Stirling Council are proposing closure of The Changing Room (Central Scotland's only contemporary art gallery and one of Scotland's best) in a vote tomorrow evening (Thursday 21st Feb) as part of cuts to key arts organisations across the city. This is horrible news and I hope that it doesn't happen.
A city without an art gallery? A city without an art gallery*? Are you kidding me? Who the hell wants to live there? That's embarrassing. That's like living in a city without a library or somewhere to hear music or to see films - nobody should be taking a place like that seriously. Yuck.
The Changing Room is a wonderful space. Located in the Tolbooth, Stirling's cultural hub, it has seen work by new artists, established artists, local artists and world-bloody-famous artists over the 15+ years it has been open. It has given countless volunteers some amazing experience behind-the-scenes and losing it would be a terrible blow to a lot of people (meaning all of bloomin' Scotland).
This email from a concerned artist covers the matter more eloquently than I can, what with me being a dumbo and all.
Jeez, the Tolbooth should be Stirling's shining light - a venue, gallery and meeting place right in the heart of the city. It's a beautiful building and something that every resident can be proud of. Alongside the MacRobert and our C ticket tourist attractions, it sets Stirling apart from other boring little towns. For the small amount it costs to run, it brings so much life and excitement to the city. Removing the art gallery only gives people more reason not to visit. Christ, it should be getting more funding, more promotion, more reasons for people to pay attention to Stirling, if anything.
I first became involved with The Changing Room through its previous Visual Arts Development Officer (and all-round superstar), Kirsteen Macdonald. At the time, the gallery was in an amazing space in Stirling's Old Arcade and I was fortunate enough to exhibit my work in the location's strange little entranceway. More recently, after the gallery moved to the Tolbooth, I collaborated with another Stirling-born artist, RueFive on a show we called How Children Learn. I also volunteered and helped out at the space whenever I could for a good few years and the experience I gained was absolutely vital to my current career as a professional artist and illustrator. Emma Hamilton, the current Visual Arts Development Officer (also an all-round superstar) does some amazing work.
Despite having lived in Glasgow for a few years now, I always go to great lengths to big up Stirling whenever I get the chance. I love the place. It's home. As a professional artist who is, y'know, working in the world, I do in some way feel like I'm out there representing my home town. As the years go on, however, and as more and more stupid decisions like this are made it's becoming increasingly difficult to take the city seriously as anything other than a collection of shops. That's a tricky thing to talk about with any enthusiasm.
I'm not sure what, if anything, can be done to help the situation at this stage, but it's worth a shot. If you know and love the Changing Room (or even if you just know it's important that places like it exist), stir up a stink - tell as many people as you possibly can about how important the gallery is and what a horrible kick in the teeth to Stirling (and to Scotland's culture as a whole) losing it will be. The vote happens tomorrow so, y'know, you kinda need to do something RIGHT NOW. Go. Now. Stop reading. NOW. No, you hang up first. No, YOU hang up first. You. No, you. You. Go. Now.
Your best bet (I think. Again, I'm a dumbo) is to do as the above email says and contact Stirling Council Chief Executive, local councillors, MPs, MSPs, press and Cultural Services Directors before Thursday evening to let your concerns be known. Keep your eye on The Changing Room Facebook page Any blog posting / tweeting / sharing / shouting / word spreading surely can't hurt either. If any further important info comes to light, I'll update this post as soon as I can. You can leave comments below or grab me on Twitter if there's anything I've missed.
Update: Here's a wee list of Stirling Councillors and their contact details. Kirsteen has also created a Facebook event (that's a really good link for more info - Kirsteen knows what's up more than most) for tomorrow if you're interested in attending the meeting.