Stirling Arts and Culture Cuts

Ok, last post on this for a while - I know it's probably pretty tiresome for folks who don't live in / care about Stirling. I guess now that the (pretty grim) 21/02/13 Stirling Council meeting has come and gone, it's more useful to share some resources for furthering the discussion than to have another moan. I will keep this list as up-to-date as I can with the most important links. Please feel free to share / bookmark this post - it's not going anywhere.

UPDATE 22/02/13 at 6pm: The Changing Room will be closing its doors on Saturday 30 March 2013 for the final time. From the Tolbooth Stirling Facebook page.

UPDATE 27/02/13: More links added.

Discussion & Information:

Stirling Arts Info Group - A public Facebook group. This is probably the best place to go to discuss the cuts, access / share the most current information and to find out if there's anything you can do to help.

The Changing Room on Facebook - news and info from Stirling's only contemporary art gallery. All Facebook discussion that directly mentions The Changing Room should appear here.

#stirlingarts - When discussing matters relating to Stirling's arts & culture cuts on Twitter, it may be useful to include the #stirlingarts hashtag in your tweets. Doing so means that anyone can easily follow a focused public discussion by searching for that tag.

People on Twitter:

@parrallines - Kirsteen Macdonald. The Changing Room's former Visual Arts Development Officer. Kirsteen will likely share a lot of useful links and information.

@Kevin_Harrison - Kevin is director of Artlink Central, an arts charity working across Central Scotland. He lives in Stirling and has been active in discussions on the arts cuts and, like Kirsteen, will likely put some good comment / info out there.

@davidgalletly - Me! I talk a lot of rubbish but I'll always tweet whenever this post has been updated or if anything new comes to light.

Stirling Council:

Stirling Councillors - Stirling councillors need to know your thoughts on the art cuts in Stirling. There is contact information on this myStirling page.

An Email From Councillor Benny - a frankly terrifying email from councillor Neil Benny sent just before the 21/02/13 meeting to Kate Sankey and shared on Facebook.

@neilbenny - Councillor Neil Benny's Twitter account features a fair amount of comment on the cuts. I've not included this in the above Twitter recommendations as, well, I don't recommend you follow him.

Stirling Arts & Culture:

The Tolbooth - Tolbooth veune homepage.

The Changing Room - Changing Room art gallery homepage.

Creative Stirling - A non-profit creative hub in Stirling.

The Smith Art Gallery - Exhibitions on natural history, heritage and culture.

Artlink Central - An arts agency established in 1988 working across Central Scotland.

Articles, Letters and Opinion:

Stirling Likes to Spend on Roads, Not Culture - Fantastic a-n article on the cuts by Kevin Harrison.

Letter from Peter Russell - Peter Russell writes beautifully on the fall-out from the 21/02/13 Stirling Council meeting.

Email From A Concerned Artist - an anonymously written email voicing concern on the closure of The Changing Room. Written a few days before the 21/02/13 meeting.

Stirling Council Plan to Close The Changing Room Gallery - a blog post by myself written on 20/02/13

Change - a blog post by Stirling artist RueFive written on 21/02/13.


If I've missed anything you feel is important, let me know on Twitter or leave a comment below.

Email from councillor Neil Benny On Arts Cuts in Stirling

The following, frankly terrifying, email from coucillor Neil Benny to Kate Sankey was shared on the ChangingRoom Stirling Facebook page on Thursday 21st Feb 2013 as part of the discussion on proposed cuts to the arts in Stirling. I am hosting it here because Facebook posts can be difficult for people to link to with any perminance.

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"In terms of what you say about the arts and culture agenda in Stirling District, I do not think that the changes we will propose will have a huge impact, in fact when you get beyond the headlines they will actually help. The changing room gallery is not particularly well attended and the promotion of new and developing talent is far better tackled through supporting Creative Stirling to achieve their ends (hopefully doing something with the old town jail). The Council's promotion of it's own gallery leads to independent operators being crowded out.

The Tolbooth reduction is a 10% reduction in the net overall budget.

That is to say an expectation of reduced losses from £520k to £470k per year. This will be for the tolbooth management to manage, but the way that the centre has been run as a venue cannot continue in the long term - the simple fact is that we cannot afford it. The cultural programme must become more viable at the tolbooth and in the Albert Halls.

