Creating a future
I spent yesterday amongst Dumfries & Galloway's artists and creatives at the DG Unlimited Conference "Creative Routes".
This being the Year of Young People, the focus was on young people and their role in Dumfries and Galloway's incredible arts scene. How do we build brighter and more connected futures for D&G's creative youth? How do we foster collaboration and build bridges for young artists to reach each other and create real lasting change in our region?
These aren't easy questions to answer, and certainly not ones that we at the Langholm Initiative can solve, but seeing the debate and the ideas shared in the room was inspiring.
Dumfries and Galloway's creatives are a force for change. They understand how taking a different approach can make a difference and literally change lives.
When we were first asked about having a stall at this event, my thought was that I would struggle to show off all the brilliant things we do in the context of creativity. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense: most of what we do here at the Langholm Initiative is creative.
Take our employability project, Building a Future for Eskdale. Since day one, it has had the creative industry woven into everything it does. From our Career Speed Dating events to the one-to-one workshops we do.
I used a specific example many times yesterday of a young man that came through our doors after he left school. We worked alongside a local artist and watched as his confidence grew and grew, to the point that he was inundated with job offers.
I also spoke about the Knit-a-thon we had in October for Challenge Poverty Week. Many of the knitters that came along wouldn't claim that they are "creative", but the quality of their work - the love almost literally stitched into the fabric of the blankets we made - demonstrates otherwise.
The Knit-a-thon, and events like it, are how we use our creativity to help people that need it most.
I also talked to people that visited the stall about the work we've done with textiles, with STEM (which we believed, firmly, should be called "STEAM"), and in encouraging our young people to look at the multitude of careers that exist in the creative industry.
We've been talking about it for years. There are so many opportunities in D&G's fastest growing industry. Not enough has been done to allow young people to investigate what they could get involved with.
(Well - we have. You might remember our Careers in Music event from last year).
As a collective group, practising artists, educators, third sector organisations, local government and young creatives, we all agreed that we should be viewing and promoting the creative industry as the way forward.
The Langholm Initiative has been doing that. As a community organisation, we've been ahead of the curve on this kind of thing for such a long time.
And as our MC Jack Finlay said yesterday: "Importantly, we have the power to change people's lives."
That's what we do.