The Swifts have arrived

GCP’s latest creative project takes flight

As spring approaches and the swifts will soon be with us again, we’re delighted to share the story of three very special swifts who are here to stay, thanks to an exceptional creative collaboration.

Thank you to our story-catcher Caroline for capturing the essence of this rather beautiful partnership between the Charteris Centre, Greyfriars Kirk and our talented GCP Woodwork team.

At first Daniel, CEO of the Charteris Centre, pictured standing proudly underneath the three swifts sculpture, was understandably nervous about such an ambitious project,

‘I was worried about the practical items, but it has been so much better than I expected.

My favourite thing is the effect from outside through the window, and from the Hall below when you look up and can see the swifts flying. This was a bonus we weren’t expecting.

I just love the subtlety of the sculpture.’ 

But how did they get there? Let’s begin at the beginning.

As part of the 2019 renovations of the Charteris Centre, Daniel acknowledged that it had been quite a challenge to think of a focal point for their Sanctuary Room, a place where people can go for quiet reflection.

The high ceilings and impressive church window at Charteris make the room a peaceful setting, but it did feel a bit large and empty at first. Richard, Chair of GCP and Charteris, also recently retired minister of Greyfriars Kirk, had the idea for a sculpture to hang high above the floor in the window space, offering beauty and inspiration to those seeking peace below.

Mark Coreth, renowned international sculptor, has been a friend of Greyfriars since lockdown when he hosted online sculpture lessons with Kirk members.

Richard’s idea was to build on Mark’s successful 2016 installation in Jerusalem which included bronze swifts, which symbolise the desire for interfaith peace.

Mark was happy to develop this further at the Charteris Centre. As he said, he hopes swifts can become internationally recognised as ‘the prayer flag of hope, a simple image.’

Golden energy flight lines!

The vision was to give the swifts the illusion of flying in through the beautiful church window, by creating ‘golden energy lines of flight’ as Daniel called them.

Clearly this was challenging given the height of the ceiling and the difficulty of achieving a sense of movement with stationery sculptures. It was at this stage that Jon, GCP’s gifted Woodwork Manager, and the Grassmarket’s talented woodwork team, got involved.

Work began designing wooden flight lines which could be gilded in gold, attached to the swifts, then installed from the Sanctuary Room ceiling.

As Jon says,

‘This was one of our most unique and challenging projects, but one we really enjoyed working on.’

In early 2023, Mark’s three beautifully bronze cast swallows arrived at GCP workshop and work began on the flight lines. Each stage produced new challenges for the woodwork team. Jon remembered,

‘We had to work closely with Mark, particularly in the early stages.

‘The swifts are precious and quite heavy and needed to be carefully secured to the wooden flight lines. We also had to ensure the wood curved to give the illusion of movement and of course, we had to be able to clearly see the swifts when it was finally installed.’

Over the spring and summer, every visit to the woodwork studio showed progress.

The swifts were rapidly becoming a real focus of interest and learning for the woodwork team.

GCP Member, Steven, worked hard to help resolve challenges.

At certain times, the flight lines had to be attached to the ceiling in the workshop, via a pulley system, to gain a real sense of how they would work in situ.

By the end of the summer, several coats of the golden gilding had been applied and the swifts were finally attached to their energy lines.

The tricky installation date moved closer.

A tricky installation

The team decided to recycle the white hoops to add stability and interest to the installation. Daniel confirmed the installation had been tricky,

‘We were concerned about the weight of the sculpture. Luckily, we found a hole right in the middle of the ceiling where a chandelier had once hung.

We went into the attic and were pleased we could fasten the sculpture to a beam there. This enabled a solid fixing, without damaging the ceiling, and we can lower it to clean it in the future!’

The white hoops are now affectionately known as ‘the Olympic rings’ at the Charteris Centre!

Jon spent a long day up and down ladders, making sure the sculpture was placed safely and appropriately,

‘It was nerve-wracking work, but when we saw the sculpture in place, all our concerns disappeared. It looked amazing!’

His team are rightly proud of their swift installation and as he says,

‘We really enjoy working with Greyfriars and the Charteris and look forward to many more projects in the future.

A big thank you to Mark, Daniel and Richard for this fabulous opportunity.’

One of many collaborations

This isn’t the only collaboration between GCP’s woodwork team, Greyfriars Kirk and the Charteris Centre. The Kirk’s old oak communion table was repurposed by the team to create the Charteris’s beautiful reception desk which is inlaid with Douglas fir from recycled church pews.  The cupboards behind reception and the internal and external noticeboards were also Grassmarket commissions.

Daniel confirms,

‘The collaborations continue, as the GCP woodwork team is currently working on a ‘Thank You Wall’ (inspired by the one at GCP), to recognise the donors who have supported the Charteris redevelopment.’

More about GCP’s Wood Workshop

Our Wood Workshop is deeply rooted in the history of The Grassmarket Community Project. Formed in 2006, it was the Project’s first social enterprise and started by repurposing old church pews and continues to champion GCP’s commitment to the circular economy.

Through our wood workshop, our Members are able to increase confidence and self-esteem. They improve social skills, reliability and resilience, and ultimately work towards further opportunities including formal qualifications and employment.

We are proud that our woodworkers have the skills to make, mend, repurpose or renovate. We enjoy selling our beautiful hand-crafted products to the public and a range of commercial, government, third sector and community-based clients.

Choose from our range of beautiful hand-carved products

View our range of beautiful wooden products, all hand-carved from sustainably-sourced timber at our Coffee Saints cafes and Online Shop.


Hand Carved Kuksas



Wood Candlesticks


Commission our Wood Workshop

Our Wood Workshop team also create 100’s of bespoke custom wood awards and plaques. We also make beautiful furniture!
Working on a commission basis, we recycle unwanted church pews, windfall trees and other wood into beautiful furniture and wooden objects. Every piece we create is designed and built to the customer’s exact specification.

Commission woodwork and furniture

Commission custom woodwork and bespoke furniture from our award-winning Social Enterprise wood workshop

Commission custom wood signs and awards

Commission custom wood signs, awards and furniture from our award-winning Social Enterprise wood workshop

Celebration Wall – commission a brick!

Commission a brick and be part of our permanent display of individual oak bricks, handcrafted by our members.


The Grassmarket Community Project’s Wood Workshop on the generosity of our customers, funders and donors. Our key funders for this area of our work are John Lewis and Partners, Hub Foundation/Inspiring Scotland, Heritage Fund, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Edinburgh Airport. We thank them for their essential continued support.

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Hub Community Foundation - Grassmarket Community Project
Scottish Wildlife Trust
Edinburgh Airport