What Is to Be Done – creative placemaking within the evolving future of Dumfries and Galloway

What Is to Be Done – creative placemaking within the evolving future of Dumfries and Galloway

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Matt Baker, Orchestrator of The Stove Network


Scotland is currently in a dynamic developmental stage of place-based working. It is exciting and inspiring that everything and everyone working in this field is influencing and being influenced by everything and everyone else.

Collaboration and connectivity among different sectors such as health, education, economy, transport, and environment, is promoted by the Scottish Government’s Place Principle framework. This promotes a localised and holistic approach to the improvement of a place for the benefit of communities and the natural environment.

What We Do Now WWDN is bringing creative placemaking into the wider place-based working of Dumfries and Galloway and becoming part of the region’s ‘toolkit’ for involving the grassroots of communities in shaping their future. It works alongside different groups and agencies to create vibrant places.

‘Cinema Sark’ by John Wallace. A moving image installation on the Scottish/English Border under a motorway bridge (image Colin Hattersley for Environmental Art Festival Scotland)

WWDN and creative placemaking are influencing and/or being influenced in two distinct but connected ways, linked to various other ‘moving parts’ within the region and wider sector.

Using creativity to support community-led change

Examples include…

  • A cross-sector group convened by DG Council, the Dumfries and Galloway Place Planning Partnership, shares learning and intelligence on community place planning and develop a bespoke regional approach to supporting communities to develop their own place plans (WWDN is a member)
  • With creative placemaking in its foundation, The Midsteeple Quarter initiative in Dumfries town centre is a key example of a region-wide ecosystem of community ownership projects that are part of regenerating their local area – including Community Asset Transfers and community-led housing.
  • A ‘Place Programme’ is included in The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, supporting the community-led regeneration of five towns in Dumfries and Galloway (including Stranraer – see below)
  • Creative placemaking is, at root, a means of delivering Community Wealth Building and the South of Scotland is one of five pilot areas in Scotland developing Community Wealth Building practice and principles.
  • A community-based structure of ‘Home Improvement Teams’ has been developed by NHS D+G who are also piloting an Art and Healthcare network for the region.
  • The South of Scotland ‘Net Zero Roadmap’ is developing place-based strategies for the region’s transition to Net Zero, incorporating creative placemaking into the approach for the transition of the agricultural sector.

‘Hame’ by Emma Dove and Mark Lyken (image Colin Tennant)

Supporting the development of the creative and cultural sector for the benefit of the sector and the communities it serves

Examples include…

  • The Dumfries and Galloway Cultural Strategy highlights creative placemaking as a strength to be built on and further developed in the region to grow a sustainable cultural and creative sector.
  • Dumfries and Galloway College is collaborating with the University of the West of Scotland to launch a degree in Applied Art and Design including modules in environmental interventions and socially-engaged practice
  • The Regional Economic Strategy places ‘Creative and Cultural Excellence’ as one of its six core themes and adopts a place-based approach to the overall economic strategy for the South of Scotland.

‘The Country of Dumfries and Galloway’. Matt Baker


A closer look at Stranraer

Stranraer is a great example of how many of these different initiatives are coming together with WWDN and creative placemaking at the centre of things.

The WWDN pilot project in Stranraer enabled artists Hope London and Rory Laycock to work with local community members to highlight buildings and spaces in the town in need of redevelopment but with potential to be part of the future of the town. This included the George (the former George Hotel), which subsequently became the focus of a major redevelopment project, led by DG Council, to re-imagine it as a cultural/creative centre with associated bunkhouse and bouldering centre.

Working with DG Council and Stranraer Development Trust, The Stove Network mentored an ‘Arts and Engagement Officer’ to undertake creative placemaking work in the town galvanising the local creative sector and directing creative momentum in the town in preparation for the opening of the George. This led to a number of street art projects and the opening of a temporary Hub called Creative Stranraer.

Under the guidance of The Stove, Creative Stranraer is now in the process of being constituted as a new arts development organisation for Stranraer and West Galloway – it will continue to programme the creative hub space as a prototype for the George, to develop new public arts initiatives for the town. Creative community engagement work is also now underway for the new waterfront development of the harbour and former ferry terminus in the town.

The Creative Stranraer project represents an important step in the region’s placemaking work, piloting a working partnership between the cultural/creative sector and DG Councils Economic Development department, who are responsible for shaping and delivering major capital infrastructure projects for communities in the region. Positively influencing one another and other partners and stakeholders, with a significantly beneficial impact on the town and wider region.

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