The outreach and workshop work that is undertaken by cultural services is not inherently linked to the tolbooth and could easily be provided in other spaces. In a district the size of Stirling it is imperative that our cultural offering is available to as wide a geography as possible. 

Personally I think that the combined running costs of our arts venues holds back the amount we can invest in the arts agenda. I have said a few times that the cultural agenda should be run by artists, although funded by the council and this cannot be achieved with so much of our budget wrapped up in bricks and mortar. It is worthwhile pointing out that Stirling Council spends quite significant amounts of money on culture, but because our venues are so expensive to run it precludes funding of the kind of developments like the open studios. The way that we have a vested interest in promoting our own galleries and performance spaces also mean that we are less open to the idea of promoting other venues. 

I am trying to change this through the cultural review, which is mentioned elsewhere in the budget resolution. 

I hope this gives a bit of background to my thinking behind the budget resolution and proposals for change in the culture budget. I am always aware of the signals that are being sent out, but I also believe that fear of sending out bad signals is stopping us from having the kind of cultural offering in Stirling that we should have. It's not about Council run buildings absorbing cash, but it should be about artists. "

Stirling Councillor Neil Benny, 21/02/13
(Email: / Tel: 0845 277 7000

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Please visit the Changing Room page on Facebook for further info / discussion. Kirsteen Macdonald has also set up a Stirling Council Meeting event page which has details and comment on the 21/02/13 meeting in Stirling. Comments can also be left below or on Twitter using the hashtag: #stirlingarts.

My feelings on the matter.

Stirling Council Plan to Close Changing Room Gallery

From How Children Learn by David Galletly and Ruefive at The Changing Room 2009. Photo: Ruefive

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.

Sideshow by David Galletly at The Changing Room 2007.

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.


* Yeah, I know Stirling has The Smith, and that's awesome, but The Smith is more of a museum. We're talking galleries showing new work and encouraging new stuff here.

Withered Hand at Stirling's Old Town Jail

Stirling folks! Here's an event that might be of interest: Withered Hand, alongside Small Feet Little Toes, Conquering Animal Sound and Quickbeam is playing at the Old Town Jail tomorrow (Saturday 1st September). The gig is part of the closing party for Creative Stirling's collaborative mural project, Freedom Versions V.1. The details in full:

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Featuring: Withered Hand, Small Feet Little Toes, Conquering Animal Sound, Quickbeam
Hosted By: END OF NEIL
Venue: Old Town Jail, St. John Street, Stirling, FK8 1EA
Date / time: Saturday September 1st, 7-11pm
Tickets: £5 (available here)
More info: Freedom Versions Finale on Facebook

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Creative Stirling are a great bunch - a community interest company started by Joe Hall with the intention of kicking Stirling (my hometown) up the backside by acting as a cultural hub for the city.

For, jeez, nearly a year now, I've kept in touch with Joe and, despite our schedules never quite lining up correctly to actually work on anything (if I'm even eligible as a Stirling-deserter), it's been amazing to watch the progress she and her incredibly hard working team have made. Offices, studio space, workshops, exhibitions, gigs, murals, and pop-up shops have all been launched by Creative Stirling, bringing some much needed energy to the town.

I've been meaning to talk about the project for a while and, as possibly the busiest 3 months of my life finally come to a close, I'll hopefully get a chance to do so in a little more depth soon. For more information about what's going on, check out the following:

- Creative Stirling on Facebook
- Creative Stirling on Twitter

The gig, though. The gig. Go to the gig if you can. I'm not sure yet if I'll be able to make it along but, if you're anywhere near Stirling, go see Withered Hand (and friend-of-the-blog JMSSCT's Conquering Animal Sound). It'll be great. If you do see me, say hello.

Petition to Rebuild Stirling Skatepark

The Bowls, King's Park Stirling 1996Me at Stirling Skatepark circa 95/96 during a misguided rollerblading phase.

SHORT VERSION: to secure important funding, a short-timescale (before Fri 10th February!) petition has been set for the rebuild of Stirling Skatepark. If anyone who thinks this would be a good idea could show their support, I'd really appreciate it. You can sign the petition here.

Despite moving to Glasgow over a year ago, I still get through to Stirling as often as I can. When I'm back, I'm catching up with my parents, Alex's parents or friends (or all of the above). While that doesn't usually leave too much spare time, I do try to head along to the wee skatepark if I can.

