Back in 2014, The Big Lottery announced that it was launching a new funding programme called ‘Our Place’ which would give money to certain towns in Scotland which it deemed to be in “an area of extreme deprivation”. It then announced that Ardrossan in North Ayrshire would be getting £1.6 million to be spent on projects which would benefit the local community – and the good news was, the local community could decide what to spend the money on.
Obviously, being based in Ardrossan, this peaked my interest and my charity wondered if any of the money would find its way to helping us open a Centre in the iconic Barony St. John church and halls offering our courses and advice on how to stay safe as well as offering community access to our buildings.
Street surveys and door-to-door surveys were carried out last year which resulted in Our Place publishing the local community’s “Top 10 ideas to make Ardrossan a better place to live“;
1. Upgrade Glasgow Street & Princes Street.
2. Activities for young people.
3. More shops / amenities.
4. General tidy up of environment.
5. Develop Seafront and wasteground.
6. Employment opportunities.
7. More funding and investment.
8. Sport / Leisure facilities.
9. Better play facilities.
10. Social space for young people.
To be honest, this was like a dream come true for our charity and our plans for the Barony St. John because we ticked almost every box the local community were looking for;
- Upgrade Glasgow Street & Princes Street – well, the Barony St. John is on Princes Street.
- Activities for young people – our plans to open our Centre for public exercise, dance and fitness classes as well as providing a social hub classroom where young people could log onto laptops, connect to the internet, play games and check Facebook and generally hang out together. 🙂
- More shops / amenities – our overall plans are to open an Events Centre with a William Wallace Visitor Centre attached and a cafe. This will obviously provide more amenities to Ardrossan as well as a gift shop for tourists.
- Develop Seafront and wasteground – we are on the seafront and the ground around the church is becoming an eyesore, so again, this was a plus point for us. 🙂
- Employment opportunities – our Events Centre, a William Wallace Visitor Centre, gift shop and cafe will obviously need manned so our finished project will provide extensive employment opportunities.
- More funding and investment – As tourists and the surrounding communities come to the various bands, music festivals, musicals, wedding fayres, weddings, plays, etc. that we intend to run, the reputation of Ardrossan as being a major attraction will increase and so in turn will funding and investment in the area (outwith the funding and investment for our project to come to fruition).
- Sport / Leisure facilities – with a huge hall we plan to offer a variety of sport and leisure related classes from martial arts to meditation, dance to circuit training.
- Social space for young people – outwith our planned classes for young people, we will have our Training Room / social hub where young people can not only enjoy leisure activities on laptops but also learn how to write a CV, update their interview skills and get advice on how to pass a job interview.
But despite our project looking like it was exactly what the Our Place funding was for and exactly what the people of Ardrossan wanted, back in October of last year, I had my first “psychic” premonition;
Little voices in my head told me that the £1.6 million Our Place money would not get spent on the Barony St. John or indeed anything that the people of Ardrossan wanted – instead, it would get spent on the following;
- The restoration of Ardrossan’s Castle ruins incorporating a heritage centre.
- The beautification of shop fronts on Glasgow Street.
- The building of an extension at the rear of the Church of the Nazarene on Glasgow Street.
- The construction of an art trail leading from the Nazarene’s extension to…..guess where?…….the Castle, of course.
Now, it has to be said, my psychic predictions were met with some ridicule – I mean, how could the majority of the Our Place money be spent on the Castle when the Castle was not even mentioned by the public in the survey?
How could Lottery money be spent on shop fronts when the frontage of shops is the responsibility of either the shop owner or the Council?
What good would an art trail do for the local community?
It has to be said, most people felt my “premonitions” were ridiculous.
But in November of last year, I heard more “voices”;
To promote public interest in the Castle, Our Place would spend £30,000 funding a ‘fun day’ which would lead to promoting an archaeological dig at the Castle which would lead to a small find of artifacts which would lead to calls for a place to display the finds, which would lead to discussions regarding the restoration of the Castle which would lead to…….guess what?……..yep, the restoration of the Castle and the building of a heritage centre.
This premonition was obviously ridiculous because as I was told “IT’S NOT WHAT THE PUBLIC WANT!” and “THERE IS NO WAY £30,000 IS GOING TO BE SPENT ON A ONE-OFF FUN DAY.”
And they were right, the public had their Top 10 ideas of how the money should be spent and obviously the Castle wasn’t on it so there was no way the money would be spent anywhere other than the public’s Top 10 ideas.
