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November 19, 2008

No reward for community success

Govan put on quite a show last weekend. Not only did nearly 500 people turn up to watch a celebration of the community’s shipbuilding legacy and a shared cultural heritage with communities in the Western Isles, this was a production that spoke volumes of the strength of the Govan community as it is today. But despite Nicola Sturgeon’s fine words about investing in bottom-up, community-led regeneration, it seems that one of Govan’s mainstays is in danger of being forced out of business through lack of financial support


SPARR – A gaelic word meaning riveting:
“Making an opening for joining together”

Fablevision , based in Govan, is the organisation in Scotland leading on creative approaches to regeneration based on the celebration of resources, skills and talents rather than fixing problems and tackling issues. With numerous examples of successful practice using what mainland Europe, the USA and Australia call “cultural planning”; with three successful years of running a learning network in partnership with the university of Strathclyde and with support
from both national government and the grass roots in communities throughout Scotland, Fablevision has almost succeeded in embedding the term “cultural planning” as a description for creative approaches to planning and policy within everyday language.

Almost, but not quite – there remains a lack of understanding in the “middle tier” of government at local authority and community planning partnership level as well as amongst conservative funding bodies like the Big Lottery Fund. Even here, transformation is occurring and there evidence of interest amongst various forward looking local authorities like Glasgow and the Western Isles.

“We’ve been encouraged to sell our training programmes to local authorities and community planning partnerships” says director Liz Gardiner. This is possible where local government already appreciates the potential of cultural planning approaches. The problem is that most don’t yet. We’re going to need a bit of support for a while until the approach is better understood”

In the meantime, the company is struggling to find support for its work from any quarter. In terms of community empowerment, Fablevision and cultural planning approaches are the “real deal” (Nicola Sturgeon speaking at the launch of SPARR). LPL will be monitoring the unfolding situation with Fablevision as a barometer of whether there is genuine commitment from our Scottish Government to local regeneration being led by local people. Our Deputy First Minister seems to have got the message. It’s a start.