Ideas: People: Places.
Confluence is one of seven projects across Wales supported through the Arts Council of Wales strategic initiative Ideas: People: Places.

The overall aims of the initiative are:

  • To embed the arts in a genuine and meaningful way in a small number of imaginative, ambitious and innovative regeneration projects.
  • To explore new ways of working that generate cross sector collaboration, test new ideas and partnerships and inspire communities to re-imagine their environment in a creative and empowered way.
  • To test new models of regeneration and collaboration through the arts.
  • To champion quality in both the design and the execution of projects.

Whilst there are many well known examples of the arts contributing to regeneration in cities much less is known about the contribution they can make in small towns. Through an experimental programme called the Lab, linked to a series of artist commissions, the Confluence project aims to develop a model for arts led regeneration in small towns in Wales.

To follow the story chronologically, view the timeline which documents the project from the announcement of Ideas: People: Places, through to the present day.

Embedded in the Confluence programme is an evaluation framework developed with PRAXIS a local consultancy. Four key areas have been identified to measure progress towards the desired outcome of developing a model for arts led regeneration in small towns in Wales, which are:

  1. Changing people’s perceptions of Haverfordwest
  2. Numbers of people engaging with the programme and giving positive feedback
  3. Increasing people’s understanding of what art can be
  4. Support and commitment of key decision makers for arts and regeneration

Creating a baseline to measure change
During the pilot phase and throughout the first year people were invited in a variety of ways to contribute their views and opinions to create a baseline from which  change can be measured over time. The baseline indicates that, whilst there are lots of things that people value about the town, in common with many towns across the UK, Haverfordwest is perceived as having suffered from a long-term decline because of:

  • Changing shopping habits – move to on-line and out of town shopping
  • High business rates leading to an over reliance on charity shops
  • Lack of investment, understanding of and interest in the arts
  • Poor planning decisions and a lack of a coherent vision for the future
  • A lack of engagement opportunities leading to people feeling disempowered
  • Changes in the rural economy having a negative effect on the town

Inspired by recent successes such as the skate park and Haverfoodfest there is also evidence that things are beginning to change …

The Confluence Stage 1 report – a summary of the pilot project undertaken in 2014 informs the baseline study along with a range of additional material collected during year 1, which can be seen here

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Changing perceptions
Since launching in May 2015  over 1500 visits have been made to the Lab and associated events. What people are thinking and feeling about a place and how this is communicated in the press and social media are central to changing perceptions. This collection of posts here document activity  and point the way to how people’s views of Haverfordwest may be changing.

Feedback on the programme
In the first year more than 30 different activities took place and wherever possible participants were invited to give feedback, which was overwhelmingly positive and constructive. See a selection of the activities and the feedback received here

What art can be
In a geographically remote and rurally isolated community, people’s exposure to the diversity of contemporary socially engaged arts practice can be very limited. The first year programme set out to highlight exemplary practice from within the county as well as providing opportunities to engage with artists from across the UK.  A programme of seminars and artists talks also gave a platform for artists to share the diversity of their concerns and working practices. See a selection of work and feedback on how this has increased people’s understanding of what art can be here

Support for art and regeneration
For the programme to succeed in the long-run it needs support from key decision makers. Throughout the first year key events were designed to bring together decision makers with artists and those involved in regeneration to share good practice and facilitate debate. Open space technology proved to be a valuable tool in opening up the discussion around the role of arts in regeneration whilst A Place to be: Vital Places II used a more traditional seminar approach to attract an audience from the fields of Community Development, Urban Planning, Art, Regeneration and Architecture.

The Big Map series of workshops engaged people in an experimental mapping of the town’s riverside to share their ideas, hopes and aspirations for the town, providing a route into the Master planning process being undertaken by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners on behalf of Pembrokeshire County Council.

See reports on all the events aimed at building support for the role of arts and regeneration here

Annual Report
Each year a report card will be produced analysing what was done, how well it was done and is anyone better off as a result? This will be made available as a download on this page.

 

Featured Image: Drawing from the river – Illustration by Jack Wheatley