BREAD: Our plan to help build a sustainable circular economy in Ayr

Ben Wray

As part of our special week of coverage on Scotland’s towns and places, Bread, an arts laboratory in Ayr, explain their vision for a cultural and social hub in the town

OUR mission is to inspire creative regeneration through collective authorship.  We aspire to develop a sustainable circular economy focused on earning income from food & drink. Profits will support creative professionals to engage with communities to build respectful neighbourhoods.

We want to establish a cultural and social hub in Ayr which can become a self-sustaining business, supporting artists in the creation of an arts and culture ‘scene’ in Ayr. 

Annually, significant numbers of young people from Ayrshire gain places on degree level creative education courses across Scotland.  The “terminal decline” of town centers, highlighted in the Mary Portas’ 2011 review, is in no small measure aggravated by places like Ayr’s cultural capital being usurped by cities – lured by vibrancy and, above all, commercial opportunities in the flourishing creative industries.

There are a plethora of research papers emerging on the benefits of creatively-led organisations like The Stove Network in Dumfries, who are stacking up significant evidence that creative input is central to regeneration.

Scottish Government Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has recently announced a National Cultural Strategy to ‘enhance the vital role of arts and culture in empowering communities, organisations and individuals.’

A number of problems are identified with the decline of town centers and ailing communities and there is no single answer as to how regeneration of people and place can be achieved.  What is becoming evident is that it requires creative collaboration across many areas of interest, informed by evidence-based research. 

Above all, involvement with local communities must be a priority of creative regeneration. 

We would like to advocate research to explore the possibility of a Cultural Quarter Business Improvement District (BIDs) in Ayr.  This will primarily focus on an area that which would seek to include places directly related to cultural activity like Ayr Town Hall, Ayr Academy Art Rooms, Loudon Hall and the Gaiety Theatre.

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Access to art and cultural activity can be an excellent catalyst for regeneration, improves quality of life, and in some cases can directly save lives, as seen at Art Angel, Dundee – an arts organisation dedicated to providing a safe and stimulating environment for those suffering with serious mental health issues.

We are presently developing a database of graduates with a connection to Ayrshire past and present from Scottish Art Schools and Institutions of Creative Education that form the Creative Industries mentioned earlier in this paper.

The primary objective of this research is to encourage Ayrshire’s cultural capital to consider bringing their emerging creative talents back to their home county – creating a more homogeneous collective in developing Ayrshire’s Creative Economy. 

Other social engagement we can implement to ensure collective authorship are our culture conversations, which are meetings open to the public where we discuss the importance of culture generally and other important local issues specifically, and how a space like ours could help.

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We are committed to reaching out to the wider community and bringing them into the fold, assuring diverse attendance at our culture conversations.  We do this through building strong working relationships with local organisations like schools, community centres, job centres, other socially engaged initiatives and local businesses. We also believe in the power of face to face interaction with individuals. We speak to members of the public whenever possible to raise awareness of our project and encourage a sense of community. 

Establishing a cultural hub like Bread will in turn attract ‘out-of-towners’ which will grow and add to our cultural economy. It is important for this to happen without alienating local people through gentrification. We will avoid this because local people will have a strong sense of authorship of the Bread Arts Laboratory project.  

We have been working with Newton Primary School in the Wallacetown area with a malaise of some problematic social problems.  The school children were asked: ‘what would make your area a better place to live in’.  This has now developed into a regular weekly ‘Culture Group’ where very young children are given responsibility in running their own meetings and projects, while developing skills in critical thinking within a framework of learning about contemporary art. 

READ MORE: Phil Prentice: How to make £50 million for Scotland’s town centres go a long way

A Festival and collective art work is now being arranged for Summer 2019 in collaboration with Newton Primary, South Ayrshire Council and Bread Arts Laboratory. 

Other community based projects include investigating the disused underground parking space at Davison Place toward a ‘Remakery’, inspiring residents to investigate alternative economies centering around zero waste, remaking, sustainability and up-cycling that can grow into the other areas of Wallacetown and beyond.

Picture courtesy of BREAD

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