CREATIVE PLACES: where community and creativity flourishes
Southampton, once known to have the most beautiful High Street in England, was bombed out in the war and rebuilt to look like any other place. It lost its uniqueness. Access to its defining feature, its water, is restricted. Newer development in the city is dominated by chain stores, shopping centres, student flats and big name leisure and restaurant brands. Independent businesses are being squeezed and pushed to the margins, both geographically away from the city’s major redevelopment areas, and economically as they can’t afford the overheads that come with the new development.
Creativity and community in our city
Behind the clone town façade, creativity and community activity is happening, often in the scruffy, forgotten parts of the city. Independent venues, locally owned business, such as cafes and bars are central to this. We call these Creative Places.
We know that creative industries are growing and important to our economy. Creative Places help to water the first seeds. Literacy is being fostered through vibrant spoken word performances in places such as Mettricks coffee houses, emerging artists are being given gallery wall space. Before a band hits the big time, they start out in venues such as the Joiners or Talking Heads.
You might be surprised at the innovation that takes place in our industrial estates – artists studios, makerspaces and community upcycling initiatives.
Independent venues, Creative Places, are giving marginalised people opportunities for volunteering, confidence building and skills development. Board in the City, a café dedicated to board games, is hosting all sorts of health and wellbeing groups, such as for young people on the autistic spectrum. The Art House café gives people a chance to get involved and for some people this has turned their lives around completely.
Thinking and innovation is also essential to our economy, not least in Southampton that has two universities. Those Creative Places with their coffee or a chance for a local beer, are providing relaxed informal places for people to get together and talk about arts, sciences, humanities, research. People are meeting there to organise festivals dedicated to climate change and environmental sustainability, or planning the next socially responsible start up.
But it’s hard running a Creative Place, a multi-functional space that exists to meet a range of social needs in the city AND stay financially afloat. Independent venues are under threat. It can be hard to persuade people away from their sofas and the telly. With the opening of many more cafes and bars in the city centre including in Guildhall Square and West Quay Watermark, venues are worried about retaining customers.
So a group of us who are passionate about Creative Places are developing a project to support and strengthen these independent businesses and venues:
- We want to map where those Creative Places are, so we can tell more people about them.
- We are aiming to consolidate the sense of community around these Creative Places – an indie card – a loyalty card being our first step.
- We want to pool skills and share knowledge between Creative Places to help strengthen their positions within the service-retail and community sectors. We would organise mentoring, workshops and events, to support indie venues and celebrate their role in the city.
- We want to show the social impact of Creative Places. How they change people’s lives, how they complement social, health and environmental objectives for our city. How they deliver impact.
We need to make sure that local indies are resilient to the real world, that their passion for positive social change is underpinned by rigorous business skills and a robust business plan
We want to help new independents succeed and existing independents thrive.
What can you do?
So we ask this of you:
- Think about what you personally or your organisation can do to support Creative Places. Could your purchasing power could be shifted slightly?
- Join us in the development of our project – perhaps you could help with some funding, perhaps you have some skills that you could offer? Have you run successful publicity campaigns or have research on increasing foot traffic to drive businesses?
- Help us advertise this network? Share with your friends and colleagues and connect with us on Twitter or Facebook.
If this city is to turn itself around and rebuild its identity, it needs innovative creative places to be an important part of its future.
How about you join us on that journey?
Project coordinator for Creative Places