Upstart was commissioned by SURF following a successful application to the Scottish Government’s Making Places scheme, matching a funding commitment from Dumfries & Galloway Council. The project set out to engage a younger demographic, those aged 14-40, that had been largely missing from conversations Langholm’s future development.
The initiative set out to draw out views, knowledge and ideas from this demographic who are living, working and/or studying in Langholm, on their aspirations for the town including it’s substantial but presently underplayed heritage and tourism assets. Upstart produced a highly innovative programme of engagement. One hundred and forty-nine people aged 14-40 took part in events, further contributions were made via the online survey and the Upstart Facebook group. It was inspiring to see the depth and enthusiasm of the conversations taking place.
On Saturday 6th of April Outposts Arts led The High Street Take Over. Staging several ‘micro-consultations’ across several High Street venues – The (disused) post office, the (disused) newspaper office and the current newspaper office.
Complimentary family friendly activities such as historically accurate dress up, arts and crafts, hole in the wall, face-painting and screen-printing workshops were facilitated alongside the consultation events to appeal to families and to engage children whilst parents/adults took part. Free food and refreshments were available for all attendees courtesy of the Chilli Club – a new, local organisation which aims to promote Langholm as the ‘Chilli Capital of Scotland’.
Two emerging local artists (www.sianyeshe.com & www.rorylaycock.com) and a recently established regional creative organisation (For Enjoyment CIC) to co-designed and delivered events and activities, OutPost Arts aimed to highlight and promote our region’s expanding creative sector.
The events and consultations were specifically designed to appeal to residents aged 28-40 who are primarily semi-skilled/skilled with young families in order to engage our target demographic.
From Langholm, to Langholm: Consultation led by artist Rory Laycock. Participants were invited to write postcards about life in Langholm, highlighting both positives and negative aspects. Postcard design blended vintage photography with modern graphic presentation techniques, making visual links with both ‘Langholm Past’ and ‘Langholm Future’.
REmapping Langholm: Led by artist Sian Yeshe, a large-scale, linear aerial map of Langholm was pasted on to a large wall. The abstracted map allowed respondents to literally move sections of the town centre and surrounding area around, playing with space in an innovative way; removing any perceived restrictions, allowing free-flowing thoughts, ideas and opinions to emerge.
Instructions to Grow: Designed by artist Rory Laycock, this interactive and immersive consultation activity aimed to pin point the types of investment and actions needed in order for for Langholm to thrive via participatory techniques. Featuring a double planter, blank signage and a selection of tools/watering can, participants were invited to plant and tend to indoor herbs by an experienced gardener. A handwritten ‘Instruction to Grow’ mini-sign which was then planted in the soil bed. Participants were asked to consider key actions/investments required to promote Langholm’s regeneration.
In Your Opinion: Designed by Sian Yeshe, this interactive media booth (decorated with Upstart branding) verbally prompted and recorded spoken responses across the 7 themes identified in the 2018 SURF Report. The ‘virtual interviews’ were translated into text for inclusion in the data analysis document.
Mapping Langholm: Large-scale, aerial drone images of central Langholm highlighted specific areas of interest/potential for development: This consultation activity allowed participants to record their ideas and opinions on to brightly coloured stick on speech bubbles/circles and apply them directly on to areas of concern and/or interest, allowing a tapestry of text to develop across the townscape/landscape throughout the event.
As part of the day Pidgin Perfect staged a candle making workshop relating to the lifestyle retail offerings that previous participants were calling for in the previous engagements. Each scent was based off of a particular suggestion for facilities that Langholm could house in the future.
These label names were used as prompts for discussion around what people had thought about Langholm hosting each of these ideas.
The Takeovers outcomes included;
- Increased engagement from a demographic that is usually underrepresented and disengaged in community planning;
- Increased understanding of community needs, particularly from a younger and more economically active demographic;
- A raised profile for OutPost who are a new organisation within the town; and
- A developed understanding locally that consultation and engagement can be interactive and all opinions are valued – the future of Langholm is for everyone to decide, not just a limited few.