Lauren graduated from QMU in 2021 with an MA in Applied Arts and Social Practice. She currently divides her time between working on her own art practice and as the founding director of Spilt Milk Gallery CIC; an arts organisation based in Edinburgh.

"Spilt Milk’s mission is to support the work of artists who identify as mothers, and to empower local mothers through artist-led activity. A lot of my time therefore is spent working with others to co-curate our exhibitions programme, develop artists residencies and deliver community workshops." Says Lauren.

Whether working on my studio work, curating or developing participatory projects, all of these elements form part of a socially engaged practice with the mission of giving voice to underrepresented artists."


We spoke to Lauren about her QMU journey and her experience of the applied arts and social practice programme.

What made you choose Queen Margaret University?  

I was drawn to the university’s ethos and commitment to social justice. The person-centred approach and the fact that the university is smaller than many other unis in Scotland made me feel confident that I would get the best out of my time there. QMU also offers many courses that are not available anywhere else in Scotland and I was really lucky to have them on my doorstep as I was already living in Edinburgh. 

What attracted you to the MA Applied Arts and Social Practice?

I was initially considering applying to the MA Arts & Festival Management however it didn’t feel quite the right fit for what I was looking for.

When I saw that the MA Applied Arts & Social Practice had been announced, I immediately knew that it was the perfect course for me as it combined practical hands-on modules with much of the business modules from the festival management course that I knew would be really useful. It also seemed much more geared toward practicing artists rather than those looking to work in arts management. This combination of practice and theory really seemed appealing.

The Course

What did you enjoy most about your course? What were some of the highlights?

I really enjoyed the blend of practical hands-on learning combined with the theoretical studies. The ethics module was also particularly great and allowed us to have a lot of really crucial and interesting discussions around the ethics of participatory working and how we might apply this to our work going forward.

Every module on the course was relevant to the work I do now and I often look back at my notes to remind myself of all the great things I learned. The finance & fundraising modules (although challenging at times) were incredibly useful and I’ve since gone on to apply for funding and been successful.

You studied during the pandemic, what support were you offered by the University?

The staff were very supportive throughout the course and really understood the additional pressures and frustrations of studying during the pandemic and the many lockdowns we endured.

Anthony [Schrag, Co-Programme Leader] was incredibly helpful and understanding when I was going through an unexpected housing crisis half way through the course. He signposted me to additional support from student services and allowed me to have an extension for two of my deadlines which was much needed at a stressful time.

What advice would you give to students considering this course?

Given this is a new course and we were the first cohort to complete it, I know that it will go from strength to strength and improve with each year. I got so much out of the course and every single module despite studying during lockdown and having to work online.

Future students will be able to access much more practical sessions, site visits and in-person networking events which I know will add lots of positive things to the experience. If you are looking for a course that blends the practical knowledge and experience of working with people in a social practice setting with the business aspects of developing a career in this field, look no further as this is the course for you!

Can you tell us a bit more about the John Byrne Award which you were shortlisted for for your dissertation project?

My final MA dissertation project ‘Making Something From Nothing’ was shortlisted for the John Byrne Award in 2021 just after I graduated and I have since been awarded seed funding from Magnetic North Theatre to develop the project further.

As most of my studies were during lockdown, I wasn’t able to facilitate any in-person activities as part of my final project, so having this grant will allow me to continue my research and see what new possibilities working with others can bring to the project.

Future career...

What are your plans for your career future now that you've graduated?

Since graduating I’ve gone on to write a successful business plan and secure a Build It Award from First Port which has enabled me to develop my social enterprise Spilt Milk Gallery CIC over the past year into a sustainable business.

I’ve also secured seed funding to continue my own practice and develop a series of participatory creative workshops with local single parents. Before I studied the course, I always relied on a ‘day job’ to earn a living but now for the first time in my career I’m spending all of my time and earning a living as a full time freelance artist and I wouldn’t have been able to make that transition without completing the course.

I can’t recommend it enough!


"Every module on the course was relevant to the work I do now and I often look back at my notes to remind myself of all the great things I learned."
Lauren McLaughlin, MA Applied Arts and Social Practice