We take a look at how your views and the valuable contribution of voluntary-led creative activity has been recognised in the Cultural Strategy Engagement Report. . .

As well as providing resources and support to voluntary arts groups, a key part of Voluntary Arts Scotland’s remit is to champion and advocate on behalf of the 10,000+ community-led creative groups in Scotland. 

Toward the end of 2017, the Voluntary Arts Scotland team was out and about across Scotland, meeting with community-led groups to gather your thoughts on what a Scottish Government Culture Strategy should look like. From Selkirk to Stornoway, groups shared their thoughts about what they needed to thrive.

You told us about some of the challenges you face (venues closing, complicated funding applications, struggles to reach local decision-makers and wrestles with legislation), as well as what’s working well (we gathered stories of community ownership, thriving partnership and innovative uses of unexpected places and spaces). You also shared your perspectives about why community-led creative groups are so important, and about their impact on creating vibrant, inclusive, connected places.

You can read more about the feedback we gathered here.

We fed all of your feedback into the Scottish Government’s consultation process at the end of 2017 and earlier this month, the Government published their Engagement Report, ‘an overview of the main themes and ideas that emerged across all the engagement events, [which] will inform a draft strategy’.

We were delighted to see that the voices of the groups we support came through loud and clear in this Engagement Report. The report recommends that “the notion of culture should be expanded to allow the everyday and informal, grassroots and emerging forms of culture to be held in equal value with the more visible, formal and established”, and highlights that “many wanted more support for small projects, developed and delivered locally which were believed to make a tremendous difference to a community and which were felt to potentially have more impact and be more accessible than arts delivered at the national level through national institutions”.  

The concerns and challenges facing groups were noted too: “Some contributors suggested that lack of availability or poor access to cultural spaces, facilities and building… hampered cultural participation”, and “there was general support for mechanisms which will help to ensure that communities are actively included in cultural decision-making in their local area”.

Perhaps most cheeringly, “it was widely agreed that cultural activity at grassroots level also contributes to community strength, place-making and a sense of pride and confidence. Contributors felt that there is a need to better understand and support grassroots activity and to provide groups at grassroots level with more mechanisms to influence strategy and decision-making locally and nationally. There was a call not to overlook the small scale and grassroots by overly focusing on the big, static, formal and institutional level.

This is still early days for the strategy, and we’ll be continuing to champion the value of voluntary-led creative groups, to make sure our part of the creative sector get the support and recognition it deserves. We’ll keep you posted on developments and opportunities to contribute to Scotland's Cultural Strategy!

Meanwhile, thank you so much to all the people, groups and organisations who’ve taken the time to share your stories with us. Here’s to a bright and creative future!

Read more about the work being done to develop a Culture Strategy for Scotland and see the Cultural Strategy Engagement Report in full on the Scottish Government website.