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Friday, June 20, 2014

Chamber Update

From Kathleen O’Neill, Chamber of Arts Regional Convenor

One of the big ambitions for the Chamber of Arts has been for artists and arts organisations to have a fuller role in the future of the sector in D+G.

Over the past few months we have been laying the foundations for this to happen – and good progress is being made. Having said that, putting together a new model and structure for the region (the first of its kind in Scotland) is no mean feat.

Looking back to the start of the 2014 there is already much to celebrate – not least the introduction of four Area Arts Conveners.

Since January they have been building up interest in sector-led development, getting people involved with the hubs and working at grass roots level to co-ordinate activity and provide support to practitioners and organisations. All of this is about building capacity and unleashing yet more of the region’s creativity.

The Chamber of Arts itself officially became a charitable organisation as recently as four months ago, which was a big step forward.

Then in April the Regional Hub held its inaugural meeting. This marked the start of something exciting. It provides the sector with a new voice and consists of artists, and representatives of arts organisations and festivals, whose work is currently invested in by Dumfries and Galloway Council and Creative Scotland.

The main role of the Regional Hub is to work with conveners to drive sector development and draft a regional arts plan, offering advice to the Chamber’s trustees.

On a practical level the Chamber has already made a very real difference in the region. There have been 18 commissions including 10 regional projects, two town centre regeneration projects (Stranraer and Dumfries), five part-time freelance convenor opportunities, plus a new communications and marketing contract.

Other activities have included exploring heritage interpretation in the west and the international ambitions for Moffat. The convenors are also working with the council to support creative sector business development, apprenticeships and cultural mapping.
The changes we are making have attracted national interest and we have met with a series of organisations keen to understand the direction D+G is taking. These include Luminate, Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, the British Council, Scottish Contemporary Arts Network and various universities.

All is very much a work in progress, but ambitions are high and creativity is bountiful.

Any questions, please contact me directly at and to get a membership form to join the Chamber just email

1 comment:

  1. In her encyclical, Kathleen O'Neill mentions 'Moffat's international ambitions'. In the interests of history, may I explain how these came about? A remarkable woman came to Moffat as my personal guest four years ago. Her name is Dr Ekaterina Yurievna Genieva, Director of the State Library for Foreign Literature in Moscow, known as VGBIL for short (Katya is also an O.B.E.and was elected the first ever female member of the Athenaeum Club). Katya and I have known each other for thirty years, operating in the realm of 'soft diplomacy', establishing official and unofficial contacts between Russia and Great Britain, with demonstrably benign results for both sides. On her first visit to Moffat within days Katya became something of a local celebrity, greeted warmly in the street by all who had met her. During that first visit she and I had the idea of holding an international conference on a subject dear to both our hearts, a man who was in the vanguard of outward-looking reform, murdered in 1990 by persons unknown but easily guessed at when he was at the height of his powers, poised to break onto the international stage: the Russian Orthodox priest Fr Alexander Men. With private sponsorship, the conference was held successfully in 2012 under the title 'Russia: Lessons and Legacy'. We immediately began to plan a follow-up, on translation, which took place last autumn under the title 'TRANSlation TRANSformed' with double the number of Russian participants. It was Katya's idea to celebrate this year in Moffat the bicentenary of the birth of one of Russia's greatest poets and artists: Mikhail Lermontov. Under Katya's auspices, a book of new translations by Scottish poets of his poems has been published by Carcanet 'After Lermontov' to be launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August. It is not often that the transformation of international relations between two countries (and in her case, many more) can be attributed to one person, but I have no hesitation to attribute this to Katya whose influence extends worldwide via her library connections and personal friendships with international leaders and chambermaids alike. She has recently been undergoing treatment for cancer, but is well enough to be travelling again and all in Moffat look forward to seeing her here again in October.

    PS Lermontov was Scottish by descent from a Learmonth who served with the Russian army in the 17th century.