Tenants First Housing Cooperative (who joined Sanctuary Group in September 2012) secured funding from Creative Scotland’s Inspiring Communities fund to commission a participatory art project that would engage the residents of the newly constructed housing estate of Roanheads in the town of Peterhead in the North East of Scotland.

The Housing estate and its development

Roanheads is situated close to the centre of Peterhead town centre, adjacent to the busy fishing harbour area.  Part of the area retains the original layout from the 18th century, with narrow little streets and cottages sitting alongside pink granite buildings. 

Prior to development by Tenants First, the site was in a derelict state, with considerable ground contamination.  Tenants First aimed to create an attractive and sustainable community development which was sympathetic to the local area. 

A total of 52 properties were built, a mix of 1, 2 and 3 storey houses plus a block of 8 flats.  It was also decided to build the development using Home-Zone principles.  A Home-Zone looks very different from a traditional street.  There are none of the traditional divisions between road and pavement areas.  Other features, such as benches, flower-beds, play areas, trees and fencing are used to control how motorists drive and make it easier for people to use the space.  In this way the street as a whole becomes an extension of the local community’s living space - in other words it is based on the needs of the community rather than the needs of traffic.  

Tenants First/Sanctuary's mission statement

Tenants First works at the heart of communities which makes them well placed to help drive positive change - having the necessary skills and resources needed to complement those already present within their diverse communities so that, together, they can help make a difference.

Rationale and aspirations for the project

Tenants First wanted to create a legacy which not only improved the physical environment but also supported the building of capacity both in individuals and in the community itself. Recognising the key role that the arts can play in achieving this it had always been their intention to carry out a community engaged art project on the development - believing that this would help to create a stronger, more cohesive community and an enhanced sense of ownership and of place.  It was also felt that such a project would make a very positive contribution to the wider regeneration of Peterhead.

Very clear objectives, encompassing a series of desired achievements, were set for the project:

  • To create high quality art work
  • To encourage as many people from the local community to participate
  • To improve the local environment
  • To strengthen the local community

Lead artist

Artist and university lecturer Jason Nelson was selected to lead and develop the project.  Responding to the brief, Jason developed multiple participatory activities through which the objectives were to be met. However instead of working towards one final outcome the whole project became the outcome. 

Initial activities explored how conversations could be instigated with the community using creative activities as a catalyst. Providing a set of circumstances, materials and skills through which ideas could be developed for the project. To a large extent this allowed the engagement with the residents to become fundamental to the production.

To achieve this, where possible, all events took place directly on the housing estate.   A marquee was pitched in the centre of the estate acting as a focal point and physical shelter for the majority of the action. This setting placed the activities that were at the heart of the project physically in the heart of the community.

Many Community events also took place throughout the project including street parties, gala days and charity fundraisers.  A substantial number of people from the community got involved in the workshops, activities and events.  Children were particularly enthusiastic participants but many adults also gave of their time and took an active part. 

All this means that within the community there is a real feeling of ownership in what the project has achieved.  Local people have played a leading role in developing, delivering and managing the project and the result of this is a stronger community with more confident and skilled individuals.  The project has contributed to an increased sense of pride, both within the Roanheads community and Peterhead as a whole.

Through this website there is documentation of the project and a short description form lead artist Jason Nelson outlining the thinking behind each activity.

The Scottish Government, Aberdeenshire Council, Banff & Buchan Arts Forum, Arts & Business Scotland and local firm Strachans also made financial contributions and sponsorship in kind to support the project.

Project commissioner

Eleanor McEwan

Project manager

Jacqueline Shortland  


Urwin Digital

Sanctuary HousingBBAFAberdeenshire CouncilThe Scottish GovernmentArts & Business ScotlandLottery Funded