The Collective Futures team took its national roadshow down to the South West of Scotland on 4th and 5th February to run a workshop with our Residents and representatives from creative collectives in the Dumfries and Galloway area. Dumfries is a rich creative and cultural environment and was nominated for one of the Creative Place awards this year, demonstrating the vibrant nature of the cultural scene in the area. 20 participants came to the Easterbrook Hall on the town’s Crichton Campus for a full day of presentations and interactive activities. This post provides a flavour of the day and sets out the project’s next steps.
In our first task, our very own Catherine Docherty asked participants to think about their current and desired routes to market, identifying what they felt they needed to change to achieve their ambitions. They recorded their thoughts on a specially-designed template and this information will be used by the team to develop suitable tools to support collectives in strengthening their routes to market.
We heard from Brian Skinner, MD of Be Capital Group, a property developer with experience of working with creatives and creative collectives in his buildings in Dundee and Glasgow, including The Whisky Bond. He provided participants with a number of valuable insights from a landlord’s perspective, emphasising the energy that creative businesses have brought to his properties and the incentives available to the creative sector and to property owners as local authorities and others seek to build vibrant communities in cities where economic regeneration represents a real opportunity. Given the number of questions Brian’s presentation generated, it is clear that the issue of securing a combination of physical working, meeting and exhibition spaces is an important one that our recommendations will incorporate.
Our second main activity of the day was focused on the importance of developing a strong brand identity for a collective and the challenges faced when trying to achieve this when working with members’ already existing brands. This topic generated some lively discussion, with key thoughts emerging, including ‘the importance of cultivating a strong message’, ‘a coherent voice’, ‘customer trust’ allied to ‘a strong visual identity’.
Given our focus on collectives, there was also some discussion around the difficulties in producing a brand identity for a number of individual designers and makers and sustaining that when, by their nature, the membership of collectives can change as they evolve. Participants felt that it was important that individual practitioners developed their own strong identity in the marketplace as that was ultimately going to strengthen the collective brand. When asked to identify exemplars brands we had mentions for Dyson, Apple, Virgin and Dumfries’ very own Lady Magpie and Me!
In the afternoon, we heard from Katie Anderson, an emerging artist from Annan who is a member of the curatorial team for The Stove Network, a creative collective in the South West of Scotland. Katie provided a powerful case for the value of collectives as the place where emerging artists can gain experience in collaborative work – and help to retain talent in the South West - as she spoke about her decision to establish her practice in participatory art in the region. Katie also talked about the Stove’s ambitions to have a town centre space to encourage a wider public to engage with the artistic community in the Dumfries area.
The final session activity of the day was led by Bronwen Livingstone who asked participants to visualise a Fairy Godmother figure for their collective, comprising all the elements which would help a collective begin, and keep going successfully. engaging in lively discussions leading to collage-based creative visualisations to thematically convey their thoughts.
One of the ambitions of the Collective Futures project is to provide a useable toolkit to help collectives access their Fairy godmother figures more easily. Participants expressed a desire to pursue the idea of a collective of collectives, where the knowledge and capabilities of members are brought together to support new collaborations and to strengthen existing ones. Proposals ranged from an aggregated online presence designed to pull in relevant resources/sources of advice in one place to a set of events taking place across Scotland (possibly streamed online) where the bonds formed during the Collective Futures project could be maintained. It was noted that a collective of collectives was already emerging (albeit still fragile) through the Collective Futures project.
The Collective Futures project team is now analysing and synthesising the outcomes from all three of our workshops in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dumfries and will be producing resources – in close communication with our Residents – for collectives to make use of in late 2014/early 2015.