Developing Community: Developing Creativity: Developing Skills

9th September 2019: 

The Stirling Photography Festival is a wonderful example of a grass roots project created and delivered by a team of passionate volunteers committed to working together to make something great happen in their community.

Established in 2018 to celebrate Year of Young People, the Stirling Youth Photo Festival was sponsored by the European Championship Our Place Fund. As a celebration of community, we set out to recruit and empower a young team to create and deliver a festival that was open and accessible to all. Starting with a call out through social media the original Creative Team was born. The team was made up of school pupils, university students and young professionals.

The team worked together to shape the festival, recruit contributors and partners, to promote and to deliver a fabulous programme of 14 first class events at venues across the city. The events were delivered almost entirely by volunteer organisers, contributors and hosts. Pitching our idea at Stirling Soup we raised our profile and won support from across the community. Partnerships were developed with Stirling Council and organisations such as the Creative Stirling, the Tolbooth Theatre, the Macrobert Arts Centre and local business.

The festival included a public “Our Place” exhibition hosted by galleries and businesses across the city, forming a trail designed to introduce people to some new places.

Of last year, festival founder Janie Meikle Bland says

“Putting that first shout out for volunteers was thrilling! You never know who will walk through the door – what skills, interests and ideas they will have. That’s what makes working with volunteers so rewarding. Everyone brings their individual skills and passions and throws it into the mix. It is wonderful, together they designed and delivered a first class festival!”

So enthused were the volunteer Creative Team that they wanted to do it all again this year – the theme is Hope and Passion was coined. The team also developed their manifesto for the festival. Our aim is to be accessible and inclusive, offering a variety of opportunities to learn and build new relationships. Our aim is to whilst deliver a sustainable model that establishes a festival which invests in our community, recoginses and values contributors and volunteers. Our mantra is  “Developing Community: Developing Creativity: Developing Skills”. With new volunteers stepping forward, we ran a Crowdfunder and worked with local artists and businesses to fundraise, plan and deliver our programme.

Founder member Nadia Schneider, now a third year student at the University of Stirling, has a love of film and festivals. Last year, finding herself with a long Summer ahead of her in Stirling, she saw the call out, was intrigued and came along to our first meeting at Codebase.  Nadia has been at the heart of the festival, bringing experience from film festivals as well as bag loads of enthusiasm. Nadia says of her volunteering experience

“Volunteering is the purest form of work, because it is based on respect. Respect for the people around you, respect for the people involved, and respect towards the cause.” 

This year Nadia leads on Marketing and PR for the festival, taking real responsibility, developing skills and relationships. Since her involvement she has been invited to speak about her experience at Macrobert Creative Breakfasts, the Stirling Cultural Symposium where she was a keynote speaker and at the upcoming Pecha Kucha community fundraising event.

So this August saw our second Stirling Photography Festival get off to a wonderful start with a range of venues and contributors delivering 25 events at locations across Stirling. This year we also worked closely with Artlink Central and the Macrobert to deliver joint events and exhibitions, and with nationally recognized organisations including Stills of Edinburgh, Street Level of Glasgow and the Travelling Gallery.

 The story behind the festival is built on the belief of a small group of committed and passionate volunteers that the arts and creativity has a huge part to play in building community. Along the way we have recruited more enthusiastic volunteers.

Anne Sproul, a retired scientist from Plean and keen photographer who took part as a participant last year, volunteered to help us this year. As the secretary of the Stirling and District Camera Club, she has lots of skills and experience to share with our young team. Anne says

“I really enjoyed the varied range of events at last year’s festival and thought it was a great effort from such a small team. I offered to help this year because I wanted to share my love of photography and to support this year’s programme even in small way.”

As well as being a lead volunteer at events, Anne shaped the programme this year, bringing new ideas for events and she is guiding the selection process for this year’s Hope and Passion exhibition.

Also joining the team this year is Tony-Jake Green from Denny, a second year student at Forth Valley College. T-J heard about the festival through his student network and was keen to get involved.

“Volunteering for the festival was very important to me as I had the pleasure of meeting and working with some amazing photographers and artists and learnt more about the festival, as well as how it contributes to the photography community in Stirling. I was also able to generally learn more about organising events and what is required in the role of a festival team volunteer. Now that I have volunteered for the festival, I feel even more confident in getting further involved as I get help out in promoting an art form that I feel passion about, through a festival that does it justice”

Janie said of the new team for 2019

“The young Creative Team from last year are working alongside our new volunteers. It is wonderful having such a range of expertise and skills, everyone is learning from each other and together we are able to create something fabulous for the wider benefit of our community”

Plans are now underway for the Hope and Passion exhibition. A free to enter, public exhibition which invites people of all skill levels and abilities to participate in the festival. Their works will be exhibited at venues across Stirling from the end of September.

More information about the Stirling Photography Festival is available on our website and drop us a note of you would like to get involved.