< Previous | Contents | Next >

3.2 Learnings from digital cultural asset mapping

The initial stages of preparation for the digital cultural asset map covered Renfrewshire as a whole in order to make the most of the information which was publicly available within the GIS system, including statutorily designated cultural assets and publicly managed community venues such as schools and leisure centres, all of which was contained in various data sets, but not previously accessible in a unified data set relating to cultural assets. Renfrewshire covers an area of 270 square km with various urban settlements and an extensive rural setting, and has a population of 160,000 (Renfrewshire Council, 2017), therefore the nature of assets varied significantly in terms of location, situation and accessibility:


Table 5- Renfrewshire Cultural Assets



Category

Renfrewshire total

Community

170

Fashion, design and applied arts

7

Film, broadcast and digital

40

History, heritage, architecture

338

Literature and Spoken Word

28

Music

46

Sports, leisure and open spaces

115

Theatre and dance

9

Visual Arts

12

Events and Festivals

184

Total

949

Source: Personal research, extracted from own map

The large number of history, heritage and architecture assets reflects the historical and cultural importance of the district, but is distorted due to the availability of information; the focus of the research was on Paisley but I felt it appropriate to populate known data from around the area in recognition that cultural activities do not take place only in an isolated town boundary, as “trip-chain” opportunities exist which influence potential audiences to engage with cultural asset activities outwith their immediate area (Delrieu and Gibson, 2017a) and similarly many residents will travel beyond the Renfrewshire boundary for their cultural interests as their personal mobility allows (an example of the “commuter creative class” from examining a town in the vicinity of a major city hub of England (Gilmore, 2013, p.8)).

3.2.1 Patterns across categories of cultural asset


The urban boundary of Paisley loosely extends from the Glasgow City boundary to the East (excluding Hillingdon), the urban area by Glennifer Breas to the South, Ferguslie and Linwood Road to the West and the M8 motorway to the North (see figure four below).


Figure 4- Paisley Urban Area



image

Map source: ArcGIS Online screenshot of Paisley area annotated map, created by author

The assets which are situated within the designated urban area have been subject to detailed search and assessment, under each of the categories described in section 2.4.1.


Table 6- Paisley cultural assets



Category

Paisley urban area total

Community

78

Fashion, design and applied arts

5

Film, broadcast and digital

21

History, heritage and architecture

190

Literature and Spoken Word

17

Music

42

Sports, leisure and open spaces

50

Theatre and dance

6

Visual Arts

8

Events and Festivals

124

Total

541

Source: Personal research, extracted from own map


It can be seen that Paisley has both a density and quantity of assets, the high concentration of cultural assets within this boundary demonstrates its significance as a local and regional population and service centre. Paisley is known to have a particularly high concentration of historical assets, the Local Authority Strategic Plan notes that “Renfrewshire has a proud cultural heritage, with Paisley having the second highest concentration of listed buildings in Scotland” (Renfrewshire Council, 2017, p.4). History, heritage and architecture includes statutorily designated assets, as well as clubs and societies relating to these areas.

Professional skills in architecture and engineering are taught at the University of the West of Scotland and West College Scotland, and museums and heritage centres exist within the urban boundary of Paisley which contain nationally significant historical and archaeological collections.


Fashion, design and applied arts in Paisley is of great importance to the heritage of Paisley as a former textile town, yet the current concentration of assets suggests that such resources are now less prevalent although the fabric heritage of Paisley is still living on with sewing clubs

and pub craft groups, often organised through the online MeetUp portal. Those which are highlighted in the asset map cover small groups, formal training opportunities in college courses and drop in activities. Of particular note are the banner making groups within several churches, once hidden assets but only highlighted due to research into the multi-functional nature of church hall venues, and skills groups which are affiliated to an international body (The Embroiderers Guild, which lists local groups on its website). Craft fair venues are highlighted within this category, and are vital for small scale sale and showcasing of local makers.


