On Thursday 8 June, the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture (CEEAC) Committee met to take evidence on the Culture in Communities enquiry, which is focused on a place-based approach to culture.

The committee took evidence from Alastair Evans, Interim Director, Strategy and Planning, and Karen Dick, Head of Place, Partnership and Communities, Creative Scotland.

You can catch up on the conversation via the video below and then read a summary of some of the main points made.

To start, the committee noted that the Scottish Government’s culture strategy is committed to working with Creative Scotland to map local authority support into culture and to explore future models of collaborations between national and local bodies. The committee asked for an update on how this work was progressing, noting visits that had recently been made to organisations in Edinburgh, for example WHALE.

On a question about whether Creative Scotland had enough awareness of initiatives in communities, Karen noted that they understand what’s happening in local area authorities through briefings created by their team. This includes information on not just what Creative Scotland funds but funding through local authorities, major assets like festivals and locations that have been used for film. While this is all contained in briefings, there’s no substitute for going out and talking to people and attending events like funding fairs.

Alastair added that there’s no national register because of the scale and upkeep required but when working locally, having all partners round the table and mapping assets can be useful.

The committee asked about where creative community hubs sit within Creative Scotland’s strategy, with a note that communities can feel like opportunities are being offered to them but then not developed from the ground up.

Alastair explained that there are many examples within the funding mix but specifically noted the targeted work of the Culture Collective, bringing in lots of organisations and settings of that scale into the funding mix.

In response to a question about the tension that might exist between large cultural organisations that want to invest in communities and their actual investment, which can sometimes feel very top down, Karen gave the example of the Culture Collective, where the work created is developed in communities with the artist and the organisation supporting them all. That is intended to redress the balance and give a voice where there might not have been a voice before.

Alastair added that in everything Creative Scotland does, they’re always looking at organic need and opportunity described by communities and projects that are going to co-create with them, so it’s not a case of parachuting in but thinking about the balance.

Culture Collective was also used as an example when the committee asked about how COVID has reset the relationship that organisations have with funders, with the feeling that there’s less restriction and more creativity in how funding can be used. Alastair mentioned how Culture Collective was a set programme but without set objectives and with a targeted fund like Culture Collective, they’ve been able to be less prescriptive about the outcomes they’re looking for.

Karen added that with Culture Collective, when they were designing the fund, the key point was that they didn’t want to see predetermined outcomes because they should be determined through working with communities. The only metric for Culture Collective which involves numbers is the number of freelancers or creative practitioners employed.

On a question about meeting NET Zero, Alastair said that they had appointed a lead in this area of work. Climate emergency and environmental sustainability are among Creative Scotland’s four strategic priorities. He noted that a lot of that work has been done through Creative Carbon Scotland, who do a range of development work but also manage the process of collecting data in the sector. Some ambitions are around mitigation while others are around adaptation and ensuring climate justice is ingrained in everything they do. A lot of what Creative Scotland are doing is bringing people together in the sector to look for creative responses. It’s not just about the buildings but the issues being raised in that space.

Karen added that some of the Culture Collective projects are really focused in this area, for example Creative Dundee and their Cultivate project and Open Road in Fittie, where the work has involved looking at a coastal community which may be one of the first to be impacted by climate change.