Case Study – Stranraer

10 years ago, Stena Line moved their Northern Ireland-Scotland ferry line from Stranraer to CairnRyan, throwing the town into serious decline. Stranraer was made a ‘priority’ by agencies who ring fenced budgets once the town came forward with a vision for its future. The past 10 years have seen a lot of tension between the town’s different interest groups to come to a shared vision with their community and with the support of their local authority, Dumfries and Galloway Council. What We Do Now has played a part in working with communities and local groups in Stranraer to get involved and collaborate towards a shared vision.

The What We Do Now (WWDN) project worked with Stranraer Millennium Centre as a local place hub, employing two creative practitioners, Hope and Rory, for 18 months to ask people to imagine their town differently.

Hope and Rory produced a colouring book filled with line drawings of underused buildings and spaces and put up a series of banners asking, ‘What Could Happen Here?’. This was followed by a community ‘Song for Stranraer’ recorded (with many local voices singing) and animated with people’s drawings from the colouring book. At the same time WWDN worked with Stranraer’s local Development Trust on establishing an ‘Unexpected Garden’ at the harbour. The Unexpected Garden is a now community food growing project and events space (c.10% – 750 – of the town’s population came to a harvest celebration). This momentum coincided with a move to carry out major re-development of one of the buildings highlighted in the colouring book – the former George Hotel – as a community/cultural centre.

WWDN activity helped evidence to the local authority that the success of such a building required a grassroots momentum within the community and to grow and establish the activity and local skills it required when open. WWDN is now supporting the set-up of a small placemaking and creative engagement organisation in Stranraer (Creative Stranraer) who can take on commissioned work in support of regeneration initiatives in the town and will have the capabilities to support the redeveloped George Hotel when it opens.

Outcomes: New social enterprise, growth and vibrancy of local creative industries sector, significant uplift of the physical environment, engagement with people from diverse backgrounds in the future of the town and improved wellbeing outcomes for people personally and as groups by growing connections, confidence, and skills.

‘I now have a completely different outlook on the value of arts and culture in communities…a new-found respect…It has made me think about working with artists completely differently and opened my eyes to what it can achieve. If someone were to phone me up and ask if they should do this type of project I would say 100% yes. I now want to keep working with Hope and Rory on a permanent basis. If you can change the mind of someone like me in a project like this, then that is saying a lot.’ 

Stephen McCutcheon – Millennium Centre (Place Hub) Stranraer

‘It’s tremendously gratifying to work on a project like this with the potential to make a real, positive difference to the community.’

Hope London, Artist in Residence for Stranraer

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