As we continue to Celebrate Co-ops Fortnight, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with Co-operative Development Scotland client, Glasgow Canals Co-op. Anna Young, Project Manager for the organisation, took part in a Q&A with us so we could find out a bit more about the Co-op, its purpose and how they #KeepCooperating.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what attracted you to the role in Glasgow Canals Co-op.
I’m Anna Young. I’m the Project Manager for the Glasgow Canal Co-operative and have been working with the organisation for just over a year. I was attracted to the job because I’m interested in the regeneration of the canal waterway, particularly the role that arts can play in bringing it to life, and I’m keen to support its development and use as an asset for the community. It is an incredibly varied job and I work alongside numerous creative businesses at The Whisky Bond which is located right by the Forth and Clyde Canal near Speirs Wharf.
What do you like about working for a co-op? How does it vary from other organisations you have worked for in the past in terms of culture and purpose?
The Co-op has 25 member organisations who are involved with heritage, sports, arts and the community. This includes grassroots organisations and national bodies and makes for a really dynamic and diverse mix of people and skills. The organisation has been shaped by its members and is very much member led. Prior to this role I worked for West Lothian Council for many years, so this is quite a change in terms of the set up, but the collaborative working approach is the same.
Can you tell us a little more about The Glasgow Canal Co-operative?
The Glasgow Canal Co-op was formally established in early 2018 and aims to ‘unlock the potential of the canal to create a vibrant neighbourhood for people to live, work and visit.’ Our area focuses on the stretch of the Forth and Clyde Canal between Port Dundas and Firhill Basin. The area is a real hub for innovation and creativity and the Co-op was formed to help it thrive.
Many fantastic projects, events and activities had been delivered around the canal prior to the Co-op setting up and Scottish Canals has regenerated and developed significant parts of this canal section and continues to do more. The Co-op was developed to strengthen connections between canal-based organisations and encourage people to work together to help shape the area’s growth, and to help deliver events, secure ongoing funding and further promote the canal area.
Members include organisations with a national remit including the National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Opera, incredible sports venues such as Pinkston Watersports and The Loading Bay Skatepark. This is in addition to the Hamiltonhill Claypits Local Nature Reserve Management Committee, Glasgow Sculpture Studios and Agile City to name just a few. Each bring unique experiences to the table and through regular meet-ups and working groups we share ideas and offer mutual support. Our setting, on the Forth and Clyde Canal, is a wonderful asset with a rich heritage and is a tranquil space close to Glasgow city centre and a green transport link.
What have been the key successes to date for Glasgow Canal Co-op?
Some of our most recent projects include rolling out skills training programmes so our members could access the learning and support they needed to progress their business activities. We have worked closely with Glasgow City Council over the past couple of years to support the delivery of a successful National Lottery funded Great Places project. This has been a really positive scheme that has kick-started many pieces of work around our canal area including the development of a Canal Cultural Heritage and Arts Strategy plus support to deliver our annual Glasgow Canal Festival. It also enabled us to recruit our PR and Digital Officer which has been instrumental in raising the profile of the Glasgow Canal.
This has also allowed us to award funding to a number of smaller local projects which will all celebrate what the area has to offer and make the canal’s heritage easier for people to access and learn about. There are some brilliant projects in the works from community pottery and cookery to boat taxis and trips.
The Canal Co-op puts on and coordinates the Glasgow Canal Festival. This event is an opportunity to celebrate the canal, the community and the assets that are here. We plan a day of arts, sports, family fun and nature for all which takes place along the canal every year. Through the festival many members, such as Carnival Arts, come together to support the development and delivery of the programme. We work with many local charities such as Free Wheel North and Bike for Good and strive to make the event as accessible as possible. Unfortunately, like all summer events we had to postpone for this year, however we are hoping to deliver a couple of smaller events closer to autumn instead.
What are the plans for the Co-op in the short and long terms?
We have recently secured funding from Scottish Enterprise which will support our sports venues, The Loading Bay Skatepark, Glasgow Wake Park and Pinkston Watersports, to work together to develop a shared digital platform offering bookable visitor experiences. This will help to strengthen their offer so we can reach out to a wider leisure audience. It will also help to raise the profile of the Glasgow Canal and its many other assets.
Longer term, we will continue to work on projects which raise the profile of the canal as an accessible place for the community, for events and to visit and work.
What does working together allow you to do that couldn’t be achieved by the individual co-op members on their own?
The value of collaboration cannot be under-estimated. It allows us to share ideas, pool our resources, support one another, and strengthen our offer. The breadth of knowledge and skills within our organisation is immense and members are quick to share their own experiences for the benefit of others. It is nice to be part of something and work with organisations that adopt a similar ethos to your own. Becoming a Co-op enabled members to formalise their activities and this has also made it easier to access funding.
The impacts of COVID-19 have been far reaching and unprecedented. During these difficult times we have seen amazing examples of people pulling together to support each other thought the crisis and it is these stories that Co-ops Fortnight 2020 is shining a light on. Has being a co-op at this time been of benefit to you and how has being part of a co-op helped the businesses involved?
It has been an incredibly difficult time for so many people including many of our members and there have been some heart-warming examples of our members working together to support the community during this period. For example, Glasgow Sculpture Studios and Queen’s Cross Housing Association have developed a new creative programme called Sculpture Club at Home. People can join in with free creative workshops enabling families time to spend time together, get creative and stay connected. Craft materials and worksheets are delivered to locals through Queen’s Cross Housing Association and anyone can join in online.
To find out more about collaboration and setting up a consortium co-operative visit: https://www.scottish-enterprise.com/support-for-businesses/business-development-and-advice/work-with-other-companies
o find out more about Glasgow Canals Co-op, please visit: https://glasgowcanal.com/