Dumfries’ People Power Hailed As An Inspiration For Other Towns

‘Fresh and invigorating’ approach highlighted as a trailblazer for other communities to follow The people power which is breathing new life into Dumfries High Street has been hailed as inspiration for other Scottish towns.

Work which has included bringing a number of buildings into community ownership and encouraging enterprise is highlighted in a recently-launched website designed to empower and inspire those determined to make the nation’s towns stronger and more attractive.

Scotland’s Towns Partnership’s (STP) Town Toolkit aims to help local authorities, community groups, social enterprises and businesses take action to build better communities. More than 200 people and organisations contributed to the Toolkit, whose development was supported by the Scottish Government.

Dumfries is among the places highlighted as prime examples to follow – with the toolkit to be discussed at the Scotland’s Towns Conference on Friday (November 26).

The toolkit cites the contribution of art group The Stove Network as well as Midsteeple Quarter, which is working to reinvigorate empty and underused buildings, creating new business opportunities and homes.

Nick Wright, a town planner who developed the toolkit for STP, will lead the session and said: “What’s inspirational about Dumfries is that members of the local community – largely volunteers – have stepped forward over the last decade to lead the town centre’s renaissance. Rather than complain about the state of the town centre, they decided simply to get on and do things.
“This fresh and invigorating approach has reopened empty premises on the high street, brought countless more people into the town centre for events and activities, and implemented dozens of projects.”

Midsteeple Quarter is spearheading work that will create a stronger future for the town centre – not only providing a springboard new enterprise in the High Street, by places from which businesses can grow and thrive, as well as encouraging people to live there.

The Stove Network has used arts and creativity to bring life to the town centre through events and projects, collaborating with the local authority, community organisations, local businesses and charities. Their aim is for culture, community and enterprise to work hand-in-hand to support the High Street.

Matt Baker, Orchestrator of The Stove Network, said: “We’ve found the Scotland’s Town Toolkit so helpful. It’s filled with a great range of case studies and you can take different bits from each to develop your own approach. We’re thrilled that Dumfries is now one of the ‘inspiration’ case studies in the new edition”.

The work by Midsteeple Quarter in bringing buildings back into community ownership is attracting wide national attention. Most recently, social enterprise The Guild unveiled Flourish in one of its buildings – 111 High Street – as a hub for independent makers, creatives and producers.

Midsteeple Quarter Executive Director Scott McKay said: “Our core principle is that local people know the town best and have the solutions. A significant local stake in the future of the town through community ownership and control is the best route towards sustainable prosperity that is shared fairly.”

Mr Wright explained the toolkit  is about sharing a wealth of experience from across the country – showing that you can do it because it’s been done before.

He added: “It’s about how to make things happen – a one-stop-shop on how to make towns the best they can be. Huntly is a prime example of how a community can make things happen.”

While inspiring communities and groups, it is also hoped that the toolkit will prove useful for local authority officials working in planning, community development, leisure, transport and the economy when considering developments in their region, as well as for politicians at every level.

For more information, go to www.towntoolkit.scot. Details about how to join in the discussions at Scotland’s Towns Conference, which runs from November 22 to 26, can be found at www.scotlandstowns.org/scotlands_towns_conference_2021.

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