“In the Footsteps of Geddes” engaging young people with place & heritage

Wojciech Borowski, Project Coordinator at PAS, reflects on the two-year Heritage Lottery funded youth project.

The last day of March saw the end of the project that I was leading since I became a team member at PAS in 2016. Over the course of two years, we engaged a wide variety of groups of young people across Scotland with place and history.

The project explored the Geddesian approach of talking and learning about place through visual education. The ultimate goal was to improve young people’s engagement with the heritage of their area, introduce them to new digital technology and to promote ‘active citizenship’. You can learn and see more, including the panoramic images and 3D models created by the participants, by visiting the project website www.inthefootstepsofgeddes.com.

One of the issues commonly experienced by young people is the distance between them and the things that they want to do and see. Thanks to the generous funding from the HLF, PAS was able to be indiscriminate about where the project could be taken and who could take part. We worked in Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline in Fife, Possilpark in Glasgow, Oudenarde near Bridge of Earn and Kinross in Perth & Kinrosss and Lochgilphead in Argyll and Bute. Our organisation’s first was the series of workshops that took place at the Young Offenders Institution in Polmont.

We put heavy emphasis on engagement with ‘seldom-heard’ groups and individuals. Because of this we teamed up with Article 12, an organisation supporting some of the most marginalised young people, such as young Gypsy/Travellers. A result of this was an interactive workshop followed by a visit to a heritage site, courtesy of Historic Environment Scotland (HES also supported us in other project locations). Moreover, we cooperated with the Scottish Prison Service and Fife College to engage a group of young men at HMP&YOI Polmont; the group enjoyed interpreting the Place Standard tool in the context of the establishment and engaging with the guest speakers, Scottish Historic Buildings Trust’s Russell Clegg, presenting on the various building trades and professions involved in historic restorations, and Jenny Wood, a planner and researcher, talking about the rights of children and young people in the context of the current planning process and placemaking.

I recognised from the outset that for the project to be successful in its ambitious aims of engagement, its framework must be very flexible. “In the Footsteps…” was as deliverable as a one- or two-day activity day, as it was a part of the high school syllabus or an element of a community day. Our partners offered us a lot of open-mindedness and creativity in interweaving the project into their existing activity programmes and curricula.

Here is what young participant Connor Campbell from Lochgilphead had to say about IFG:

“[It] was an amazing programme […] during the summer holidays. […] I think this project was amazing in teaching us how to use technology and telling us what we could do to help out our community”

Raymond Flanagan of Mid-Argyll Youth Forum:

“[The] project went a long way to inspire digital creativity in young people who would not have had the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful and innovative endeavour. Through a series of workshops delivered by PAS, the young people were able to express themselves succinctly both in nonverbal actions and through the imagery of text and drawings. The introduction of Google Cardboard to the group was mind blowing.”

Diane Cassidy of Perth & Kinross Council:

“We planned for the project to take place in conjunction with a family fun day […]. Oudenarde was identified as an area challenged by no access to facilities or links to the wider community. […] It was good to have the Geddes displays out, people using the Place Standard tool and the Google Cardboard viewers. [This] opportunity will form the groundwork for taking forward future projects to enable community to take an active role in developing their area”.