From Cathy Agnew, Chair of the Board of Trustees
This week’s Annual Arts Convention in Stranraer once again underlined the diversity and ambition of our creative sector. It also showed the importance of having an effective organisation to fight for the arts and culture in D&G.
We welcomed around 130 artists and organisations to the Ryan Centre in Stranraer and heard about the scale and diversity of work taking place across the region – the triumphs and the challenges, the achievements and the frustrations.
I hope that all who attended will join me in thanking everyone who made the event possible. I know from past experience just how much time and effort it takes.
One of DG Unlimited’s many roles is to build relationships between our creative sector and our external partners who are essential to its future such as Creative Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council. So it was especially pleasing that Creative Scotland CEO Janet Archer attended as a guest speaker and was full of praise for the determination being shown by the arts sector in D&G to work together for the common good.
Throughout the day people took the opportunity to question Janet about CS, and to raise important issues with me and others, about the direction and development of DG Unlimited. Many of the issues people touched on (for example about better ways of working, structural changes, measuring outcomes, approaches to commissioning) were of tremendous importance. It’s not always easy to speak out in a public forum, so I would like to thank all those who did.
It was also valuable to hear from Richard Grieveson, the council’s Head of Resource Planning and Community Services, about how well many arts and cultural projects fit in with the authority’s aims. Nonetheless it was clear that with so many competing demands for limited resources the councillors will be closely scrutinising their arts investment.
This means that it is vital for DG Unlimited to ensure that it is constantly demonstrating the worth of arts and cultural projects and arguing to ensure that we get the best possible funding deals to support them and the audiences and communities they nourish.
The performances from Robyn Stapleton, Zoe Bestel, Alex McQuiston and Zelda Hill, as well as the drummers who welcomed people at the entrance, showed off some of the tremendous talent we have in the region. Likewise the presentations by all our convenors, accompanied by guest speakers and showreels, emphasised the commitment there is to making sure that the arts reach out to every part of our community.
The Area Convenors are succeeding in creating networks and providing all kinds of support to individuals and groups in all sorts of ways and their enthusiasm is boundless. I hope to see them go from strength to strength as we move forward.
With the convention now over we will be shifting our focus to the roundtable discussions between the Board of Trustees and the Regional Hub about creating the best possible structure to achieve our aims. We are also pushing ahead with new commissions to improve administration – the first is being advertised on The Commonty shortly.
And finally I would like to take the chance to express my gratitude to Kathleen O’Neill for all she has done. Her knowledge of the region and its creative sector is extraordinary, and I’m sure that she will maintain strong links with us for many years to come.