As part of Voluntary Arts' #CreativeNetwork series, this discussion on cultural spaces takes place each month via Zoom. This series looks at how we manage and make use of all kinds of cultural spaces now and in the future.

Some of the discussion is necessarily focused on the current challenging situation for venues and the guidance around this, but we're also very keen to encourage more ambitious thinking about how we develop better collaborative methods of using and sharing spaces in communities to make the best, most equitable use, of spaces available.

This theme relates to some of the essays in our Making Common Cause publication from 2018 which you can download for free. One of Voluntary Arts' current three strategic priorities is "Opening up more public spaces for creative cultural activity" and we are keen to bring together the best and most innovative ideas about how we can achieve this aim.


Our last session on Thursday 10 December (9:30am) welcomed Will Golding, Oliver Dickson and other members from the Bridgend Eco-Bothy in Edinburgh. The group recently won the Epic Award for Scotland. We discussed the importance of community spaces in areas of economic deprivation and drawing on the contents of Voluntary Arts' new report Common Ground: Rewilding the Garden

The Bridgend Eco-Bothy is the construction of a traditional hut (Bothy) and stage in the old barn and piggery at Bridgend Farmhouse, a community owned and community run resource centre in South-East Edinburgh. It is made solely from natural sustainable materials, and there will be an accompanying inclusive nature-based sensory play area and compost toilet. The Eco-Bothy will be used primarily as a family and children's space, for community activities, with an emphasis on environmental and outdoor education, storytelling and arts performances, and educational family activity/youth work, and for groups using Craigmillar park and woodlands. It will create and offer different activities and experiences for people who otherwise would not get the chance. It will give new opportunities to children and young people in the area, and create family learning and social activities and opportunities.

The Eco-Bothy is being built from foundations up by volunteer trainees who are learning traditional heritage skills during the process, including the opportunity to gain accredited qualifications. The volunteers are coming from a wide range of backgrounds and are building confidence, new skills, knowledge, friendships and greater awareness of sustainable practices. They have spent on average 2 days a week working on this from the past 2 years, although the original design work and preparations have been on-going since 2016.


Our first session focused on libraries and involved library staff from all over the country discussing the central role they play in local culture and what the future might look like for these kinds of hubs. 

The second session was focused on village halls, with Deborah Clarke from ACRE joining us to give an overview of how a network of more than 10,000 village halls help to provide space for local creativity across England.

Session three had a theme of outdoor spaces, local neighbourhoods and walking groups. We were joined by Gwen Hales, Lead Producer of Bristol Coddywomple speaking about her work in outdoor settings in the city's neighbourhoods.

Our last session in October, focused on ownership, control and management of spaces and how communities and groups can organise together. Ediane de Lima, Network Organiser for Losing Control, spoke about the work of The Social Change Agency and their series of Open House online events.

The first few sessions have demonstrated that there is much to consider and a lot we can be doing together to enable more collaboration and peer learning across the cultural and community sectors. We are interested in developing the conversation around civic spaces for creativity and community and understand what these spaces are, how they are currently used and what we can do to build better supportive networks to sustain them. 

We are always open to suggestions and ideas for future topics. If you want to get in touch about upcoming sessions, contact Damien, the host of this series.