date and be the first one to learn about new events coming up.

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