Pilot commission for artist involvement in creating a Neighbourhood Plan
This project appointed We Made That as artists/creative facilitators to work with the group of local councillors and residents developing the Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan for in Blackmore Vale, North Dorset lead by the Neighbourhood Plan Group (GNPG). The aim of the project was to explore through this pilot commission how creativity can be embedded into Neighbourhood Plans and other community-led planning documents, ensuring that the value of culture, creativity and cultural assets in the area are recognised and reflected in the Neighbourhood Plan alongside areas identified for house building, areas for economic development and environmental issues. A Neighbourhood Plan should take account of how culture has shaped the town, as well as identifying what creative opportunities there may be in the future.
We Made That conducted initial meetings with GNPG and developed an approach that encompassed the objectives of:
- Using a cultural audit to assess need
- Promoting involvement in the neighbourhood planning process as part of the artwork
- Involving “hard to reach” groups such as families, young people and children
Therefore they ran hands-on workshops with Gillingham School (Year 7, 8, 9 Art students), Bones Youth Centre (Years 7 and 8) and with families with young children at the Gillingham Children’s Centre. These workshops produced both a map of assets in the town and ideas about what facilities or changes were needed. For instance a primary concern for younger people was the supply of superfast broadband.
The cultural audit became a set of “Cultural Classifieds” which were printed and distributed around town. Surrounding these activities was a “marketing campaign” with the slogan “Gill’s Great”. This was in fact a provocation as a significant number of people consulted felt very negative about the town and its prospects. On this basis and working on the results of the audit We Made That concluded the project by proposing a number of interventions for inclusion in the plan:
- “‘Pop-Up Community Cinema’ – which could excite the community across all ages and use vacant units in the high street.
- ‘Carnival Creations’ – a commissioned float for the carnival to communicate the upcoming plan to large numbers and/or a creative way to initiate new residents in the cultural life of the town
- ‘High Street Happenings’ – A curated programme of existing clubs using high street locations to host their activities could make a show of Gillingham’s ‘secret’ cultural life.
- ‘Brand Gillingham’ – to ‘brand’ the town in a way that encourages pride in place, e.g. using websites, a legible point of arrival to the town and printed materials like bags or t-shirts.
- ‘Town Meadow’ -Improve this public space through interpretation or other commissions, for example place-based ‘story-telling’ through digital location based media.”
We Made That and GNPG felt that their collaboration had introduced the following into the process:
- alternative and creative methods of engagement that may be applicable to wider audiences
- confidence to use these methods for their own exercises into the future
- new local links and contacts, such as the Children’s Centre
- the use of a strong and contemporary graphic identity for wider promotion and communication of the group
- resources for research and documentation to inform the developing plan
- knowledge and experience of community planning and engagement processes
- an appreciation of the extent of cultural activity in Gillingham, and what it can offer the community
We Made That – http://www.wemadethat.co.uk/