Film, broadcast and digital assets relate to education opportunities within these fields, cinemas and film screening venues as well as groups which regularly meet to produce creative documentaries, animation and other photographic pieces. Paisley is home to a wide range of assets which fit this category, for example newly established maker spaces and production facilities and drop in digital workshop and IT training sessions for all ages and abilities. There are notable TV and radio broadcasters (such as St Mirren TV, Scottish Schools Radio and Paisley Amateur Radio Club). Individual film makers and producers should be situated within this category, however it was difficult to find information on these practitioners; no comprehensive list of registered creative practitioners in Renfrewshire exists, some individuals work as sole traders and have mobile locations, others may be based at home in Paisley but do not have a studio. It is now easy for creative practitioners to work globally from any base therefore not all film makers who work in Renfrewshire are based there.


Literature and Spoken Word activities and venues include libraries and archives, together with book groups and writing groups for all ages (from Baby Bookbug to specialist interest). Language clubs (such as English improvers, Gaelic and other languages) are widely publicised in Paisley, and cross literacy issues and educational opportunities around literature and spoken word. It was difficult to source information on performance and collective spaces, there is not a designated venue solely for this purpose but two venues in Paisley publicise writing and performance opportunities (Abbey Books and Blend Coffee Shop). Not all book reading clubs are not widely publicised, as they may meet privately and on an ad-hoc basis among friends, although there are examples of comic book activities and personal development book groups which meet in local venues.

Music is a particularly diverse and strong cultural field in Paisley, with many well known practitioners past and present, together with regular events and clubs for people to share their skills or try out a new hobby. The digital cultural asset map highlights the large number of choirs and diverse genres across which music falls and is practiced in Paisley. There are several college level courses, and designated rehearsal and recording spaces within the town. Choirs to encourage religious praise include The Salvation Army Home League Singers, St. Ninians Praise Band and Hopehall Evangelical Male Voice Choir, whilst groups of all genres include Ferguslie Guitar Group, Arkleston Chamber Orchestra, Paisley Philharmonic, Glee Club, and the National Youth Choir of Scotland. Notable groups for special purposes include “Singing Memories” organised by Alzheimer’s Scotland, and “Buddy Beat” which is a drumming initiative designed to support those with lived experience of mental health issues. Individual musicians and teachers are not listed on the digital cultural asset map, it proved difficult to source information on this field of information, which suggests tutorship may be through word of mouth and recommendation rather than advertisement.


The category of sports, leisure and open spaces covers statutorily designated assets such registered parks and gardens and nature reserves, as well as natural assets such as public parks and gardens. The location of sports clubs are plotted, together with sports venues such as club houses which are often used for cultural activities as well as bases for sporting activities, so have been included in this map. Sport is a huge part of the culture of many people’s lives, and 78% of adults in Renfrewshire undertake sport of some kind on a regular basis (Scottish Government, 2017a, p.80). Paisley only statistics are not available, therefore this guide is a useful indicator to demonstrate significance in this instance. Data in England suggests that a category of audience exists specifically called “A quiet pint with the match” who struggle to engage with certain types of artform or culture but are more likely to attend events in venues such as sports clubs (Arts Council England, 2011, p.52), therefore to ignore this potential demographic would result in a less representative map. Open spaces and natural heritage are really important to the character of the area and the wellbeing of the community, as places to attend organised events like community gala days or just a place to spend some time with nature. It is interesting to note that there are lower levels of frequent visits made to outdoor spaces and nearest greenspaces in Renfrewshire compared to Scotland as a whole, yet higher levels of visits at least once a week among one particular age group (Scottish Government, 2017a, pp.105–106, 108); this dataset does not explain why this is the case despite the nature of the environment of the area and the levels of satisfaction with greenspace suggested by the Scottish Household Survey.


Sports, leisure and open spaces are of great importance to Paisley, with 50 assets in the urban area alone. Whilst the larger parks and sports centres have never been hidden cultural heritage (with reference to my typology in chapter one), the mapping of smaller clubs and facilities reveals aspects such as a specialist wellbeing clubs for older persons (Roar West End) and an American Football club (UWS Pyros), as well as unique features like “Scotland's first fully electric gokart arena” (The Experience, 2018) or an Edwardian style swimming pool (Renfrew Victory Baths). This fits well with the analysis of “sportscape” where a range of facilities contribute towards a vibrant infrastructure of participation (O’Reilly et al., 2015). When teamed with the results from cognitive mapping one can develop a picture of how sport and recreation fits into the lives of the participants (see chapter 5).


