Take one minister (no, not of the Co-operative Methodist type), a couple of passionate key note presenters and well over 100 people mainly from across Scotland, wanting, willing and able to share their town stories and opportunities and you get …
… Scotland’s Towns Conference.
Held last week in the excellent Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, Scotland Towns Partnership’s culmination of Scotland’s Towns Week seemed to go over very well.
The scene was set by the new Towns Minister, Derek Mackay (@DerekMackayMSP) who laid out the Government’s response to the Fraser Review and prioritised it as the start of the transformation and not the end. Outlining some money, new ideas and demonstration projects he fleshed out the response and made a call to action for all Scotland’s towns.
And yes, he did publicly commit to reporting back on progress against the Town Centre Action Plan in a year or so’s time.
His willingness to discuss and debate set the tone for the day with presentations based around the 6 Fraser themes (in case you have forgotten: town centre living, vibrant local economies, enterprising communities, accessible public services, digital towns, pro-active planning), showcasing great Scottish town stories. These also were the themes for the later intense group discussion and round tables.
For me the highlights were the remarkable story of Portsoy, the ongoing adventures of Made in Stirling (@MadeInStirling) and the vision and leverage of Queensferry Ambition BID; others will have their own favourites. And from Inverness, Perth and Barrhead came stories of change and transformation in Scottish towns and signs of what can be achieved.
The afternoon keynote speakers focused on these themes of change and transformation and the inherent strengths within communities. Lia Ghilardi (noema) pointed to the cultural assets in the broadest sense that all communities possess and the need to understand and to harness these at the local level.
Pam Warhurst closed the conference in ebullient style, enthusiastically presenting the story of Incredible Edible Todmorden. The story of how a small town changed, through the centrality of publicly growing and eating food (‘propaganda gardening’) and the ways in which local food brought together community, learning and business ‘plates’ is remarkable and gave (sorry, really sorry) much food for thought.
If you have not caught up with Incredible Edible Todmorden then see Pam’s TED Talk or their website. And if you’re inspired then quickly help crowd fund a proposed book on the project by Joanna Dobson at Kickstarter.
You can’t capture a day in a short blogpost and so much of the benefit is in the connections, collaborations and interactions that now spill out into actions over the next few months. But Scotland’s Towns Partnership is placing videos, audio, presentations, vox pops and storify on their web site. You really should look at it and do your own bit for the call to action.