Over the past few months you may have been invited to different events organized by Creative Stirling, such as those celebrating the Freedom Versions mural which was created by different artists and is displayed at the Old Town Jail, which also happens to be where the group has their office space. I met up with founder Joe Hall to ask a few questions about the project and to get a clearer idea about what it means for Stirling.
So what exactly is Creative Stirling?
Creative Stirling is a social enterprise and a cultural creative project to bring together the community and to provide facilities, resources and to create events.
Our mission is to bring some kind of cohesion back to the creative and cultural community and to reinvigorate the identity of Stirling. We are set up as a not-for-profit community interest company which is a new model. We are a company limited by guarantee but we can also get support through funding, fundraising and sponsorship.
What inspired you to start this project?
I suppose spending a lot of time reading about the impact of the economy and how arts organizations were going to have to change their mindsets on how the arts were delivered in Britain got me to act on it.
I started writing a business plan for a social enterprise and started developing the idea and speaking to relevant people in the council. They were interested in the idea and had space in the Old Town Jail, which happened to fit with the space that was needed for our business plan, so that we can provide space and support for startup creative businesses and young professionals.
I am really interested in providing a foothold for creative people who are interested in social innovation. We are about applying creativity to the community, the environment and the town. We have three office spaces including a big flexible space available for hire, which is directed towards special interest groups such as film, radio and photography.
It’s a massive job because we have all these different groups that we need to engage in cultural activity with, as well as finding, developing and bringing together audiences.
How many people are involved?
Everyone who works with us is a volunteer. It is everyone from students to graduates to very experienced professionals. When we give roles to younger people we have someone there with the right expertise in that area to help, giving them professional development and work experience.
We divide what we do into small tasks. At the moment we have 26 people including myself and the events manager who work fulltime. We also have additional people who are connected to us who provide consultation, and a board of trustees.
The artists that we hire are paid project wise and if we employ someone to do a job, for example our designer, we pay as much as we can afford to.
Would you be open to having more volunteers join your group?
Volunteering is a difficult thing. People will quite often come saying they really want to help, but these jobs often involve being on the door or cleaning up. The return for that is being able to be a part of the group and gain experience from it, but it’s not for everyone. Some people come in with glamorous expectations but it is also really hard work.
We will have a couple of formal student internships to help us with building our membership and those opportunities will be coming quite soon through the job centre. We are always looking for people to do things, but they have to be prepared to do some of the dull stuff too.
How has it evolved since you first started?
Zara, one of our board members who is local to Stirling, says it is like there was a drought here to which Creative Stirling has brought in water. We have been developing the business plan for a year, from scratch, and we moved into the Jail in May.
There are so many different possibilities that have come through since then and it has exponentially expanded in those three or four months. We have been delivering events, pop-ups, and working in partnership with other agencies. We still need to build our audience numbers, but that is to be expected when you start from scratch.
We need people to support us and to understand that this is a completely new model, that unless we generate the income it won’t exist. What we need right now is people buying tickets. I think people automatically assume that we are funded by the council. We have Creative Scotland money but that is just for the project, we are all unpaid and taking a risk and putting ourselves out there to try and make Stirling a more pleasantplace to be.
Where do you see Creative Stirling a year from now?
We’ve got a couple of exciting developments that would make a difference in terms of the creative community here, and next year is the 2nd year of the Freedom Versions which is a two-year project. It will be a different wall and design, and different artists will come. We’ve got a lot of conversations about potential partnership projects going that if they get established, I would be really happy.