Visual Arts opportunities appear to be lacking in Paisley, however sourcing data on opportunities to engage with producing art was difficult, there are some long established groups such as the Paisley Art Institute, and large venues such as Paisley Art Gallery, but no purpose made community studios for arts. One notable exception is the studio of Alexander Stoddart, Her Majesty's Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland (Scottish Government, 2008) who is based in the studios within the University of the West of Scotland Paisley campus. Some arts practitioners do choose to be based in multifunctional complexes such as Abbey Mills Business Centre, however this category definitely falls within the context of hidden cultural heritage which warrants more consideration and further research, as the work of individual visual artists is not mapped or well publicised. This raises questions for investigation, as in Edinburgh a cultural discussion led to investigations on whether no suitable spaces were available for visual arts, or if there were barriers to opening them:

“contributors feel that more could be done to facilitate affordable and accessible spaces for artists to use, including ‘cheap and dirty’ spaces for pop-ups, temporary activity, and events. Many expressed that approaching the council to use space in the past has been complex and that departments are not always as flexible as they could be” (Desire Lines, 2015, p.19)


According to the Scottish Household Survey, dance participation is significantly higher in Renfrewshire than in Scotland as a whole , across all ages (Scottish Government, 2017a, p.141). It can be seen from the digital cultural asset map that the level and variety of theatre and dance organisations within Paisley is high, with activities for all ages, from baby discos through to Scottish Country Dancing and Salsa, as well as street dance and Broadway

performance. The supporting infrastructure for theatre is available though facilities which hire out costumes and theatre props, and also carry out teaching (such as Starlight), these are less well known and more hidden than the well documented “largest youth theatre of its kind in the UK” (House of Commons, 2016). Independent practitioners, franchises and organised schools of dance are available, as well as taught courses in performance and make-up artistry at West College Scotland.


Gilmore (2013) notes that the cultural participation data for some cities does not accurately reflect the complexity of the area and its creative and cultural industries, and concentrates too much on officially recognised groups or venues. Locally organised bodies may run cultural activities but not be funded through arts budgets, and some activities may be organised without any funding and may be gatherings of likeminded individuals in a café or pub. Those empowered to record official statistics on participation may be unaware of non government funded activities therefore mapping cultural assets in this area is particularly important.

If “non-participants are represented as a problem category in binary contrast to those members of society who do participate” (Stevenson, 2013, p.81) it is important to be clear about the nature of culture and the make-up of the categories being discussed in order to further analyse what to do to address this perceived problem. Is it actually a problem, or are the categories which are used too strict and people do actually participate in culture but it is not seen as official? Stevenson also points out that government definitions tend to focus on state funded activity, whereas if a “more open, eclectic stance on the use of evidence” (Miles and Sullivan, 2012, p.5) was taken, a different picture may emerge. It was not possible to source comprehensive information on the extent of all of the companies and individuals who undertake cultural work across Paisley; there is no register of creative workers or cultural industries. Not every practitioner is a member of the Creative Renfrewshire Network (which represents a useful data source and is the primary network for creative practitioners in the area); however opening discussions with this network about using and populating the cultural map following its launch are possible.


Events and Festivals have been plotted over the timescale of the research, which reveals a useful snapshot into the nature of activities held seasonally, for example public carnivals and fairs, and winter festivals from Halloween to new year as well as smaller events at individual venues held as part of larger festivals (e.g. Paisley Music week) or tied in with national themes (e.g. The Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, Gaelic Mod). The data as existing was last updated in March 2017, due to the timescale allocated for the research. The

concentration of events and festivals was hidden prior to the development of the digital cultural asset mapping, and there is presently no single online portal which records all events. Local Authority and Museum events are advertised separately, and private venues largely advertise independently either through their social media presence, newspapers, posters or specialist listing sites. The digital cultural asset map is not designed to be an events portal, but with additional coding it could do so, therefore there is potential to extend and update its functionality, should there be a will to do so. The digital cultural asset map raises questions about provision of space for particular disciplines, and can be a tool to open up dialogue; and the inclusion of individual practitioners within the creative arts fields would greatly enhance the digital cultural asset map. Suggestions for the development of the digital cultural asset mapping are taken forward in section 6.5.