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Friday, November 7, 2014

Stranraer Conference - Report from the Board

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.

If you wish to contact us about the convention or any other matters just email


  1. In our weekly email we highlighted the lack of DGC elected representatives attending the Convention. We would like to correct this by highlighting the attendance of Councillor Jane Maitland for the full day. Jane has been a continual presence at all regional arts gatherings over the last 3 years and a much-valued supporter and advocate for the arts in the region. Apologies for that oversight in our email.

  2. Confused I am. I heard said at Ryan Centre by Chair of Board that the 'driving force' behind DG UnLtd was the Regional Arts Hub - did i miss them, or were they not represented at the event? I understand that their Convenor has resigned and the Board proposes to promote one of the Area Convenors to the job, without consulting the members of the Regional Arts Hub?
    I will check my dictionary for 'driving force', but i'm fairly sure it will not include 'lip service' as one the definitions?

  3. Dear Readers,

    Important you know that whilst a number of DGC elected representatives were unable to attend the convention, a good number made contact to offer sincere best wishes, very much in support of the arts in D&G and all which is being achieved. Cross party support, with good wishes for the annual event and developing Chamber of Arts came from Marion McCutheon, Iain Dick, Andy Ferguson, Peter Digle, Alex Fergusson MSP, Aileen McLeod MSP, Ted Thompson and Finlay Carson, in addition to Jane Maitland.

    Further, I would like to make it clear I did not resign from the role of Regional Convenor. Ongoing conversation with the Chamber Board, based on lessons learnt throughout the year, led to our agreement that the role in the shape it had amassed during 2014 was not sustainable. Rather, it would be more fitting as part of a review period ongoing, to offer clear and new administration supports to the Hub system and otherwise support the Area Convenors in their successful team approach. It has never at any time been suggested that any member of the Area Team, or any other person would be asked to take over the role of Regional Convenor, which has been required to lapse as part of the Chamber structure, at least for the time being. I understand that Regional Arts Hub members, which includes the 4 Area Convenors, have been invited to meet with the Board at the end of the month to wholly agree best ways forward.

    At the convention, prior to introducing Area and Regional Hub members, I said that ‘my own leave informs and supports a fascinating step change for D&G - enabling greater sector led responsibility and engagement'

    I believe it does

    With warm ongoing support of sector voice, convenors, the evolving Chamber and the Commonty!