Aug 8 2012 by Johnathon Menzies, Stirling Observer Wednesday
Feature: retail regeneration project launched in Stirling
STIRLING city centre was abuzz with activity during the official lauch of a new project designed to find creative solutions in the battle to save the nation’s high streets
The ‘pop-up shop’ Made In Stirling venture, driven by the Stirling Creative Industries Forum (SCIF) and funded by £5000 from Stirling Council, is designed to fill empty units and, simultaneously, provide a platform for emerging talent to sell artwork and develop industry contacts.
More than 60 people attended a jam-packed opening evening on Tuesday, July 31. The former Body Shop store in Murray Place, which has lain empty for about a year, has been revamped and secured on a three-month lease for a nominal fee from Stirling Development Agency until September 30.
Joelle Russell, a business research and intelligence executive with the council, said the creativity hub features 12 portable display units available to rent for £5 per day. Those renting the spaces are also asked to pay a commission on any sales, to be put towards the continuation of the project.
If successful, it’s hoped the pilot – part of a regeneration initiative called Start Up Street Stirling – will be replicated using alternative locations and industries.
Current stallholders include talented painters, graffiti artists, glasswork experts and textile enthusiasts, among several others.
Joelle said: “We’ve come into an empty building, fixed it up, and given people within local creative industries a chance to see if their work is marketable. Once the lease runs out, we’ll be able to reuse the ‘pop-up’ shelves and begin a similar project elsewhere – having made the shop in Murray Place potentially more appealing to future buyers or tenants at the same time.”
Local joiner Steven Walker, currently renting a space, built the portable shelving units for the interior of the shop from MDF provided by Cowie’s Norbord, in line with designs drawn-up by Icecream Architecture, who will manage the facility.
Art student Steven, who is involved in fashion design, comic art, photography and spray-can art, said: “I thought it was good for Stirling to have something like this to promote unrecognised artists. There is a really good range of work on display and I have enjoyed finding out about techniques that other artists use. The shop is also enabling me to find out what sells well and conduct market research.”
Doune-based Paul McDonald, an artist and graphic designer, created the posters, invites, and fliers for the launch party, which featured talented folk musicians.
He said: “I work freelance, so I got involved with the project because I wanted to exhibit my work in the shop and network. I have met lots of really useful contacts and have found the project a great way to meet people face-to-face, with the opportunity for them to see my work at the same time.”
In addition to businesses, students from Forth Valley College will get the chance to showcase their wares courtesy of Lesley McDermott – who runs Studio 38 in Alloa in collaboration with others.
The art teacher added: “I have taken two spaces within the shop, one for Studio 38 and one for recent Forth Valley College students. I want to link what I do with facilitating opportunities for young artists.
“The whole project has provided fabulous networking opportunities and I would really like to see longevity as it is having huge benefits.”
Stirling Electrical Services Ltd wired-up the premises free of charge and were one of several local firms involved in the shop’s refit.
Director Scott McLean said: “We now work all over Scotland, but we needed this initial support to help us get started. I feel it’s important that new businesses in Stirling continue to access this type of support.”
Councillor Neil Benny, the local authority’s portfolio holder for finance, economy and tourism, stated: “We are looking at a range of ways to support city centre businesses, established and new. I am delighted we have played a role in driving this project and providing the opportunity for new creative businesses and people working self-employed to become more established.
“Made In Stirling is blazing a trail for future Start Up Street Stirling projects, that will aim to provide opportunities for new small businesses to bring their products to market and also support our wider objective regarding the additional vibrancy and viability of the city centre.”
Councillor Scott Farmer, the council’s shadow spokesperson for the economy and finance, welcomed the project and continued: “I hope that this initiative can be extended beyond the proposed three months in order to create a more diverse retail experience for our citizens and visitors.
“The development of our creative industries was a key theme of the previous SNP administration’s economic strategy, and this development is a direct consequence of this successful policy. I look forward to the work undertaken delivering further benefits for the people of Stirling.”
Other firms or organisations involved in Made In Stirling include: Twenty Ten Architecture; Creative Stirling; Ogilvie’s; D-Signs; the macrobert arts centre; the Tolbooth and Snook Design.
lStirling Creative Industries Forum can be contacted at www.stirlingbusinesspanel.org/creative-industries.