I can’t quite believe it’s been a year since I took a seat at my dining room table and mastered the virtual meeting world to join Renfrewshire Leisure’s Arts Team for a vital discussion: what are the needs of the Creative and Cultural Sector in Renfrewshire?
Conversations of concern and despair from arts professionals across the team were the focal point. After discussions with local organisations, artists and seeing the impact the pandemic was having on the arts nationwide, it was clear – something radical had to be done and done quickly. We had to try and support the creative and cultural sector in Renfrewshire, giving local artists and organisations a chance to adapt, to recover, renew and to keep spirits up, raising hope through the arts, creativity, and culture.
Various viable options of support were discussed, and many put into action by the team. POP Newsletter, a bi-weekly e-newsletter sharing links and information about national and local funding, support, networks, advocacy, creative callouts, opportunities, and inspiration. It also provided a platform to showcase the work of Renfrewshire-based creatives and organisations. Creative Sector Forums, based on Visual Arts, Music, Film, Theatre and Writing were established, aimed at providing an opportunity for creative people to come together to meet, connect, discuss and process ideas, share knowledge and skills and realise creative ambitions.
It was to the Arts Team’s delight that their suggested proposal to repurpose £200,000 of Cultural Events funding was successfully diverted into providing crucial financial support for Renfrewshire based artists, creative and cultural organisations, neighbourhoods, and communities.
And so, Renfrewshire’s Cultural Recovery and Renewal Fund was launched; a three-strand fund developed to support the cultural ecology of Renfrewshire adapt to the impact of Covid-19.
The first fund to launch was the Artist Development Grant. This grant was established in recognition of the important role Renfrewshire’s freelance artists play in the area. At a time when artists’ livelihoods are threatened by the impacts of Covid-19 it was hoped that in the short term, grants would support professional artists to continue their practice. In the longer term, artists would continue to contribute to the local economy and make Renfrewshire a vibrant and inspiring place to live and work.
To be able to invest in local artists during the pandemic and provide financial aid to assist them to continue their practice or enhance their development is positively unique in a local authority context. I am excited to see and hear more about these funded projects through an #ADGFilm that has been produced and will launch late April 2021.
Secondly, the Town Centre & Neighbourhood Creative Installations grant programme was launched. This funds aim is to support the animation of defined sites, such as empty shop windows or pedestrianised areas in town centres and neighbourhoods across Renfrewshire. This grant programme was set up to encourage people to return to town centres and enjoy their local neighbourhoods across Renfrewshire by creatively animating sites, stimulating the local economy, and improving quality of life.
It will be exciting to see the installations come to life this summer across Renfrewshire. Being able to watch families, dogwalkers, passers-by and tourists venture out to view them will be something special, given the past year’s restrictions.
Towards the end of 2020 the Cultural Organisations Support grant programme was launched. This fund was available to Renfrewshire’s cultural oragnisations to allow them to make adaptions to protect income and to ensure their sustainability moving forward.
Ensuring a healthy and sustainable sector is vital. This fund was able to support organisations and assist them as we emerge from the pandemic.
For so many, the arts has been an escape over the past 12 months; a chance to unwind, switch off and take a moment. Whether reading a book, watching a film, listening to music or trying a DIY home pottery kit – it’s kept us going! But for many across Renfrewshire arts, culture and creativity is their driver, their profession and their get up and go. Being able to develop a suite of cultural funds to stimulate and encourage the sector is something special. Being able to support the sector on this creative path to recovery is something I am proud to have been a part of.
You can find out more about the funded projects on the Councils website by following this link.
Heather Paton is Cultural Development Officer at Renfrewshire Council.