McLuckie & Walker: Creative Community Workshops
Spotlight on Local Talent: Cat Hepburn

Artists make places make artists – our story of reorganisation and creative recovery

In April 2021, two things happened that had a positive impact on our organisation. After this hardest of years, we shared the tentative relief of so many High Street businesses, cultural venues, hotels and cafes in Stirling on starting preparations to reopen our city centre arts space. If you haven’t been in to see it yet, I would urge everyone to come visit our beautifully and sustainably revamped MIS Store at 44 King Street, the artists and team have exerted their trademark creative ingenuity and the store and exhibitions spaces look amazing.

In this same month, we received the targeted Creative Scotland funds that would enable us to commence with our ambitious (and essential) restructuring plans. There had been an anxious wait while Creative Scotland prioritised the extraordinary work of distributing vital government support funds for freelancers and theatres who had been thrown into uncertainty and crisis. In the end the timing worked out well for Creative Stirling, allowing us to begin putting things into motion while the restrictions gradually continue to ease and visitors start to return.

Through lockdown the hub never fully stopped functioning, with all the creative arts action moved swiftly and successfully online and our space at 44 King Street becoming ground zero for a new food sharing network in Stirling, an initiative that enabled what may well be a permanent shift in how we act when people in our community need to find ways to help each other. The Community Food project is still going strong, having been instigated by Sara McMillan, the power behind the Kitchen at 44, but more on the Kitchen plans and the legacy of the food project in a future blog.

Through this strange and difficult year, Creative Stirling has evolved. We had opportunity to really explore our future role in the cultural life of our small city, informed by what we’ve learned through negotiating the crisis and enhanced by having the luxury of time to fully realise ‘the what and the how’ of our future plans. We now have firm plans for how we can build our organisation and continue to best serve our communities and our creative workforce, networks, business and the growing number of young talented people seeking to make the most of their creative entrepreneurial skills. Our plans put us firmly in line with national priorities for our sector. Listen to this Podcast from CCSkills, the advisory body for the Creative & Cultural Sector on the effect of the pandemic and the imperative for the sector to build back to be fairer and more inclusive.

“In a sector rocked by the pandemic, freelance workers have been hit hard without the structure or financial support of an organisation to soften the devastating blow. This multiskilled, resourceful, creative, passionate, adaptable and dynamic workforce represents a third of the creative industries, yet they have felt completely abandoned by the sector they have worked so hard to build. So, what happens now that the sector is starting to return to ‘normal’, and is ‘normal’ good enough?”

Our restructure, growth and infrastructure development plans have been carefully considered and cultivated with the support of some amazing new people and a cohort of consultant expertise from the Creative sector in Scotland. With legal, governance, financial and business planning advice, we are currently progressing these important changes, ensuring that we are fit for the future as a sustainable social business as well as an inclusive, place and community oriented creative and cultural agency. First, we recruited directors with the expertise and capacities that reflect our values and aspirations, who can implement the practical plans to grow our organisation. This was where our positive reputation, aided by heightened visibility and online profile (benefits from relocating to the city centre to establish our creative hub space late 2018) started to reap rewards.

Our board of Directors is chaired by Neil Mathers, CEO of Curiosity Collective, a charity that supports access to education for children. He explained that he was motivated to be involved because:

“From the start, I’ve been inspired by the passion and dedication of everyone involved in Creative Stirling. I’ve long believed in the power of the creative arts to challenge and disrupt, to help us think differently and do things better. I am proud to be part of such a vibrant organisation with a strong social justice agenda. Stirling deserves nothing less.”

Helen Terry, who has had an auspicious career in the music industry including managing the Brit Awards and as a documentary film maker said:

“I joined the board of CS because arts and culture matter and artists, makers, and creators need an outlet for their work. They have provided a lifeline for Stirling’s artists as a place to work, sell, gather, and exchange ideas. The restructuring will enable CS to do so much more to sustain our creative community and, of equal importance, those communities who have little or no access to the arts.”

Our other directors are Barry Honeyman, whose corporate career has been spent working for some of the UK’s largest financial institutions. He has a passion for music and the arts, having always been involved in the local music scene in Stirling and was part of the team that delivered the annual charity music festival, The Scribblers Picnic. Barry says:

“Seeing the work that CS and MIS has done over the years supporting the local creative industries and championing the arts and culture in our region served as the inspiration for me to accept the invitation to join the board and help in any way that I can.

I’ve been impressed by the passion, commitment and, as you would expect, creativity that everybody involved brings to the organisation. There is a busy programme ahead involving the restructure of the overall business, outlining and defining the ways in which CS and MIS will be positively impacting the community and of course, ensuring that we are able to recapture our dedicated and devoted patrons as we emerge from the shadows of Covid and its impact.

We will continue to fly the flag for the local artist community but have ambitious plans to broaden our community appeal and be seen as a general force for good!”

The other directors are Rhys Forret, a data analyst working in the public sector who also volunteers time to work with the Green Party, Kate Hamilton, Project Manager for Transition Stirling’s planned Re-usery Hub and Paul Jenkins, the designer who brings fabulous to the look of the Made in Stirling Store. Stirling artist and lecturer Mia McGregor, who works with ‘City of Play’ will be joining the board of directors later in the year.

Our directors are committed to continuing to ensure our governance is diverse, creative and dynamic to reflect our values and that Creative Stirling continues to grow and thrive as we always have, for and with our communities.