Scottish Parliament: Culture in Communities enquiry
Updated: May 5
In May 2023 I had the opportunity to share evidence with a Scottish Parliament enquiry into Culture and Communities. Along with my favourite wing-person Morvern Cunningham, and representatives from seven Culture Collective projects, we were invited to share our views and experience on three themes: place-based cultural policy, the culture eco-system and unmet cultural need.
Image: Morvern (left) and I giving evidence to the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee enquiry into Culture in Communities.
The opportunity to give evidence was a pretty special experience, and I was keen to make the most of it - to champion the brilliant work of the people and projects involved in Culture Collective, to advocate for community-rooted creative work more broadly, and to contribute to a landscape that makes creative practice more sustainable, more meaningful, and more participatory. With that in mind, a few of the key points we shared focussed on:
The impact of decent, well-paid opportunities for creative practitioners, including access to training and support, in diversifying the workforce and enabling more people to build sustainable careers in the arts.
Culture Collective as a funding model that prioritises extended time, trust and flexibility in projects and practitioners. The importance of time (in terms of long term funding commitments) as absolutely essential to building trust, understanding need and local diversity, enabling collaboration with existing priorities and allowing projects to naturally change and evolve.
The role of connections and networks in enabling learning, sharing and collaboration between locally-rooted projects (rather than seeking to expand or replicate any one model).
Challenging the idea that bigger = better. We called for a recognition of the interconnectedness between local and national organisations, but challenged the too-often hierarchical nature of that relationship. Culture Collective has been an example of centring power and knowledge with communities, in serving local expertise and connecting local experiences to share knowledge.
Investing in culture in communities at scale enables projects to shift their thinking: from “what can I do cheaply” to “what would be most effective here”. Sufficient funding enables better practice in terms of fair work, investing in training etc., and allows work to happen with real ambition for our communities.
With Culture Collective funding due to come to an end in October 2023, we all stressed the impact of precarity and uncertainty in hindering meaningful engagement with communities. Let's hope our evidence makes an impact and helps convince funders and decision-makers to invest meaningfully in long-term support for culture in communities.
Image: View of the committee chamber at Scottish Parliament. Morvern and I sit with our backs to the camera, facing a table of MSPs.