Media in Scotland’s Communities – Prelude


I’ve been the chair of the Brilliant Scotland steering group for the last 2 years – the Media Trust ran project comes to an end in May – and it will end with a celebratory event in Craigmillar, Edinburgh on the 22nd of April. The focus is the title of this post.

This post aims to pull together my starting thoughts, a general update of things ‘wot I’ve been up to’ – and towards the future of things that are happening in this space.

Let’s start, February 2015 – I’d just walked out of West College after 3 weeks. I got a job with Ayrshire Youth Arts Network as a sessional digital media worker (alongside other things I’ve done and already blogged about).

I began drafting this blog post last summer when I was half way through delivering a 10 week course of digital media training with young people in Girvan, Ayrshire as part of the Ayrshire Youth Arts Network (AYAN) Digital hub strand.

AYAN is one of 9 hubs set up across Scotland and is part of a wider youth arts strategy funded under Creative Scotland Time to Shine initiative, designed to help support young people to engage with the arts

The AYAN digital media workshops are a small part of a much bigger and diverse programme all across the area, with an Arts for All funding call for projects that support 11-25 in the area. Proposals go to a youth advisory group (aged between 16-25) to help support arts projects across East, North and South Ayrshire.

Anyway… So as you can see, its a roll out containing many partnerships, and networked widely across Scotland, with more activity to be agreed and rolled out over the coming months – but really the focus is on engaging with young people and making sure that they are the core benefactors of the projects and the main influencers of the process.

Through my extensive experience of having been a young person (31, mate!) who was from Ayrshire, I was matched with Girvan as my digital hub to take forward – and I was delighted to be put in touch with Girvan Youth Trust, a longterm service community group who have a wonderful set of premises in the form of the Z1 Youth Bar, an alcohol free youth centre, complete with 3 floors of facilities (a bar, a nightclub area, band equipment, art room, outdoor area) and based in the centre of Girvan town.

Girvan is exactly 54 miles from Glasgow (where I currently live) and 20 miles from Ayr (the nearest big town, where I grew up) – and is considered the nearest ‘big town’ for a lot of the villages around the area. It is known for its seaside and beach fun and has a stunning view of the Ailsa Craig.

Girvan Youth Trust

The training was to run for 10 weeks – and here is where the issue lay – on week 5 of the training (when I started the blog post), it became clear that keeping persons engaged and interested in and between the workshops was a hard gig – especially on 2 hours sessional work a week and without ongoing support from the youth workers from z1 – many of which were working on other projects that had to be prioritised first (such as the nature of projects).

So.. we paused it.

A few months ago, I met Laura Frood (the AYAN coordinator) in Wee Guys (after a couple of attempts to skype, we suck at skype) with Pete Murray (Media Trust, who we’ve worked together loads already through Digital Commonwealth – and is organising the event this blog post is titled) – and I thought would be good to run a joint thing with young people and youth workers to give them a blast of film making skills – rather than 10 weeks of school-like evening classes.

So we planned a trip to Arran.

23 of us – between ages of 13 up – all from all the Ayrshires, went to Arran for a film making retreat.

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They made 3 films – and Pete made a film about the experience.

Film is the best – especially when writing is your life at the moment (PhD & work emails) – because… you know why.

And all of this done on iPads and iPhones. I will add their films once I get the links – they did amazing – but most importantly, real bonds were made. Especially when we got stuck on the island for an extra night because of Storm (whatever name it was) – and we had to bunk down for the night.


So, at the same time as this was going on (or even before this was going on)… I was doing this (as a volunteer, as Morag is a friend.)

I posted this status on facebook today – it is so much easier to put the stuff there than blog at the minute because … omg, I am so busy.

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Here is their film – I can truly say this is a film for the community, by the community – because I stopped going to meetings because I was exhausted after work – and I am so proud of them because it works. It works because it is problem solving and media education at its finest.


But I believe we should pay people for doing this sort of work – if volunteering can get something started, a tangible process and product to get them confident to ask for a fair wage for a fair day’s work – then that’s what you should be working for. Not creating community journalists who submit content voluntary, whilst somebody takes a wage from the ads (that’s what pisses me off with hyperlocal chat)- creating economies of practice so that you can grow the sector whilst appreciating the many skillsets and things that we are as human beings. There is room for all of it – I just don’t think we’ve been ready to have that chat yet. I think we’ve been trying, we really have – but now it feels it is time.

A few weekends ago I was on the panel at radical indie conference in Edinburgh.

No I don’t have the answer to capitalism, BBC bias- and I’m not a journalist. I was going to train as one – but I didn’t. But I hang around with loads of them. And I’m not even in a political party now, I’m a feral creature of the wild and I’m keeping it that way – but it’s nice to be invited and meet people who think the same but different from you.

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Photo by @alisterb – cheers mate. Great to share a platform with these folk. 

I’m not interested in creating a new new new media for Scotland – or the UK – or Europe – 0r the world. And I don’t want to write for somebody’s agenda or somebody writing for mine – unless it is the people I want to work for and with and around and together. I admire those who want to thought. We need plurality.

I did a masters in new media studies nearly 10 years ago, I contested the term “new media” in loads of essays and reports and I’ve wrestling with the PhD chapter about the fucking term for the last 6 weeks, it doesn’t make me an expert – but I know what people mean when they say it – I don’t want to take that away from people, but I know what I am now – and why I get asked to these things now.

Anyway, Pete and I have been working on this event (Pete mostly, I’ve been copied in the emails & throwing in suggestions -and feeding back as chair to the main board at the Media Trust in that London) – I’m using this blog post to pull my thoughts together before I do some work for it.

Anyway, in the same light, I am not interested in competing with the longstanding community media organisations in Scotland – to which there are many. I believe this stuff can truly be taught and made and shared to people, using the things we have – and people can represent themselves. I’ve seen it myself.

So on Wednesday, I resigned from GMAC board to focus on this stuff.

On Thursday, I employed my first ‘young’ person (the issue with the creative scotland youth arts stuff is that everyone is described as a young person (between 11-25), in academia, you are an early career until you are 40, if you keep saying you are working with young people, you end up getting chicken nuggets for your tea from the hotel #beige)- but yeah, I love working with people. Of all ages. Education rocks.

So I got a person in, mainly to ‘buy out’ my time (using the crude language of the university world) – introducing Fraser Beattie – and again, here is my facebook post about it. I met Fraser on Arran – and I hope that I can support a few others, especially those who supported me in the last 10 years.

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And on that note, I will end my prelude with my final piece of reflection.

Last Wednesday- Friday, I was in Brighton at the HEA Arts and Humanities Conference (I’m a lecturer now, I teach higher education) and I was representing their blogsquad – I did a presentation about moving from this space (community education) back into higher education. I met a ton of amazing people – had a lovely time – and here is what I thought.

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And on that note… for the first time in a very very long time …