Friday, 23 September 2011

Future-proofing Yesterday

Shed B - used during Tall Ships for performances

One word we have heard from everyone we have spoken to, is that any alternative plans for the Sugar Sheds need to be "sustainable". But what does that actually mean? Is that self sustaining? Environmentally sustainable? Sustainable through regular government subsidy? How do you measure that sustainability? In what way do you guarantee it? It is often a word we use indiscriminately without really thinking about what it means, more about what it implies. Certainly, last year it won the award for "most jargoniest jargon".

Maybe like with any good relationship, sustainability isn't something that happens, it's something you work at. The sheds are naturally separated, lending themselves to phased development. So the first year or two of a Sugar Sheds project could be much more about the refurbishment of parts of the building, undertaken as a local employment and training programme, resourced through local and government employability contracts, and potentially Heritage Lottery or Historic Scotland. These gradually refurbished parts of the sheds are the areas which could then be leased back to the community (at nice knockdown rates of course), to unlock funding resources from lottery and elsewhere, and subsequently used to run community based projects, exhibitions and programmes, or provide occasional performance space for local bands. Performance and recording space as well as a regular programme of gigs could be the basis of income generating activity for a social enterprise linked to the community organisations leasing the space...

But that's just off the top of my head of course. Needs a bit of thinking it sustainable enough? How do you do it? How do you turn the largest brick built shed in Europe into something that generates enough income to continue to resources the activities inside it? Can you do it at all?! Clearly if anyone genuinely knew the answer to that, we would have done it already. Therefore, we need to look elsewhere for our solutions. For us, a starting point this week was a very helpful chat with the Scottish Civic Trust, champions of Scotland's spaces and places.

The Civic Trust are running a conference on October 27th, "Heritage + Development = ?". The conference will feature examples of successful regeneration and redevelopment projects; examine government policy from heritage to planning and placemaking; and highlight the importance of community and civic engagement. Sounds ideal eh? We've booked a few places. We've also uploaded a few new documents to our resources page. Arm yourself.

There is no easy solution, and there is no straightforward guarantee that anything is "sustainable", our plan, for now is to start small with a range of activities and events next year, and for now to listen and to learn from others who have faced similar challenges and succeeded.

We took these photos a couple of weeks ago, but Scottish Screen have some much nicer new shiny ones on their Flickr account. Wonder what they were down scouting for?

Shed A - used as a bar during Tall Ships and the space RI are
happy to consider for short term community use

One final thing, slightly off topic, but indulge us. We genuinely believe that more innovative and experimental development of Sheds can create jobs and opportunities for the area. However, the building is safe and reasonably wind and watertight, they are not in any immediate danger right now; the Clyde Coastguard service is...and that service saves lives. So if you are in Greenock tomorrow, get yourself along to the march.

Public Protest March, Greenock, Sep 24th at 11am, Esplanade Cafe to Battery Park. Event here.

Banner Workshop at Fire Centre, Greenock 23rd 6-8pm. Event here.

You can read more details of this vital UK wide campaign on this blog.

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