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5th April 2014

Cultural Strategy: the Final version

The final version of the Cultural Strategy for the Scottish Borders can now be downloaded by clicking on the ‘Strategy’ tab above.

The Noble Openshaw team would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to the development of this Strategy.  It has been a stimulating and exciting task for us all, and we hope we have captured something of the energy, achievement and potential that we have encountered across the Scottish Borders.

Cultural Strategy—the second draft

The second draft of the Cultural Strategy is now available for comment: just click on the ‘Draft Strategy’ tab, above. We’ve left the first draft there as well, so that you can make comparisons and trace where changes and additions have been made.

This second draft is open for comments until Friday 10th January after which we will be incorporating comments into a final version for submission to Scottish Borders Council.

On to Mark 2

We’ve just had three immensely helpful meetings about the first draft of the Cultural Strategy–with Scottish Borders Council staff and representatives of national bodies; with representatives of the cultural sector, and with the members of the CABN team.  We’ve also had many positive and supportive messages via this website, all with practical and valuable ideas on how the Strategy can be improved and strengthened.

So, armed with all this fresh material, we’re moving on to prepare the Second Draft, which will both include substantial rewrites of the first version, and the additional sections of Executive Summary and Action Plan.

We aim to make that second draft available for comment online by Monday December 9 at the latest.  We have agreed with SBC colleagues that this second draft can remain open for comments over the festive season, until early in January, so there should be plenty of time to give it careful consideration.

But in the meantime, if you haven’t yet commented on the first draft, you’ve still got time to do so, right up until Friday 6th December.  Just click on the tab above.

Comments Please!

We’ve now posted a first draft of the Cultural Strategy and we’re keen to get as many views as possible on its contents–what have we got right, or wrong, what have we missed.  Click on the ‘Draft Strategy’ tab, above, to download the draft, and to make your comments.

Thinking Caps On

We’re now embarking on the second stage of the journey towards a Cultural Strategy for the Scottish Borders.  Since the beginning of September, we’ve amassed a huge amount of documentary material, on cultural life in the region, on the impact of individual projects and initiatives, and on the strategies and priorities of public bodies, from Scottish Borders Council to Creative Scotland, and from VisitScotland to Museums and Galleries Scotland.

We’ve held five consultation events, two in Hawick and one each in Melrose, Peebles and Berwick, and at those events we’ve met with some 60 people from a wide range of backgrounds: Council staff and individual artists, voluntary groups and big houses, tourism operators and health and wellbeing specialists.  Team members have also held one to one interviews with over 50 individuals, again from a very wide range of interests, and geographically across the region as a whole.  We’ve attended events—the YES Festival, a VisitScotland reception at Abbotsford, performances at Heart of Hawick, a meeting of the Northumberland Strategic Arts Forum in the Maltings in Berwick—visited key locations, including houses such as Traquair and Bowhill, museums in Selkirk and Peebles, venues in Galashiels and Coldingham; and got to know the diverse townscapes and rural environments of the region.  This blog site has received over 1300 views since it launched.

Now the challenge is to pull all this information, and these opinions and experiences, into the first draft of a Strategy.  That’s what we’ll be doing over the next two weeks, with the aim that this first draft should be available online for comment by 18th November.  And we really want your comments!  That first draft will be out there to be analysed, picked apart, and put together again, to ensure that it’s focused, accurate, and genuinely representative of the views of people in the Scottish Borders.

At last week’s three consultation meetings we talked about culture in three related contexts: Health and Wellbeing, Tourism, and Education, and we also presented an update on our own thinking, which we’d presented to colleagues in Scottish Borders Council and Creative Scotland on October 21.  We offered these views under the following headings:

Seeing the Wood, not the Trees

How best to make visible the tremendous amount of creative and cultural activity going on in the Scottish Borders, in such a way that its wider impact can be both understood and focused, as crucial to the wellbeing and prosperity of the region.

Turning Weaknesses into Strengths

The lack of obvious tourism ‘icons’ in the Scottish Borders (such as Nessie) can become an advantage in offering to the discerning visitor an authentic experience rooted in deep history and tradition.  The lack of a large, central cultural venue can allow new resources to be channelled to light weight initiatives that can work across the region and bring direct benefit to the creative individuals and businesses involved.

The Cultural Economy

It’s already been estimated that the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the creative sector in the Scottish Borders is more than that of the forestry and fishing industries combined.  The wider economic impact of an event like the Borders Book Festival, estimated at £3.5 million, compares very favourably with similar events elsewhere in Scotland.   But there’s much still to be done to promote Cultural Tourism, and to demonstrate how cultural activities contribute to such issues as youth employment, inward investment, community development and personal wellbeing.

Crossing Borders

 ‘Borderlands’ are interesting, edgy places which often generate a great deal of creative energy.  One consultee described Borders culture as ‘enemies as neighbours’, and that applies as much to the rivalry between towns as to the auld enemy across the Border. But the development of the Flodden Eco-museum, and a number of other cultural projects and partnerships, demonstrate what the benefits can be of cross-border working, even if only in achieving economies of scale.  How can such cooperation be fostered, as we move towards the Independence Referendum?

Foundation Stone or Millstone

There’s no escaping history in the Borders: it’s second in Scotland, per capita, in listed buildings and conservation areas, and has 15,000 listed archaeological sites.  This ubiquitous presence can be overwhelming for those wanting to promote a more contemporary identity for the region. But the heritage of the Borders—abbeys, great houses, Georgian townscapes—was once the cutting edge, placing the region in a European context, and today’s contemporary culture will be the heritage of the future.

 The Role of Scottish Borders Council

We’ve gained a high respect for the work of the family of Cultural Services teams within Scottish Borders Council, teams that are also valued by national agencies such as Creative Scotland and Museums and Galleries Scotland.  But that work is not sufficiently known or valued across the region as a whole.  Although the Cultural Strategy will be for the Scottish Borders as a whole, SBC will play a crucial role in enabling its recommendations.

The Heart of the Nation

Whatever the outcome of the 2014 referendum, a changing Scotland will benefit greatly from a resurgent Scottish Borders.  And so perhaps the high ambition of the Strategy should be to move culture in from the periphery of political thinking and planning, and place it at the heart of the very concept of the Scottish Borders, to enable the region to take its place at the heart of Scottish identity.

If you’d like to comment on any of these topics, please use the form below

Or complete our online surveys: just click the Survey tab above.

The Scottish Borders is a region with a rich heritage of music, stories, and traditions, of historic landscapes and buildings, and of towns and villages that have retained strong, individual characters. It is also home to many creative individuals—artists, makers, performers, writers, musicians—and businesses: galleries, venues, festivals and events both ancient and modern, publishers and so on.  These are the core elements, and the key players, in a Cultural Strategy for the Scottish Borders.

We are using this blog to publicise the study, show how other areas have planned their cultural development and most importantly, to encourage communication and engagement with anyone who has an opinion on how culture (in its’ broadest sense) can influence the lives of residents and visitors to the Borders in the short and long term.

In developing a Cultural Strategy for the Scottish Borders, we’ve been asked to look at examples from elsewhere in Scotland (and possibly beyond) that might offer some useful models.  So, to encourage exploration and prompt discussion, we’ll be posting some ‘case studies’ that we’re familiar with from our own past projects, and we’d welcome ideas for other ventures and models that could be featured.  Please let us have your thoughts on how relevant, or not, these examples might be to the Scottish Borders.  For convenience, we’ve grouped them under broad themes.

Please feel free to contribute a comment to our posts, check out the links, or leave your details for the team working on the strategy to get in touch for a more in depth conversation.  We welcome ALL views!

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