Stirling Skatepark aka 'The Bowls', situated in King's Park, is a small, rough concrete affair that has seen better days. It's badly designed and not much fun to use. I love it, though. It was my park growing up and, as far as I'm concerned, it's still my park. From 1994 through 2009, I'd say that I visited that little grey island almost every (dry) day. Some summers 12hr+ sessions were the norm. And, even though my usage has shrunk to a handful of visits a year, I reckon there's a good chance that I've spent more time in that skatepark than anyone else in the whole wide world.

My mum and dad live nearby, you see. I could get there in 5-10 mins and nip home on a whim if I needed to. If the skatepark was a pub, I was a local. Whenever I go back, I half expect to be greeted by bunch of friends but instead it's a new bunch of young folk who make me feel like the old, crap skateboarder that I am. And that's fine. That's the way it should be.

Proposed design by Wheelscape.

Anyway, the reason I'm bringing this up is that there are plans afoot to renovate the park. For the past few years, BMXer, park regular and all-around good dude Ali Hair has lead a campaign to secure funding, planning and permission to, y'know, make the place less crappy. He's close too. Really close. There are plans, there is permission and there is almost funding. A last-minute hitch, however, has required a petition to allay any doubt that the park might not be popular enough to justify the expense. That's totally understandable. To a lot of people a skatepark is nothing more than an intimidating eyesore. It's a place where youngsters 'hang out' and do things. Recently, the park has been in such disrepair that it's actually kinda dangerous to use and if there has been any lessening in attendance, I'd blame the design and upkeep of the facilities before worrying that kids don't enjoy having fun anymore. That or the weather.

Regardless, here's something I've noticed in nearly 20 years of using Stirling Skatepark: If it's dry, if it's daylight and if it's not ridiculously early in the morning, there will always be someone using that park. And it's not even a very good park!

When the weather's good, you're all but guaranteed that it'll be busy too. That's all the justification needed. How many other free-to-use public facilities can you say that about? That wee park has kept hundreds, if not thousands of young (and not so young) people entertained, out of trouble and well-exercised for a long, long time. Skateparks are great little social melting-pots. They let kids meet people from other schools, from other towns, from other backgrounds, cultures and occupations. Without Stirling Skatepark, I'd have left school a sheltered, anti-social, uncultured little geek (or at least more of a sheltered, anti-social, uncultured little geek). The park has always been safe, quiet and friendly. Yeah, teenagers hang about there and pull up their hoods but guess what? That's what teenagers do. They do that everywhere. They can't get enough of doing that. Skateparks don't encourage troublemakers and if you think they do, I'm sorry, you're wrong. Kids go to these places because they love riding skateboards, bikes and rollerblades.

So, although I'd be sad to see the old place go, a better skatepark is desperately needed in Stirling. It's a small place; there's not much to do. People get bored. If the city wants to keep up with the rest of the country, we need to be on top of stuff like this. Falkirk has a great park, for God's sake. Falkirk! Skateboarding and BMX have been popular for long enough that there's no excuse for any town not to support them properly.

If you agree, please sign the rebuild Stirling Skatepark petition before Friday the 10th of January 2012. Thanks.

For more information, the best place to go is the Stirling Skatepark Users Facebook page where Ali keeps everyone up to date by announcing the latest developments. Being Facebook, you can also catch up / discover / skate-date with loads of the people who actually use the park. In addition, there is a Stirling Skateboard Users blog that covers key points in the process. The proposed design is by the nice guys at Wheelscape Skatepark Construction.

Movin' On Up

I am moving house! As of tomorrow, Alex & I will be staying in Glasgow in our own little place. The last few days have been a crazy pack-a-thon / insurance-a-thon / internet-provider-a-thon, and I'm just about ready to hit the road. Moving cold sucks when you're a hoarder.

So in terms of art / illustration stuff, I might be a little hard to get hold of. We'll have tons to do and I don't expect I'll be online properly for at least a week. In the meantime, if you email and I don't get back right away, it's because I'll need to nip out to a coffee shop for wifi. Items in my shop have been temporarily removed from sale as they'd take forever to sort out at the moment.

Glasgow people - if there's anything going on, jobs / projects / collaborations / whatever, I'll be around and looking for things to work on. Please contact me if something might be of interest. That would be awesome. If anyone wants to follow my riveting moving-in updates, I'll still be updating my twitter from my phone. Here we (Glas)go(w)!