THE challenge of building Langholm as a regional centre for arts and culture to boost prosperity is being taken forward by a group of professionals.
OutPost Arts, which is already having an impact on advancing arts and culture, is drawing up plans to take Langholm on a journey which will drive creativity and, ultimately, create wealth, jobs and a greater presence in the Borderlands.
Their position is that rather than regarding Langholm as being on the edge, it was at the centre of the Borderlands and 50m people live two and a half hours away.
At a meeting last week, run by Steph MacKenzie, chairwoman, and Lucy MacLeod, creative director, those attending discussed where Langholm was now in terms of arts and culture, where they would like to take it and how.
The group, which is part of the Langholm Alliance, also plans to run a festival in the autumn.
There was a strong case put forward for involving more young people and giving them more options in arts and culture career choices which, it was felt, were limited.
They were channelled towards specific pursuits, which were all positive, but members believed there should be more options available.
Arts and culture were seen as hobbies and not serious career choices and this started in school where subjects were possibly restricted.
It was agreed that the town was rich culturally through events like the Common Riding and organisations like the town and pipe bands and the two theatrical companies.
Former school pupils Sian Blackburn and John Innes praised the fact they were taught to stand up and perform songs and poetry so they learned about their culture and gained confidence.
Chris Jones of Centre Stage Community Theatre said many young people involved with the company had become more confident and gone on to get good degrees. They had put that down partly to being in the theatre group.
Creative people, who lived here, felt the town had a creative environment and this could be exploited more.
They had to learn how to develop that to encourage people to stay and celebrate their identity rather than move to the cities which they were pushed towards.
The current situation with clubs and societies seemed to be that there was a lack of inter-action and they did not share resources.
There was also a lack of inter-action between artists and between artists and the community.
The nature of their work meant they were often isolated creatively and geographically and there were few options for showing their work so they lacked visibility.
Things were moving in the right direction but they needed more marketing and promotion, a physical and online presence and a directory.
As a result of this discussion, they came up with some headings: creative and cultural environment; cultural events; assets/attractions; cultural heritage; visibility and promotion; stasis; sustained involvement of young people.
To drive forward their plan they agreed a number of steps, including communication tactics, events strategy, eco/adventure/cultural tourism, including working with Wild Eskdale and cherish and challenge “Aye Been”.
They acknowledged that they needed to reach the right people, secure sustained developmental investment, be inclusive, work with the E&L Advertiser and have educational resources.
Other options include crafts and textiles being reintroduced in schools, having an artists’ hub connected to textiles, an arts centre of regional significance and a centre for creative learning and training.
The final objective was a “positioning vision” to dispel the belief that Langholm was a long way from other places.
Judith Johnson said: “People think we’re further away than we are.”
Chris added: “It was difficult to get directors to come to Langholm because it doesn’t have the kudos but when they come here, they think it’s wonderful.”