2018 has been a wonderful year for me, my charity (The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety) and for the Barony St. John Centre.
As many of you will know, I’ve spent my life helping and sometimes protecting people. On coming out of the military, I set up a social enterprise to help people gain confidence by teaching them how to stay safe and, if need be, defend themselves against an attacker. This evolved in 2013 into the charity it is today – and we have been growing ever since.
This year alone, we reached the London final of The British Quality Foundation’s UK Excellence Awards in the category of Equality and Diversity Excellence; the final of North Ayrshire’s Provost’s Civic Pride Awards in the category of North Ayrshire Community Group; I won a surprise “Trail Blazer” award in the North Ayrshire Partnership Staff Awards; we won the Pioneering Project award in The Scottish Charity Awards in Edinburgh; we reached the Liverpool final of the National Diversity Awards; we won the Diversity in the Third Sector award at The Herald Diversity Awards in Glasgow; one of our volunteers, Yvette Robertson, won the “Volunteer of the Year” award and our charity won the “Team of the Year” award at the North Ayrshire Community Sports Awards; another of our volunteers, Norma Baillie, reached the final of The Cream of Ayrshire Awards in the category of Unsung Hero; and to top the whole year off, I won the Lifetime Achiever Award at the Inclusive Companies Awards in Manchester.
So, I’m sure you’ll agree, a great year for me and a fantastic year for our charity – but what about the Barony St John Centre?
Well, we managed to get funding / raise enough money to replace the broken skylights in the reception, kitchen and office areas; we also renovated the reception / kitchen area and we turned the old vestry into an office. That’s a good eighty per cent of the Barony St John hall building now been renovated.
So what lies in store for 2019?
Well, I’m hoping to raise £35,000 to replace the windows in the main hall. The frames of these windows are rotten and crumbling with many of the window panes cracked and some letting in water.
I’m also hoping to have the entire hall room cleaned (the walls are covered in mildew high up), repainted with damp proof paint and then painted again in a bright, airy colour.
Now that is a HUGE job as the walls are over thirty feet high!
I’m also hoping to get new flooring for the corridor as the existing flooring is patchy and, in some places, missing completely.
Many of you have also been asking what I plan on doing with the church building.
Well, it’s been three years since we moved into the Barony St John and I promised to try to save both buildings.
In 2017, I commissioned a feasibility study to see what we could do with the church building and following extensive discussions with many of you, we decided that the building could be made into an Events Centre with a William Wallace Visitor Centre to attract both visitors and tourists to the town.
In 2018, I made a crowd fund video which highlighted all the uses of the Events Centre (live bands, plays, musicals, pantomimes, weddings, art exhibitions, sporting events, etc. etc.) and the potential to encourage ten per cent of the one million tourists who go to Arran on the ferry every year to come to the William Wallace Visitor Centre (and then on to visit Ardrossan Castle and the rest of the town). I also highlighted the huge amount of jobs this would bring to the area – events staff, bar staff, café staff, caretakers, managers, etc. etc.
Sadly, the video did not generate as much public support as I had hoped – which makes it difficult to show potential funders that local people actually want the building to be saved.
And here is the rub – the roof of the church building is leaking in parts and this water ingress only serves to deteriorate the building further. If left to continue, the building will soon not be worth restoring. And that would be a great loss.
So how can YOU help?
If you want the Barony St John’s church building to continue to be part of Ardrossan’s skyline, please click on our crowd fund video at https://www.gofundme.com/barony-st-john-regeneration and donate the price of a cup of coffee (or more) to show your support for this project. Even commenting on the crowd fund video or dropping us a letter in our letterbox will help demonstrate to funders that YOU want to save these buildings too.
A special thanks must go to Sharon Stirling Smith who donated some of her hand drawn cards featuring her beautiful painting of the Barony St John buildings.
Sharon also offered us some of her Ardrossan calendars –
We will attempt to sell them at our craft fayres in aid of the regeneration fund.
Throughout 2019, I will also try my best to push this project forward. I’ll speak to the Council to see if they can back the project; I’ll contact potential funders and sponsors and see if they can help but if we are no further forward by the end of the year, I may have to accept that an Events and Visitor Centre with all its jobs and economy boosting impact, may never happen.
From my charity’s point of view, all is not lost even if the Events Centre plans fold. We can sell the church building and carry on in the hall building. But from a local community point of view, who will buy the church building and what will it become? Someone’s house? A Witherspoons pub? A carpet showroom?
It’s up to YOU.
So let’s hope 2019 is our year to put Ardrossan back on the map and to save the Barony buildings.
From myself, my charity and everyone involved with the Barony St John Regeneration Project, I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.
If you would like to know more about my charity, please contact us via our website http://www.ScotCPS.org.uk or look us up (ScotCPS) on Facebook or Twitter.
Goodbye for now and best wishes for 2019.