This blog by Petra Pennington of Deveron Projects describes the role of the arts organisation supporting culture and creativity in the town on Huntly, Aberdeenshire. Petra will speak more on this topic at Scotland’s Towns Tea Party in Edinburgh on Wednesday 19 June. Click here to read more and book a place!
Deveron Projects has been active in the rural market town of Huntly, Aberdeenshire since 1995. We bring artists, thinkers and other creatives together with the Huntly community to explore issues of global significance from a local perspective.
As Art & Community Worker, I develop events, workshops and discussions that engage the community in the artist’s project, and explore place through our seasonal HOME programme.
The town is the venue describes the framework in which we work and contribute to the social wellbeing of our town. Huntly itself becomes studio, gallery and stage for artists of all disciplines from all over the world. We focus on collaborative, socially engaged practices, bridging disciplines and exploring the relationship between artist, place and community.
We’ve been inspired and influenced by the Aberdeenshire-born father of town planning, Patrick Geddes. As he did, we view society as a bio-diverse interconnected system where Place/Work/Folk must be considered in balance. Deveron Projects embodies the Geddesian mantra, “think global, act local”.
We’ve explored a diverse range of project areas, spanning from gender and parenthood to current politics, place-making through walking, traditional industries, food culture and climate change, to name a few.
Funded by the Climate Challenge Fund, the Town is the Garden is a long-term project looking at ways to encourage more community food growing, reducing waste, sharing skills and reconnecting with the natural ecosystems of which we and our town are a part. The project engages critically with the interrelated climate crises we are facing and promotes free access to edible plants throughout the town, helping green the streets as part of a push to regenerate the town centre.
Many towns across the UK are struggling to keep their squares and high streets functioning as centres for shopping, and this can be seen in Huntly with key businesses closing and leaving behind empty premises. In projects over the last few years we've been exploring alternatives to traditional retail-based economies. This includes the Town is the Garden Barter Shop, where citizens can swap locally grown produce and preserves for a recipe, skill, or even a story, and vice versa.
In Huntly we’re really fortunate to be part of a network of driven community organisations who have formed a Town Team to affect positive change. As a town we have applied for and received funding to purchase a number of empty properties on the Square for community use. There are plans underway that look at the town afresh, celebrate its uniqueness and hopefully improve the way Huntly functions for its folk.
From our perspective at Deveron Projects, creativity and collaboration are essential. You have to approach problems playfully; have the freedom to test out different ideas and develop the solutions that hadn’t yet been thought of - whether you’re an arts organisation, a town council or a gardener. You might not all agree all of the time, but the conversations that will be stimulated will edge you closer to the ideas that might really change things for the better.