But in December 2015, I made another prediction;
The art work on the art trail leading from the Church of the Nazarene would not be done by local artists but instead by a Glasgow based artist. As the mists cleared on my crystal ball, a name appeared –
Peter McCaughey – I was convinced this was the artist who would be used despite an abundance of local artists and youth art groups in Ardrossan and the Three Towns area.
“NONSENSE” people said. First of all, there have not yet been any public meetings, focus groups or working groups to discuss how the money would / could be spent – and the only surveys that had been done had never mentioned an art trail. “IT’S TOTALLY RIDICULOUS” they said and obviously, as an art trail had never been discussed, there was no way an artist could have been mentioned let alone decided yet.
But just when it looked like all my premonitions were ridiculous, strange things began to occur –
At the beginning of December 2015, the first public focus groups were set up by Our Place and it was decided that the £1.6 million would be split into different projects under four different categories –
- Art, Music and History
- Young People
- Opportunities for All
- The Environment
Now, I know what you are thinking – “WHERE DID THE ART, MUSIC AND HISTORY CATEGORY COME FROM?” Obviously this was never mentioned by the public in the initial (and only) public survey, so you’d be right to question why this category had suddenly appeared.
Or maybe you were thinking “WHAT FOCUS GROUP MEETINGS?” because even more mysterious was that these “public” meetings were never advertised and were actually invite only – so the majority of youth groups didn’t know about the Young People’s group meetings (luckily Ardrossan Youth Group were invited);
The majority of people interested in protecting the environment didn’t know there were Environment group meetings being held;
The majority of groups catering for the disabled, the elderly, the disadvantaged, etc. didn’t know there was an Opportunities for All group;
And the majority of artists, dance instructors and musicians (except Ardrossan Music Experience, Capall Dorcha Theatre Company and Ayrshire Film Company) didn’t know about the Art, Music and History group – it’s just as well the Castle Heritage group, Ardrossan Music Experience, Capall Dorcha Theatre Company and Ayrshire Film Company were all personally invited to attend or they wouldn’t have known either.
It’s all very strange.
Maybe there would be a future event to promote the Castle with Capall Dorcha putting on a medieval play and Ardrossan Music Experience providing the music and Ayrshire Film Company videoing it????
But no, of course not, that would stink of pre-planning and foul play.
Maybe only the groups invited would get funding – but no, of course not, as that would mean the whole funding pot had been pre-designated and the whole “public meetings” would be a sham.
Anyway, I was delighted to see that the first of my “psychic predictions” came true in May 2016 when The Big Lottery announced that the first grant of money from the Our Place fund would be spent on……do you want to guess?…….yep, a fun carnival day at …….. the Castle.
So 7 months after “hearing voices” of how the money was going to be spent – and before ANY formal discussions – I had successfully predicted EXACTLY how the Our Place money was going to be spent.
But getting this psychic prediction right was tinged with sadness because my premonition was not “exactly” right. I predicted a fun day at the Castle and the event would actually only be a half day (12 – 4.30pm) …….. and I had said they would get £30,000 for the open day whereas they actually got more than that. The official announcement from The Big Lottery read;
“The £53,304 Big Lottery Fund grant will enable Ardrossan Castle to come alive on Saturday June 18 with the sights and sounds of medieval Scotland in a special celebration reconnecting people with their local heritage.”
Spookily, just after this announcement, I had another psychic vision –
Money under the Young People’s category which has been set aside for “youth projects” would be spent on a climbing wall at……..guess where?……yep, the Castle. In my vision, the climbing wall was very similar to that near Culzean Castle (see photos below).
Once again, I have had this premonition met with ridicule as people firstly said, “THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF ARDROSSAN DON’T WANT A CLIMBING WALL – THEY WANT MORE SPORTS FACILITIES IN THE TOWN WHERE IT IS ACCESSIBLE”, then they argued “THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF ARDROSSAN WON’T WANT A CLIMBING WALL UP AT THE CASTLE” and finally “MOST OF THE YOUTH GROUPS IN ARDROSSAN HAVE NOT BEEN ASKED ABOUT HOW THEY WANT THE MONEY SPENT YET”.
Regardless of people’s ridicule, I’ll still stand by my psychic predictions.
It’s true that the public have made it clear how they want the £1.6 million Our Place funding spent and their aims are very much different to my predictions.
Nothing else has been discussed yet, let alone decided, and yet I have “heard” how the Our Place money would be spent, months before anything has been formally discussed, agreed or announced!
So surely if my predictions come true, I must truly be psychic? How else could I possibly know????