Community perspectives from national lottery funding

At the Big Lottery Fund we’re in the fortunate position of working with local groups and voluntary sector organisations across Scotland, doing great things with National Lottery funds to make a difference in communities facing economic and social challenges. While their primary focus is usually community rather than culture, arts and cultural activity often plays an important part in what they do.


We thought their grassroots perspectives would add an extra dimension to #scotlandscultureconversation, addressing the questions – Why is culture important to you? What is good about culture and what needs to change? What do you want the future for culture in Scotland to be like?


This contribution draws on our dialogue with two funded groups in Ayrshire - the Catrine Community Trust and PRYDE (Pennyburn Regeneration Youth Development Enterprise) - huge thanks to both groups. These voices are perhaps under-represented in the conversation so far. We also pooled learning from a group of staff and their experience of working with many, varied groups across the country. Here is what they told us:



  • We learned some communities have a nostalgia for the past and want help to tell their stories and celebrate their shared history. For example, Catrine grew up around mines and mills. Traditionally, the companies sponsored events that connected generations and brought people together. The industries shaped the local environment and gave people things which were unsaid but commonly understood. People were secure in their community and their culture was bound up in that. This security has been eroded.
  • Some felt that more emphasis on Scottish history in the school curriculum would prevent a further loss of heritage and wanted help to address this.  Many people expressed their love of Scotland, defining Scottish culture as history, heritage, football and whisky. People felt that these strengths should be built in marketing Scotland’s cultural ‘brand’.  


  • There was also a recognition, strongest among the community members spoken to at Pryde, that our culture could not be inward-looking and must identify with and learn from other cultures. A more international perspective that includes other cultures provides connections, widens horizons and helps to promote tolerance.


  • They felt that Scotland should avoid considering their culture as just Scottish because this is no longer the case. Curiosity about incomers to the community from different backgrounds has led people of all ages to embrace other cultural activities and celebrations – from Diwali to the Polish Festival of the Doughnut, alongside Burns and St Andrew’s celebrations.
  • For some, the word culture can conjure up images of exclusivity. People feel that current representations of culture often do not reflect their experience. Living in an area of high unemployment can lead to low expectations – of getting a job, never mind taking part in cultural activity. ‘Your neighbours might think you are ‘up yourselves’’ was one striking statement. There is also sometimes a fear of losing the safety net of government.


  • A strong theme emerged that loss of community facilities in many areas makes it harder for activities to go ahead and for culture to thrive, with libraries and playing fields particularly highlighted. Confidence and cohesion suffers when facilities start to disappear from a community and the impact of this loss will be long-lasting. Modest, well-designed flexible spaces (with lots of storage!) can play a central role in supporting communities to thrive by enabling people to participate in arts and culture, which reduces isolation and promotes wellbeing.


  • From the perspective of these local communities relatively small projects developed and delivered locally can make a tremendous difference and are more impactful and accessible than what are perceived as heavily funded arts institutions. Key people to galvanise others in the community (connectors as they are known in Asset Based Community Development) and some volunteering infrastructure are critical to a fostering culture at community level.


  • There was some discussion around digital technology/social media as positive tools, but also as sometimes culturally divisive, leading to greater social isolation and a homogenised, global culture, promoting unattainable lifestyles to young people that undermine confidence and agency.


  • It was striking how little the professional arts sector figured in our conversations and in some people’s understanding and experience of culture. The view was expressed that  professional arts organisations often decide to ‘send the experts’ while community based organisations feel it’s more about finding people’s strengths and using those to promote, participate and celebrate culture.













Why the contribution is important

Grassroots community perspectives, particularly from communities with fewer economic and social advantages, are under-represented in the discussion of culture so far. The role of arts and culture and 'everyday creativity' in building community resilience and promoting individual wellbeing should have greater prominence.

by ronaalexander on November 30, 2017 at 03:45PM

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