What We Do Now – What We Do Next?

What We Do Now – What We Do Next?

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What We Do Now (WWDN) is in a period of transition and at a crucial juncture in its development. WWDN director Katharine Wheeler takes a look at what’s next.

Katharine WheelerWWDN Director

The WWDN pilot project ran from July 2021 – September 2023 (as part pf Creative Scotland’s Culture Collective initiative ) has finished and plans are well advanced to continue the momentum of WWDN through a new creative placemaking network for Dumfries and Galloway.

The original intentions and ambitions of WWDN were to explore, with community partners across the region, how creative placemaking could support their work including.

  • How we could work with artists and other groups, to instigate community-led change through creative action?
  • Would there be value in joining up through this work?
  • What sorts of shared resources, support, and collective understanding might be useful?
  • Could we build a network together that supports more of that to happen whilst still being true to the fundamental grassroots values that it requires?

kNOw One Place – A creative placemaking forum – September 2022

In the pilot project we only just scratched the surface of this exploration, building the initial relationships between artists and community organisations to think longer-term and more strategically about how they might work together in the future. However, through the creative experimentation and imagination that artists brought into their explorations within communities, the ground became more fertile for other work to grow from.

  • WWDN activity and ideas brought projects and organisations in Stranraer to the table. A ‘what could happen here?’ campaign around town centre spaces helped develop community conversations that have been part a flourishing creative hub in the town.
  • What started as an idea to bring colour and pride into spaces within the Dunlop Road flats of Lochside, northwest Dumfries, evolved into a full-blown plan for a temporary and then more permanent cultural hub for residents.
  • After identifying digital poverty and a digital media skills deficit for some of Sanquhar’s young people a Digital Hub has been established in A’ the Airts. This has grown into a joined up programme with other places across the region.

“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 you can change the mind of someone like me in a project like this, then that is saying a lot.”

Stephen McCutcheon – Place Lead for Stranraer

The ‘What Could Happen Here’ colouring in book in Stranraer

In trialling and shaping our network we found a benefit in coming together to be inspired by each other. Sharing experiences and ways of working allowed us to identify collaborative projects and approaches that could grow around and across multiple places. There were universal challenges shared. Many projects, often working with one or two paid staff, were delivering more and more work, and struggled to think long-term in a short-term landscape. There area always gaps in a process-led way of working when the first thing ends, and the next thing is still needing support. What was also universal however, was an appetite and ambition to develop longer-term collaborative approaches to working with creative practitioners and communities which was seen as a way to diversify engagement within communities and initiate new strands of work that respond to their needs.

These are the roots that have formed the basis of the WWDN network to grow. Due to launch officially in May 2024, the new network will be very different from the WWDN pilot project. It will not manage and coordinate the delivery of projects but be a support structure for innovation, knowledge exchange, shared learning, capacity building. It will provide advocacy for member organisations to take their own creative placemaking work forward in whatever way works for them.

The new WWDN network will be for community organisations, creative practitioners and partners working in Dumfries and Galloway. Others will be able to keep in touch through regular mailings and opportunities to attend events etc.

It will be a vaulable resource for communities, supporting them to lead change from within their places through creative collaboration. It has been shaped with our founding members (A’ the Airts, Stranraer Millennium Centre, Castle Douglas Development Forum, Lochside Is Families Together, Xcel Youth Projects, Outpost Arts, and Lockerbie Old School), with input from regional organisations (Upland, DG Arts Festival, DG Unlimited and Wigtown Festival Company) and in consultation with other sectors (health, education, planning, economic development). It will be an innovative development and capacity building model where members are supported to generate income, and develop partnerships, to take work and activity forward for themselves, and offer their expertise to other members.

The Art Cabin in North West Dumfries

Four main areas of focus will be:

  • Experimentation and Innovation – to develop and embed commissions for creative practitioners across the network that positively disrupt and inspire innovative ideas
  • Skills, Learning and Talent – to host skills and capacity building programmes for members and support creative placemaking work to develop
  • Knowledge, Research and Policy – to build a resource and knowledge bank that members can access including process and impact studies, case-studies, templates, evaluation tools and policies
  • Connectivity – to grow a culture of collaboration, strengthening relationships and connect members to strategic partners who can help overcome challenges

A core programme of activity will include gatherings, discussions events, creative provocations, and cross network programmes towards shared cross-sector goals (inclusion, wellbeing, health, employability, net zero, place plans etc.). A WWDN Advisory Board will inform, advise and steer the network, helping to identify areas of shared working and open doors for creative placemaking work to happen within Dumfries and Galloway. We are currently working with Sleeping Giants to develop this idea further.

The premise of the WWDN network is in a shared belief and desire to drive forward creative placemaking in Dumfries and Galloway. This is by no means as the only way that arts and culture works and benefits our communities, but is an approach to place development that is led from the grassroots of our society and provides a significant role for creative industries across other sectors.

WWDN Phase 1 participants

Many are already working in this way. It is not a new way of working, creative placemaking has its roots in the cultural democracy and community arts movements of the 60’s and 70’s[1] [2] and can be seen in the intentions of many socially-engaged and participatory arts practices of the present[3] [4]. The intentional use of creativity, however, as part of a larger collaborative placemaking framework is an evolving approach to working that blurs the lines between art, culture, education, health, planning, economic development, and community learning and development[5]. Creative placemaking itself is a relatively new definition[6] and one that the WWDN network hopes to continue to contribute to the understanding of in terms of the significant benefits it can have for the individuals and communities involved[7] [8].

Find out more about what we’ve been up to via the latest news and updates and sign up to our mailing list to follow our progress as we continue to grow. New members are welcome, if you are a practitioner, community group or organisation, or agency working, or wanting to work in Dumfries and Galloway we will be sharing more information over the coming months and into 2024.

Like all collaborative processes this is one that is, and will continue to develop, informed by the work, activity, and feedback of others, we would love to chat with you. Please get in touch directly if you have any questions, ideas, or thoughts.


[1] JEFFERS, A and MORIARTY, G (2017) Culture, Democracy and the Right to Make Art, Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, London and New York

[2] MATARASSO, F (2019) A Restless Art, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, London

[3] VAN HEESWIJK, J (2012) ‘The Artist Will Have to Decide Whom to Serve’ Social Housing, Housing the Social: Art, Property and Spatial Justice, 77-89, Sternberg Press, Berlin and Amsterdam

[4] KESTER, G (2011) The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context, Duke University Press, Durham and London

[5] SCHRAG, A and MCKINNON, C (2022) Exploring the boundary-crossing nature of ‘Creative Placemaking’: The Stove as ‘adaptor/converter’, FLIELD, available from https://field-journal.com/editorial/exploring-the-boundary-crossing-nature-of-creative-placemaking-the-stove-as-adaptor-converter 

[6] COURAGE, C and MCKEOWN, A (2019) Creative Placemaking: Research, Theory and Practice, Routledge, Oxon and New York

[7] MACMILLAN, K (2021) Evaluation of the Creative Communities Programme, Inspiring Scotland, available from https://www.inspiringscotland.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Research-Scotland-Evaluation-of-Creative-Communities-Phase-1-November-2021.pdf

[8] COUTTS, P et al (2020) Pooling Together: How Community Hubs have responded to the COVID-19 Emergency, Carnegie UK Trust, available from https://carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/pooling-together-how-community-hubs-have-responded-to-the-covid-19-emergency/

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