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Raising the Sails and Raising the Game

Written by Anne Waggot Knott, Project Researcher and Reporter

A spotlight on the work of community artist, Maya Rose Edwards, in Stranraer.

Diving into Stranraer’s history paints an evocative picture. A proud port town and a vibrant, prosperous meeting place. Its connection to the sea meant connections right across the world.

This rich history, full of local stories, memories and reflections are explored in the work of artist Maya-Rose Edwards. Commissioned and supported by The Stove Network, Maya is using their creative practice to spark new ideas about Stranraer’s waterfront and how it can once again form a vital part of the community, infrastructure, and identity of the town.

It’s been years since the all-important ferry terminal was moved to Cairnryan and, following a fire at Ayr station over six months ago, the train from Glasgow doesn’t currently stop at its unique waterfront destination on the East Pier. Maya’s project, ‘Harbour’, has identified the challenges faced by these changes. Through creative consultations and engagement activities with local people, they’ve supported parts of this community to continue to grow in confidence, to express their opinions and to work collaboratively to lead the change they want to see in their town. 

Research shows that proximity to the coast boosts our health and wellbeing, yet Stranraer’s wide roads, car parks and security fencing separate the town from the seashore. Despite this, the community has responded to the provocations initiated by Maya’s approach, galvanising the town’s fighting spirit, to reconnect with, revitalise and reimagine Stranraer’s iconic waterfront.

It only takes a tiny bit of research to understand that Stranraer has been let down again and again. Grand plans for the waterfront have been unveiled before, or built, removed, or fallen into decline. Promises made but rarely sustained. But, despite the departure of the final ferry, there remains a canny vibrancy in Stranraer, a strong sense of place and pride, locals and incomers, warmth and tradition, prosperity, and innovation. It’s a wonderful place to be. Yet all this potential seems somewhat unrecognised by a very specific combination of circumstances, policy decisions, and an apathy borne of a long history of false starts. 

Urban Collective Presenting at a Creative Stranraer Vision + Action Meeting

But now if feels as if the tide is turning. Strong glimmers of hope are arriving. There’s a cumulative explosion of funding and progress right now, much of it driven by arts, culture and sport: Creative Stranraer, the George Hotel, the Unexpected Garden, the Urban Collective, the Stanctuary, Spring Fling Rural Mural, the new Water Sports Centre, Dumfries & Galloway Council and various community groups are working in conjunction with Stranraer’s Place Plan and associated activities. This is a huge opportunity to rethink the waterfront. It’s time to seize the moment. 

That’s exactly what Maya has helped people do over the last six months.

Maya has delivered collaborative arts activities and conversations with over 500 participants. Children and families built a Sea Witch from coastal plastic gathered by the Beach Cleaners – you can see it in the Harbourmaster’s Office window; newly-empowered college students painted a guerrilla mural showing just how much they love Oor Wee Toon; drop-in visitors set hopes and dreams afloat in paper boats, and young people made Portholes to the Future.

At the same time, unexpected installations appeared. Mysterious doorways arrived along the seafront overnight, dreamlike portals for us to depart from the present and arrive in an imagined future. Silhouettes emerged on the security fencing at the East Pier, inviting us to take ownership of that wasteland once again.

Throughout, Maya worked deeply in and with the community. Everything has been co-created. Each work involved reaching out and forging new partnerships, listening to Stranraer and building layers of understanding.

All these interventions have brought people together and sparked impassioned conversations about the waterfront. Maya encouraged an openness about the challenges and frustrations, but also reignited hopes, dreams and actions.

We’re looking forward to ‘Raise the Sails’, a free waterfront festival in April. This will be a culmination of all the work so far, a chance to enjoy food, music, performance and a bonanza of community ideas.

‘Raise The Sails’

A special community festival taking place in the Unexpected Garden, Stranraer

Saturday 20 April

11am – 2pm

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