4A) Culture

Creativity has always been part of the community life of our villages, towns and cities. It ranges from the great concert halls, libraries and art galleries of our cities to grass roots venues where new talent is given opportunities and audiences are introduced to new ideas. It also encompasses opportunities for expression in local neighbourhoods in terms of public art, performance, music and literature.

Community Art

Community art hasn’t always had a good reputation. However if done well, it can engage lots of people, tap their creativity and express their identity. There are broad approaches:

  • Communities commission artists to produce work. The community is the client but the work is entirely the artist’s.
  • Artists collaborate with communities to jointly produce work, often through performance.
  • Communities produce artwork themselves with or without the input of an artist.

These approaches can be used for all types of art.

Communities can use this creativity to express their identity. It can include
physical artwork or an artist’s input to street furniture, railings, signs and playgrounds. It can include celebrations, festivals and fêtes, music and performance. Communities might want to identify a space where events can happen like a village green or a local park.


Space for creativity and expression is vital and in recent years the closure of local libraries has been a blow to many communities. There are many examples of libraries and other local facilities that have been taken on by communities using volunteers and local trusts.

Pop-up uses

Pop-up uses

Developers can also play their part. Sites and buildings can be given over on a temporary basis for use by artists, craftspeople and musicians. Vacant spaces can host community festivals, arts or performance events. This not only establishes the site as part of the cultural life of the town or city, it generates activities and businesses that can be used to populate the site once the development takes place, making it feel like somewhere special.

The Spode site in Stoke on Trent is a good example of how creativity and culture has been used to bring a site back into use that fell vacant just as the financial crash hit in 2008. Artists were encouraged to occupy some of the vacant spaces that have grown into thriving business space. The Ceramic’s Biennial took over the large factory space, a temporary theatre was created and now a hotel and restaurant have been developed.

However, the process also works in strong markets where promoting art and creativity through the development process can build links with the surrounding community and make the development distinctive. A good example is U+I’s development of the Mayfield Depot in Manchester where they have provided space for the Manchester Festival, the city’s Pride event and for a range of creative, cultural and food-related activities.

What You Can Do


Suggest an annual celebration event and use it to celebrate the identity of the community. This can include carnivals and melas, village fetes and community festivals. Local groups and schools can get involved in creating costumes and decorating floats and events. Communities can also explore other ways of incorporating creativity into their neighbourhood, identifying local artists and working with schools and community groups to find opportunities to use artworks locally.

Developers and Designers

Look to use sites and buildings prior to development to house arts activities that start to create an identity for the site. Create pop-up opportunities using local designers and generate activities with events and performances that open the site up to the public on a controlled basis. Then once the activities are established find a way to incorporate them into the completed scheme.


Make small grants available to communities to develop their own events and artworks. Ensure that council-backed venues and festivals are required to run community outreach programmes and to take work out of the venue and into the community.

Case study

4A) West End, Glasgow

Glasgow West End is a series of connected neighbourhoods with a strong cultural and artistic identity and a wealth of activity and bustle.

A large, mixed community of students, young professionals and families populate the lively and quirky area, within which there are a number of smaller neighbourhoods such as Kelvinbridge, Kelvinhaugh, Hillhead, Finnieston and Partick.

This area is a great place to live and visit for artists and art lovers, featuring a number of popular art galleries, including the Kelvingrove and Hunterian Gallery and small independent galleries. The Finnieston neighbourhood boasts ‘The Hidden Lane’: a collection of 100 artist and musician studios, a gallery and a tearoom.

The area is also a source of architectural wonder, with beautiful 19th-century sandstone buildings. Communal gardens, tree-lined avenues and cast-iron railings add further distinctive character to the area. There are many residential property types in the West End – traditional tenement flats, mews cottages, townhouses, modern riverside apartments, terraces and large detached properties.

The West End is a hive of activity, with a great food and drink offer and range of independent shops, particularly along Byres Road High Street and the Lanes – a series of back alleys bought to life with an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, antique yards, boutique shops and record and comic book stores.

The local parks provide year-round entertainments hosting craft markets, farmers’ markets, exhibitions and annual festivals, while other local venues host regular live music, shows and events. During Summer, the Botanical Gardens are home to “Bard in the Botanics”, a festival of Shakespeare’s greatest works. The annual West End Festival brings vibrant events including Open Air Ceilidh. The multicultural Glasgow Mela Festival of music and dance also takes place during summer in Kelvingrove Park.

“It has often been said that the West End brings that ‘village’ vibe to the country’s biggest city. It’s an awfully big village granted… While the city centre is a burgeoning commercial giant, the focus out west is more on small business, big characters and a bohemian and nonchalant nature.”


Photography: © Yottanesia – Glasgow’s West End Festival, ©Academy of Urbanism