Creative Repositioning for the New Normal

By April 9, 2020Musings, Projects
What makes a place? And what role does creativity have in times of crisis?
Katharine Wheeler of the Stove Curatorial Team and Lead Artist/Researcher for our Embers project, reflects on the role of ‘creative place-making’ in wake of the national lockdown.

As people pull together to face the collective challenges and strain at this time and without the usual noise of other ‘news’ it is the kindness, ingenuity and resilience of people that are centre stage. We can see more than ever the generosity and value local people, groups and organisations invest in supporting their communities.

Small businesses re-organise themselves to take food to our most vulnerable (often without payment), neighbours leave groceries on the doorsteps of those they barely know, people pledge all manner of support and money to those they have never met, we share creative ideas to keep us busy and explore ways of connecting when we cannot physically meet.

The Stove has always been many things for many people – a café, an events space, a space to gather and take part in activity, to have conversations about our place, to challenge ideas and perceptions, to grow projects and activity together. All of this expressed as seriously playful partnership with our community to support and grow a resilient, progressive and creative Dumfries and Galloway. 

We strive to be for, and of, our community and have been asking ourselves “How do we reposition our work at this time?” as a creative community-led organisation that uses creative practice at the heart of what it does.

We have taken time to think and are exploring two directions:

  • in our program – as we explore new ways to grow activity that engages local people in reflection and co-development of work and activity 
  • for our wider creative community – to reconnect and support this community at this time.

Through this we hope to support the building of a collective awareness and narrative of the ‘new normal’, one which helps the transition into the next stage of this new journey we are all on together. Our intention has not changed, this is an ethos and approach of Creative Placemaking. We have spent the last 10 months digging down into the grassroots practice of Creative Placemaking across Dumfries and Galloway through our Embers consultation talking to groups and organisations embedded in their communities about their work. Creative Placemaking is a collaborative practice that uses creative activity to connect and come together with other individuals, groups and organisations and respond to local needs with innovative solutions that focus on social wellbeing and inclusion in our communities.

Times such as this highlight the struggle in places that have had their local resource and ability to respond stripped in favour of centralised service provision. Our new reality is shining a spotlight on the value of our sometimes less recognised and smaller parts, our key workers, our local services and businesses, our sole traders and freelance workers, our community spaces and social relationships. We are seeing the value of our collective creativity to shape and adjust systems and support appropriate to our local need.

Where will we go from here? At the Stove we will continue to advocate for the value of our smaller community-focused parts and use activity to test and develop ways of working that invest and support the creativity and innovation around us to grow our local resilience.

A few related things to and look out for…

Embers report – to go live in a few weeks this report explores some of the fantastic work in our communities and proposes more considered understanding and support for Creative Placemaking work for the South of Scotland.

Don’t Forget the Self-Employed – talking about our responsibility to the region’s cultural, creative and community sectors. Of our 600+ members, we estimate that as many as half will be self-employed or freelancers.

Culture and Creative Industries consultation – add your voice to the role the new South of Scotland Agency can take in supporting our creative sector.

Homegrown – addressing this new normal by proposing four values that will frame our work: Insight, Perseverance, Open-heartedness & Solidarity.

Third Sector D&G Resilience Map – a page created in partnership with Dumfries and Galloway Council that displays information from local community groups and organisations offering support or looking for support in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.