Scottish Parliament Inquiry into Culture in Communities
On Thursday 4 May, the Culture Collective Programme Lead team and seven of the Culture Collective projects were invited to give evidence at the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture (CEEAC) Committee. As well as providing the Committee with an opportunity to hear the experiences of organisations working within communities across Scotland, it was also a chance to highlight the Culture Collective model of programme as an example of a national place-based initiative.
The Committee took evidence from:
- Kresanna Aigner (CEO and Creative Director, Findhorn Bay Arts)
- Rachael Disbury (Co-Director, Alchemy Film and Arts)
- Caitlin Skinner (CEO and Artistic Director, Stellar Quines)
- Arthur Cormack (Chief Executive, Fèisean nan Gàidheal)
- Murray Dawson (Chief Executive, Station House Media Unit)
- Robert Rae (Co-Director, Art 27 Scotland)
- Steve Byrne (Director, Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland)
- Kathryn Welch (Culture Collective Programme Lead)
- Morvern Cunningham (Culture Collective Creative Lead)
Over the course of the roundtable discussion, three themes were underlined as the focus: place-based cultural policy, the culture ecosystem and unmet cultural need. You can catch up on the conversation via the video below and then read a summary of some of the main points made.
Murray Dawson spoke of the key to success being community ownership and local people being involved during the design and implementation of the organisation, as well as long term engagement. In addition, partnership is vital – in the community, with community planning, with local authorities and other third sectors. It’s not just about the cultural activity, but the broad base of support that communities need.
Arthur Cormack discussed Fèisean nan Gàidheal’s mission in raising awareness and promoting the use of Gaelic while contributing to community and social cohesion. He noted that the organisation does this through a team of development officers, funding opportunities, insurance support, musical instrument provision and more.
Caitlin Skinner spoke of Stellar Quines’ Young Quines project and its impact in the community, especially in providing a safe space for expression for young women, non-binary and trans people. She added that what is successful for community intervention is investing both in communities and in citizens but equally in artists and in enabling artists to stay local, so they’re empowered to make interventions in their community at a local level. Caitlin also mentioned the insecurity of the funding situation and whether all the work done could just become another relic because of lack of longterm funding.
Steve Byrne highlighted the work involved during The People’s Parish initiative in shaping and sharing the story of communities by combining local traditions with local creative voices. Traditional arts and their impact are often a highly personal way to relate to the places we live, though they can remain at the margins of discussion.
Rachael Disbury emphasised that there is a need to look at the organisations across Scotland, such as Alchemy, that are doing successful place-based work. The benefits of the arts as a process rather than just an outcome are clear and there are successful case studies happening. Rachael also spoke of the investment in funding and support which has allowed Alchemy to employ a large team of creatives in the Scottish Borders.
Kresanna Aigner discussed Findhorn Bay Arts’ work in terms of creative learning programmes, artist residencies, commissions, festivals, events and more, and how this connects audiences, participants and artists across Moray and beyond. There is evidence to suggest that immersion in creativity helps people cultivate greater self-awareness to connect with ourselves and each other, enabling people in communities to build resilience.
Robert Rae spoke of Art27’s position in Edinburgh’s Southside and the diversity of this ever-changing area. Through Culture Collective, they were able to employ a number of artists to address specifically those different communities and they discovered early on that offering access through first language was a way to encourage and bring people in.
Kathryn Welch was asked about the difference in approach with the Culture Collective and she underlined the quality and care involved in the 26 different projects, as well as the difference in the funding model itself and the commitment to looking after artists and creating sustainable opportunities.
Morvern Cunningham underlined the importance of building relationships and the role of the freelance team in facilitating and networks. She noted how crucial such a network can be in the exchange of knowledge and ideas and in the ability to have national conversations, as well as the value of small informal networks within this.