Can Do Places Top Tips
Whose economy is it anyway?

A group of enterprising people in Alexandria have been working at reviving the fortunes of the Mitchell Way shops. Susan Maxwell, at the campaign’s forefront, wants to rebuild the local economy by setting up a collaborative Can Do Space focusing on creative business.

Jewelly from Loch Lomond Craft CentreAlexandria’s 1970s shopping centre has become tired and some of its major stores have put down the shutters for the final time. Many places across the country are facing this – leading to plummeting footfall and high unemployment.

On the principle of “do something” Susan started by filling a forlorn space with an arts and crafts centre just in time to give some small businesses a pre-Christmas boost. Now she has her eyes firmly set upon the next stage; setting up a larger version called the Loch Lomond Craft Centre to bring a new sense of pride and beauty to Alexandria.

So, we have asked her what she thinks a community can gain from such an enterprise.

Number 1Create a place to teach
Susan says education is a major part of any fight-back because Alexandria currently has; “…no facilities and no evidence of art – never mind places for artists to work.” She believes any art centre would have to be more than just a group of studios – it would have to be a place to teach locals, young and old, about art. The hope is more people would then catch the ‘creative bug’.

Number 2Create a place to discuss
Locals in Alexandria have had few opportunities to discuss art in the past. So, the art centre project is already trying to fire up debate within the community. One of the ways Susan wants this to happen is through the discussion of the town’s past; “We are trying to capture memories from this bygone era in a little book which local people can write in while they enjoy a coffee with us. It has been great hearing their stories.” Eventually, the project will generate a wider discussion which could have a beneficial impact on the way Alexandria looks.

Susan Maxwell from Alexandria

Number 3Create a place to earn a living
Susan sees a successful project as one which makes money; “We do not really want to become grant dependent at all – we want to become totally sustainable.” The Alexandria team is particularly keen on creating jobs too; “Youngsters don’t see any prospect of local employment… we want other people to get the philosophy of how coworking spaces create jobs and keep the money local.” The Loch Lomond Art Centre is already a massive success with more than seventy local suppliers involved.

Number 4Create a place to take part
Can Do Places projects from Alexandria to Peebles are all about creating a community spirit where happiness is paramount. After all, happy people are healthier and more productive people. A place which is home to such a population is a place where people want to come, work and play. Susan Maxwell is keen to make this a hands-on experience in her town; “We want a working space dedicated to artists, innovators and green social enterprises and a place where people can go and take part in creative activities.”

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Photos courtesy of Adam Scott Photos