Kathryn Welch: Creative and cultural experiences empower young people and boost local communities

It’s an exciting time for arts and culture at Macrobert Arts Centre and the region we serve. Last year, Stirling joined Creative Scotland’s network of Place Partnership projects, aiming to embrace, support and grow the opportunities for Stirling’s creative life. Stirling’s Place Partnership is led by a network of cultural partners: Macrobert Arts Centre, Artlink Central, Big Noise, The Engine Shed, Culture Stirling, Forth Valley College, Stirling University, Creative Stirling and the Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

Keith Brown, Ellen Forson, Julie Ellen (Macrobert Arts Centre, Artistic Director), Bruce Crawford

With that ambition for a more creative future in mind, we asked three local elected representatives to tell us about the ways that creative experiences are contributing to the lives, opportunities and wellbeing of the people they represent.

Bruce Crawford MSP is the SNP MSP for the Stirling Constituency:
“I boast to my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament that I represent the most spectacular constituency in the country – and it’s true! The City of Stirling and surrounding area is steeped in our nation’s heritage, whilst the vast rural landscape is home to the breath-taking views of the Trossachs on one side, as well as other stunning natural locations such as Finnich Glen.

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To me, arts, culture and creativity are a demonstration of who we are as a society. It’s crucial that a freethinking society encourages individuals to express their artistic and creative abilities. I was delighted to recently visit the new Creative Hub in Stirling City Centre – an initiative of Stirling’s Place Partnership. This massive, versatile space on King Street entices local creative talent to exercise their skills.

Kathryn Welch, Operations Director, Macrobert Arts Centre

One shining example of creativity’s lasting impact on a community is Sistema Big Noise Orchestra in Raploch. It gives children, some from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, the chance to learn a musical instrument, and work together in a team to eventually take part in public performances. What strikes me about this project is how such a simple idea gives young people belief in themselves. This is a powerful thing, and recent research has shown that children who have been involved in Big Noise are less likely to get involved in crime, more likely to do well at school and go to university – or other positive destinations – in adulthood.

Macrobert Arts Centre is held in high regard. To me, its ethos is what brings people back. They work hard to ensure that the theatre productions and cinema screenings are as accessible to people across as wide a range of backgrounds as possible. A recent example of this is in Macrobert’s Pay What You Can scheme, which asks cinemagoers to consider what they are able to pay to watch a film. By choosing to pay more if you can, you are giving someone who can’t a chance to pay less.”

Keith Brown MSP is Depute Leader of the SNP and MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane:
“My constituency is extremely diverse, from the more affluent areas of Bridge of Allan and Dollar to parts of Alloa which face some of the highest rates of deprivation in Scotland.

Without a doubt the best thing about the area is the strong sense of community in which community led organisations and groups thrive. The arts, culture and creativity are an inherent part of our diverse heritage and play an integral part in almost everything we do. Clackmannanshire has a fantastic range of public art – we have six Andy Scott (of The Kelpies fame) sculptures that attract visitors from all over, and are certainly a talking point!

Like many local parents, a trip to Macrobert was a regular part of family life. More recently I think their projects to support veterans have really helped to raise awareness about some of the problems that veterans face, addressing issues like social isolation. The events relating to the coal industry were particularly relevant to communities across Clackmannanshire who have such a rich mining heritage.”

Councillor Ellen Forson is SNP Councillor for Clacks South and Leader of Clackmannanshire Council: 
“Clackmannanshire’s beauty takes my breath away and in particular the Ochil Hills which change so much with seasons. There’s a phrase we use locally which sums it up – “Ye ken yer hame when ye see the Ochils”

In times gone by Clackmannanshire was very affluent with its wealth created by mining, textiles and brewing. The area has seen significant change over the last 40 years with the decline of these traditional industries, resulting in socio-economic problems which are deep rooted in some communities.

Places like Clackmannanshire rely on arts and culture to help remember its rich heritage. They bring people together and are extremely important to the overall wellbeing of our communities.

I’ve been going to the Macrobert since I saw my first pantomime there when I was five – an annual tradition I continued with my own children. For me, Macrobert is a very social place – it’s a place to come together. Macrobert really is a cultural hub for Clackmannanshire and Stirling, with something for everyone.”

Kathryn Welch, Operations Director, Macrobert Arts Centre