In the latter stages of the first phase of our project we are learning some fundamental lessons in the meaning of partnership and the impact that a breakdown in trust can have on a community project.
The condemned outdoor gallery 1
Imagine posters and large scale artworks made by residents telling their thoughts about living in Lochside and celebrating the local history of this road – stuck right onto this building so that other residents could share them. There could be an outdoor event celebrating and sharing the rich social history of this part of Dumfries and folk could see their own words and images and be empowered by the public scale of it all. It could be a living memorial to past, present and future lives of local people until the building itself becomes a spectacular funeral pyre as it is brought down…
Unfortunately this vision we have has been prevented from happening by one of our key partners, the landowners and Housing Association DGHP. Glueing paper posters to the aluminium grills would create a fire risk. Or it could deface the grills when being removed. Could we please confine our ideas to low fences and railings or better still temporary structures which would have no lasting visual impact on the estate. Or failing that, could we paint some hopscotch patterns onto the paved area behind the flats? This was the rather severely limited level of our project permission a few weeks ago, before we managed to have a meeting between us artists and a member of DGHP on the ground we are talking about. This was a positive meeting where we explained what we felt we had been hired to do, but so far has not resulted in anything definite. We hoped we had a better understanding than this.
Now it’s true we could simply carry on with using the tent for pop-up events or we could make temporary prints to hang on fences and from residents’ windows. And we are doing these things. But this by itself would be a betrayal of our initial vision for the area – making bold visual statements with the community for the enrichment of the community.
However, while the permission shenanigans go on, we continue with bringing art and poetry to the community as we try to establish more permanent creative placemaking on Dunlop Road. The WWDN project officially ends in July but funds have been made available from Creative Scotland for a follow-up phase which we have agreed to up to December. More on this later.
Rosie gives out disposable cameras and three months later receives the first ones back! Looking forward to seeing the contents…
During this pizza event I was able to meet two residents for the first time – Darryl and Nick – and had good chats with both guys. Nick is keen to learn more about stained glass and will hopefully be part of a local group I hope to establish soon. He was excited at the prospect of learning a skill which could one day result in bringing colourful glass into his flat and the block he lives in. I really hope this can happen in phase two of the project.
The Lochside Gala 2022
The final big event of our WWDN project was the Lochside Gala organised by LIFTon 9th July. This comes a year on from our early days when we introduced ourselves at last year’s event. Sadly I couldn’t be present on the day, but we had worked as a team to create screen-printed photo portraits of residents and display these next to some words and quotes from them. Alice and Rosie were able to welcome residents into the tent and talk as friends and co-conspiritors about what we’ve done together and what we still hope to do…
As we move towards the conclusion of part one of the project we are still anticipating the arrival of the much promised Art Cabin “at the start of July”! We await this with a blend of optimism and resigned dubiousness…but I believe it will happen and we can get stuck in to the next chapter.
A lot has been achieved so far with the WWDN project, a lot of it documented in these blog posts. There is a sense of having arrived at the beginning of something even greater and we want to take as many local residents into the next phase as we can.
Remaining true to the brief
The Culture Collective was established by Creative Scotland as: “a pilot programme which will establish a network of creative practitioners, organisations and communities, working together to create a positive difference locally and nationally in response to COVID-19.”* Or as Seamus Killick of the Rig Arts Evolve Seedhill Project (Greenock) put it at a early Culture Collective Zoom Cuppa event, “we are celebrating pain and difficulty through festival events involving the community, bridging the gap between familiar and unfamiliar.” Rebecca from the same project reminded us that working class areas have an exisiting culture and our job is to somehow “festivalise culture through a mixture of activities and by maintaining our presence in the area – being present.”
These thoughts chimed with our approaches in Lochside and I feel a sense of expectation for a permanent base to bring more sustainable art culture to the local people…not forgetting that we also want to make a visual impact on the material fabric of the neighbourhood! I think the two things may be related at a fundamental and unstoppable level.
*Culture Collective Fund Overview 2021