When it comes to urban regeneration, it is essential that a community make their voice heard, so that their views and needs are met. But when a community fragments and disconnects this cannot be done successfully. RIG Arts is an award winning, socially engaged art and film charity based in Greenock. They bring professional artists and the community together in a collaborative and creative way. The recent “Heid of The Hill” and the ongoing “Up the Broomy” projects are two attempts by RIG Arts to bring artists, musicians, planners and the community together and allow them to become collaboratively involved in the regeneration of Broomhill in Greenock – an area which was identified ten years ago as one of the most deprived places in Scotland. The results are inspiring.
Part of the project included a residency by James Grant (front man to 80s band Love and Money) one of Scotland’s most respected songwriters. He recorded residents’ stories growing up in the area. These no holds barred accounts are well-worth a listen. James then asked local musicians to respond to these stories. The result is an exceptional album of songs – also available to listen to on the website. www.rigarts.org.
James held songwriting workshops with music students of Notre Dame High School. The pupils enjoyed his sessions so much that the school are considering adding ‘songwriting’ to their curriculum.
Singing and songwriting are a communal event. It is through these shared experiences and shared expressions people can explain to themselves and to outsiders what their community is or was, and what it needs. Creating art builds confidence. Singing your experiences and your history tells the world you exist and you matter. I think what ‘Heid O’ the Hill’ and ‘Up the Broomy’ have done is remarkable. It is no surprise that RIG Arts’ Broomhill Projects won the SURF (Scotland’s Urban Regeneration Forum) Creative Regeneration Award. The judges identified that the charity has been “a catalyst for change and development, empowering the community in Broomhill and supporting a people-centred approach to regeneration.”
The work done by RIG is transferring into a concrete reality. In 2017 the new Broomhill Gardens and Community Hub was opened to much fanfare. It is a wonderful asset which houses a horticultural training facility, community hub, café and offices. Through RIG Arts the sculptor Alan Potter, in collaboration with residents, created beautiful benches for the centre – made from the sandstone from the demolished Drumfrochar Square Flats. They are beautiful pieces, which carry the history of the area with them.
RIG Arts have also created a Broomhill Art Flat where inspiring workshops for local kids, young people (including young people with autism) and adults take place. It acts as a base for a lot of The Broomhill Projects.
Their Plastic Fantastic Project – very topical in today’s climate – creates useful products from ‘waste’ or old plastic items which may not be recyclable. Using innovative plastic recycling technology, including a plastics granulator and a plastics filament maker, they are able to break down old plastics such as water bottles, Christmas choccie boxes and other household packaging, then melt it into long filament strips. These strips can then be used in 3D printing to create many useful new objects. They are always looking for donations – so check out their website.
Another project ‘Broomy Bees’ is currently creating two community gardens on derelict concrete spaces in the area.
The work done in Broomhill has been not gone unnoticed. They awards are mounting up. River Clyde Homes – who originally funded RIG Arts – recently received a commendation in the Best Regeneration Project category at the Herald Property Awards.
Ken Gibb from the University of Glasgow has included the Broomhill area as part of a wider academic study looking at regeneration models and their benefits, published in July 2018. He concluded that “The Arts Project has been successful in helping to build relationships with the community and ensure the community are at the centre of investment decisions.”
It’s not all rosy in Broomhill. A lot remains to be addressed. Poverty and unemployment still significant problems. However, RIG Arts are a fantastic example of how empowering people with a voice, creating a sense of pride and celebrating local identity through music and arts can have a direct effect on the planning outcomes of an area. Long may they continue.
**DON’T MISS the next issue of INSIGHT magazine where we interview singer songwriter, JAMES GRANT, and chat about his 80s music career, growing up in Castlemilk, upcoming gigs, and the work he did with RIG Arts.**