Becoming Awesomestow
GSA Exhibitions

Event Type:



Ground Floor Corridor, Reid Building, The Glasgow School of Art, 164 Renfrew Street, Glasgow, G36RT


11 Apr 2015 - 26 Apr 2015

Mon 10:00 - 16:30
Tue 10:00 - 16:30
Wed 10:00 - 16:30
Thu 10:00 - 16:30
Fri 10:00 - 16:30
Sat 10:00 - 16:30
Sun 10:00 - 16:30



Walsall Waterfront
designed by Will Alsop for Alsop Architects, part of the Archial Group

Becoming Awesomestow

Event info

Becoming Awesomestow

Julie Ramage and Dr Lorna Hards with Dr Nicky Bird
Reid Ground Floor Corridor
11 April - 26 April 2015

Preview 10 April 5-6pm

This exhibition presents the findings of a research project funded by Nesta’s ‘Bright Ideas Fund’ profiling investments in cultural assets in small and medium sized towns and their effects on regeneration shown through a selection of collated photography, visual material and narrative accounts.

Speaking in the third of his Reith Lectures in 2013, the artist Grayson Perry characterised creative place-making:
“This idea, you know the currency of bohemian-ness…especially in the urban ecology…artists move into the cheap housing and the cheap spaces and they make them...”

Perry’s reference was to a phenomenon in urban regeneration, made popular in the 1990s and 2000s [and accounted by Florida, Leadbetter, Markusen and others in the academic literature], whereby run-down, post-industrial areas become inhabited for work and living by artists and creatives and which subsequently take on a bohemian charm or cool and grow in popularity and value and hence becoming ‘Awesomestow’ (a reference to Walthamstow, where Perry had a studio).
During the late 1990s and 2000s many UK cities and towns attempted some form of creative industries or cultural quarter initiatives. These often aimed to regenerate town centres, address issues of urban decline, redress some town planning decisions undertaken in the 1960s and 1970s and tackle socio-economic problems (worklessness and participation, skills etc). Cultural assets (threatres, concert halls, galleries etc) were sometimes regarded as catalysts within such initiatives, attracting further investment and creative talent. With relatively predictable budgets and organisational structures, such cultural assets they were also seen as supporting less structured parts of the sector (predominantly small and micro-businesses) at policy level and in the development of sector skills and audiences.

In this study, we looked at three case studies of towns that undertook investments in cultural assets in the past 10 – 15  years. These were Lerwick, Walsall and Dunfermline. The examples were chosen to cover different investment types in terms of varying socio-economic profiles, metropolitan and remote settings, cultural and social variation, Scotland and England.

Our aim was to use a combination of visual and oral narrative accounts sourced from stakeholders in each town to assemble evidence of ‘Strategic Added Value’ that the formal economic impact assessments often refer to, but do not always fully capture. Our investigations show that while the original visions and masterplans for creating cultural quarters and creative districts in these towns were often idealistic, the new venues have stimulated practical and varied activities and benefits, in keeping with local needs. 

Perry, G. Nice Rebellion – Welcome In, Playing to the Gallery 3, Reith Lecture 2013, BBC, Broadcast 29th October 2013

Julie Ramage has been the Senior Research Manager at the Glasgow School of Art since September 2010. Prior to joining the Glasgow School of Art, Julie was a Senior Consultant at the economic development consultancy, SQW, where she specialised in the creative, digital and media sector. Julie worked on many creative industries regeneration and sector development projects across the UK including in Manchester, Salford, Glasgow, Middlesbrough, Leicester, Preston, Nottingham and Norwich. She also worked on ICT-related projects in Scotland and the North of England. Prior to joining SQW, Julie held posts at New Media Partners and Analysys and served as a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Scotland. 

Dr Lorna Hards' research interests include public art practice, commissioning and policy and the role of art and culture in urban identity and regeneration. She completed her PhD at Birmingham City University in 2013, which investigated Birmingham's evolving public art forms (from sculpture to socially-engaged practice) and their relation to strategy over the past 25 years.

Dr Nicky Bird is an artist whose work investigates the contemporary relevance of found photographs, their archives and specific sites. She has explored this through new photography, bookworks, and the Internet creating artworks that make visible the process of collaboration with people who have significant connections to a hidden history. Her latest project Peripheral Visions: Photography & Placemaking at Scotland’s Rural Edge proposes to bring together the themes of land, photography and other interdisciplinary practices to enable dialogue about pasts and futures related to Scotland’s ‘fragile’ rural communities. Recent exhibitions include Family Ties; Reframing Memory, The Peltz Gallery, London (July 2014); Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present, National Gallery, London & CaixaForum Barcelona, Madrid (2012-13); 21 Revolutions, CCA, Glasgow & The Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh (2012-13). Published works include Beneath the Surface/Hidden Place (Edinburgh: Stills, 2010), and ‘Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth: Generosity and the Digital Exchange of Family Photographs’ in The Photograph and The Album: Histories, Practices, Futures edited by Jonathan Carson, Rosie Miller & Theresa Wilkie (MuseumsEtc, 2013). Nicky is a PhD Co-Coordinator at the Glasgow School of Art. She is also a member of The Family Ties Network, a research group of writers and artists.