Over 30 years ago l started my long association with the arts by organising a heavy metal night in the McMillan Town Hall in Newton Stewart. This was in the era of big hair and spandex which somehow made the jump from west coast America to rural Wigtownshire. Around the same time Newton Stewart and Stranraer fairly buzzed to the noise of Italian Scooters ridden by teenagers who mainly listened to Jamaican Ska music.
Even back then in the dim and distant eighties before the internet and smart devices, Wigtownshire was absorbing artistic influences from around the globe. Fast forward three decades and we find our small skelf of Scotland peppered with artists and creative people who have chosen to live and work in the Machars and the Rhins. Some are born and bred in the shire whilst many others have gravitated to western Galloway, drawn by our relative remoteness and inspiring scenery.
I have been lucky enough to work with and meet a lot of these artists through my role as west area arts convenor employed by an organisation called DG Unlimited which has an advocacy role for the arts across Dumfries and Galloway.
It struck me some time ago that many artists across Wigtownshire could benefit from a collective brand to package up what they do and make it easier for organisations such as Visit Scotland to promote both them and our area.
I was aware that Fran Raw otherwise known as the Mochrum Artist and Caroline Smith from Peninsula Design based in Whithorn were also thinking along the same lines and we met up last year to kick around some ideas on how we could take this forward.
The Made In Wigtownshire idea was based on a tattoo one of us had seen at some point and it was felt that this pretty much summed up what we were trying to promote.
Made In Wigtownshire sounds sufficiently ‘street’ to be cool in this age of instant communications and social networking,whilst at the same time it does exactly what it says on the tin.
Caroline from Peninsula Design has been working on a website which aims to promote the work of local artists, creative people and producers. It is a commercial venture and will charge commission on sales but far less than what artists would expect to pay in galleries. Caroline commented
“l moved to Whithorn over a year ago from Rugby in Warwickshire, the isolation of the area is a double edged sword. On the one hand it provides inspiration and a quite pace of life, but for producers it can be hard to get enough sales to make things viable. A collective website such as Made In Wigtownshire can make it easier for people around Britain and further afield to discover what our area has to offer.”
Sales driven websites to collectively promote a group of producers have a track record of success and can assist individuals who struggle to make a dent on search engines and the world wide web, but Made In Wigtownshire aims to do much more than this, Fran Raw who is a textile artist living near Mochrum explained,
“We want to do two things with our Made In Wigtownshire brand, the first is to increase sales for artists and producers which brings more money into the local economy and the second is to make the buyers aware of Wigtownshire as a holiday destination which again brings money into the local economy. Whether people come to our area to buy a hat or a cup of tea is irrelevant to us, the main thing is that Made In Wigtownshire will shout very loudly across fibre optic networks about what we do and where we do it.”
Made In Wigtownshire as a brand and the people behind it need to juggle inclusiveness alongside high quality produce. The aim is to show our best face to the rest of the world whether it be an image from one of our very talented local photographers or details on where to eat and stay on a family holiday to the area.
For those wishing to be included in the brand from either a sales or tourism side you can contact them for further information.
From the Merrick to the Mull this brand has the potential to help Wigtownshire reinvent itself as a both a travel destination and artisans centre of excellence .
Words By Sid Ambrose – sidambrose.com
Image by Stephen Jolly – www.sjollyphotography.co.uk