The Chamber’s recent local election manifesto highlights some vital business priorities, particularly in realising the potential of our city centre.
In my eight years on the board of Aberdeen Arts Centre, I’ve come to see the venue as a sort of microcosm for the city centre itself.
The place has a rich heritage, full of colour, with deep roots in the community.
It has been much-loved although often neglected and overlooked. But it is resilient, despite the ups and down of recent years.
Now, it is growing in confidence and ambition. With the right leadership in place, it can evolve into a modern and vibrant place.
And like the city, the Arts Centre has huge ambition for its future. We will play an important part in the wider strategy for the city centre’s regeneration.
We’re bidding for a lease extension on the council-owned building for another 25 years, and the council will – quite rightly – ask what our vision is. And just doing the same thing won’t cut it.
The Art Centre has needed to evolve, and now we have both the ambition and resources to do that.
The city centre masterplan transforms the area into Queen’s Square, a residential-led urban quarter in the historic heart of central Aberdeen. Our own £1million redevelopment plan includes an overhaul of the exterior of the iconic grade A listed building, as well as launching the former Children’s Theatre as a revamped standalone cultural space.
It’s all about making the cultural experience accessible to all and finding ways of doing that within our funding structure.
The Arts Centre occupies a unique place in the city as the beating heart of community-focused theatre and arts.
We provide creative learning opportunities and outreach programmes into schools and community centres as well as a testing ground for new work and new talent.
Post-CV19, there’s a stronger need around engaging with young people because they’re desperate for a bit of meaning.
Organisations such as AFC’s Community Trust do a great job of engaging with young people. They use a passion for sport to guide them towards positive futures, and we aim to do the same through creative arts.
We want to inspire our young people, let them grow and express themselves in a way that can potentially lead to a career. It’s just one of the ways to make a difference to the community.
To deliver on this, we need proactive positive leadership, which is behind our current search for a new Arts Centre Director.
With their voice and guidance, we can play our part in an evolving city centre that retains its character and heritage but becomes richer in culture and diversity. We can support everyone in releasing their creative side, in transforming and inspiring through engagement in the arts and culture.
I’ve borrowed these words from other organisations – Culture Aberdeen and Aberdeen Inspired - because they underline an important point.
At this point, we seem to all be singing from the same hymn sheet. Or reading from the same script, if you prefer. And that is what is needed to make this vision a reality.
In the words of the Chamber’s local election manifesto, ambition is nice, but delivery is everything.