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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

A Boardwalk over difficult terrain


Fiona Doring on Impact Arts' new facility and what it can provide

As we emerged from the pandemic, Impact Arts, the charity that I lead, became increasingly aware of just how much of a need there was for face-to-face connections and hands-on activity with the people we support.

Working with those living with poverty and adversity we know that creative engagement projects are an incredibly effective way to make a difference to their lives.

This week we are delighted to formally launch our new headquarters, The Boardwalk, in Glasgow’s Merchant City, a fully accessible building in the heart of the city that includes a theatre auditorium and studio theatre, plus four additional flexible spaces suitable for dance, performance and rehearsals and a visual arts studio, all of which are also bookable as work spaces, meeting, conference and seminar rooms, for both the voluntary sector and corporate hires.

Despite the cost of living crisis, at Impact Arts we knew we wanted a roof over our heads and a vibrant base for our work. We work in communities all over Scotland, improving wellbeing and attainment of children through art therapy, empowering young people to realise their potential through employability programmes and reducing the social isolation of older people. 

We also work with people experiencing homelessness, with young parents and with those involved with the criminal justice system. Like so many voluntary organisations we had grown into, and grown out of, a number of homes, often clearly unsuitable in location, or condition for the vulnerable people we work with.

The Boardwalk is one of the city’s hidden gems, and many locals aren’t aware we are here. We want to shout about our new home with its lovely central courtyard and full access. We’re trying to turn this building into a friendly, safe and trauma-aware home for our work, and a new centre for social impact that we are filling with art and warmth.

With free bus travel, young people can come from all over the city, and beyond, to learn in suitable and discreet bespoke arts spaces, for creative, focused work. Our offer for others is flexible and responding to the needs for ad hoc space. For example, we know there’s a recognised lack of spaces for dance in the city. But our building won’t just provide for our Glasgow communities. We are a social enterprise, and the money we raise from hires, events, and from our long-term tenants (currently we have inclusive theatre companies Solar Bear and Birds of Paradise in the building) will help sustain the work we do with people living with poverty across Scotland.

In the last three decades Impact Arts has grown from a small arts project to Scotland’s leading organisation using creative engagement to tackle poverty and inequalities, supporting people to achieve their potential. Last year we reached 4,000 people in 10 local authorities across Scotland. Impact Arts has a core team of 60 staff and each year we employ and train around 80 artists and creatives to deliver our work, ranging from art therapists to DJs.

Typically, we work with young people with few qualifications or at risk of disengaging from school: formal education may not have been for them, but we advocate that learning is. It’s hands on learning in an art studio with artists, it’s therapeutic and it gives people a voice and chance to express themselves. Many of our young people have mental health issues or are neurodiverse, and through a 12-week programme with us they will develop confidence, gain SQA accreditations and will see themselves supported on to the next stage.

At our recent showcase in South Lanarkshire, one of our teenage participants told us that his 12 weeks with Impact Arts was the most impactful thing he had undertaken in his life.

While we support the magic of creativity, that's not to say our participants will go on to have creative careers but the creativity gives them confidence and sparks something that helps change.

People are crying out to reconnect and to meet in person; artists and creatives are desperate to make work and perform. For all the people who come through the doors of The Boardwalk, we hope that a little bit of arts and creativity will rub off. A Boardwalk is a safe pathway over difficult terrain and that’s how we see both our new home and our longstanding mission.

Fiona Doring is CEO of Impact Arts.



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