Whose economy is it anyway?
A group of enterprising people in Alexandria have been working at reviving the fortunes of shops in the town centre. 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.
Alexandria’s 1970s shopping centre has become tired and some of its major stores have put down the shutters for the final time. However this was not due to economic reasons but to make way for demolition!
On the principle of “do something” Susan started by looking for a space for an arts and crafts centre, which surprisingly, is difficult in Alexandria as shop space is snapped up. However, she was successful and opened just in time to give some small businesses a pre-Christmas boost.
She then moved on to 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. The Centre is now open and doing very well.
So, we have asked her what she thinks a community can gain from such an enterprise.
Create 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 be a space to exchange skills and collaborate.
Create 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 – and it’s future; “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.
Create a place to earn a living
Susan says “We are all about creating sustainable jobs and business opportunities and motivating the community to make the environment more attractive and attract visitors to regenerate and develop tourism. We also care about companionship and improving health.” The Loch Lomond Art Centre is already a massive success with 60-70 local suppliers involved.
Create 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