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The Ardross-man

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October 2019

Over 100 years of Poverty

A couple of years ago, I mentioned that I found a sheaf of paper from 1908 in the former Barony St John Church titled “New Ardrossan Parish Magazine”.

The back of this leaflet has several notices but the one I focused on was the “Poor Fund”. It mentions;

“In course of this month we expect to send out to the poor our supply of coals. The interest of the Crawford legacy has been apportioned by the Poor Fund Committee and given to widows in necessitous circumstances. The annual collection for the poor will be taken as usual in January 1909.”

And under the heading of “Charity Concert”;

“As we are all aware, there is a great deal of poverty in the town at the present time. It is arranged that a Miscellaneous Concert will be given in the Assembly Hall on Wednesday evening, 23rd December. It is hoped that a sufficient sum may be realised so that the deserving children in the town may be supplied with boots. Kindly keep the concert in mind.”

When I first read this, I was shocked at the levels of poverty in Ardrossan in 1909 and I included a photo of some barefoot kids on Princes Street around this time.

I finished the article with; “Aren’t you glad you live in this era though? Times (and lives) were tough then.”

So imagine my surprise when I read a short article in the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald a few weeks ago under the heading “Foodbank” which read;

“Due to the current shortages of a significant portion of items required to go into a food box, the North Ayrshire Foodbank (based in Ardrossan) are advising their voucher issuing agencies and food box hosts that they are currently unable to fulfil requested orders.”

The foodbank hoped to resolve this via a “promised donation” and they hoped to “harvest donations from church and school services”.

It is utterly shocking that in the 110 years between the first article I found in the Barony St John and the foodbank article in last month’s newspaper, that we have not eradicated poverty in Ardrossan.

According to the foodbank’s Facebook page, they gave out 5,124 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis LAST YEAR ALONE.

You can turn a blind eye to all this poverty and have as many gala days, music events and fun parks as you want but the reality is, Ardrossan needs jobs. Ardrossan needs a cohesive economic development plan to bring tourists, visitors and businesses to Ardrossan.

Why hasn’t this happened?

As I’ve asked you to do over the last few weeks, anytime you hear of huge amounts of money being spent on projects, ask your local councillor what’s in it for Ardrossan? What’s in it for YOU? Will YOUR business benefit from increased sales? Will the town benefit from more visitors spending in our local shops? Will there be jobs for the unemployed so they don’t have to visit a foodbank for emergency supplies of food?

If the answer is “No”, ask for the money to be spent on a project that does generate economic benefit to our area. One that does bring jobs to the town.

As always, feel free to email me on Alan@ScotCPS.org.uk and tell me your opinion or visit our website http://www.ScotCPS.org.uk or look us up on Facebook.

Goodbye for now.

Funding Ardrossan’s Future?

In a previous post, I mentioned that five years ago, as it was “an area of extreme deprivation”, Ardrossan benefited from a funding programme called Our Place which gave £1.6 million to “empower local people and organisations to bring about a massive and lasting positive difference to their neighbourhood”.

A survey of the local community at the time produced our “Top 10” list of goals which Ardossanites wanted the money should be spent on;

Employment opportunities; An upgrade of Glasgow Street & Princes Street; Develop the seafront and waste ground areas; More funding and investment; More shops / amenities; More sport / leisure facilities; More activities available for young people; Better play facilities; Social spaces for young people; and a general tidy up of the environment.

With the money all spent, I thought it would be good to find out exactly where it had gone – but the company responsible for distributing the funding, Community Renewals, strangely ignored all the emails and Freedom of Information requests I sent – almost as if they were trying to hide something?

Well, I eventually got a reply from The Big Lottery themselves. You can decide if the £1.6 million achieved YOUR goals;

Capall Dorcha received £149,387 from the Our Place fund to deliver Youth Theatre classes and Easter and Summer workshops for young people and adults in Ardrossan. I’m sure you will all agree – a great, fun way to bring the arts to our schools.

Whitlees Community Centre received £328,378 for a complete upgrade of their kitchen and cafe area which initially seemed extreme (over a third of a million for a new kitchen?) but was revealed to also include wages to employ five new staff.

Ardrossan Music Experience gained £98,950 for musical events including what was originally billed as a “free four-day ‘Sound on the sand’ spectacular”. Unfortunately, I don’t think this took place in the end but we did get The Skids playing on the promenade last year and a further grant of £99,000 included bringing Hue & Cry to the promenade this year.

Yes, there was a bit of an uproar over people being charged £35 for a ticket for an event that they felt had already been funded but maybe bringing events like this to Ardrossan would help showcase our town?

Or would it have been better to upgrade Glasgow Street & Princes Street first, like Ardrossanites originally requested, and then put on events to encourage more visitors to a more attractive looking town?

Speaking of making our town beautiful though, Cunninghame Housing Association, Winton Community Sports Club and my charity’s Barony St John Regeneration Project gained £10,000, £10,000 and £8,000 respectively for feasibility studies to see whether or not our regeneration plans could be taken forward. Despite much public support for our Barony St John plans, we are still waiting to see if the Council / Ardrossan Community Development Trust will help us take these plans to fruition.

A whopping £367,250 was given to the Three Town Growers to expand their growing areas, improve site access and build an eco-cabin.

Ardrossan Castle Heritage Society actually got the first grant of money from the Our Place fund; £57,138 for what turned out to be three carnival events up at the Castle. Although a distant memory now, it demonstrated how we can bring life to the castle ruins through fun, family orientated, historical proceedings.

Ardrossan Youth Association gained a massive £87,000 for their Summer Activity Programme. To be honest, I’m not sure what the money was spent on but your kids must have had a great time.

And I learned that Ardrossan Castle Heritage Society and Ardrossan Youth Association teamed up to receive a further quarter of a million – £250,000 – to build a castle-themed children’s play area, probably on the promenade. I can’t think of a better way to spend a quarter of a million pounds in Ardrossan – can you?

Now, I am sure all these events / projects have been a lot of fun and some have even helped sections of our community – and I am sure many of the groups who received the funding will be able to speak of the many benefits it brought – but the question I have is; “Have they met the Our Place aim of helping to alleviate Ardrossan’s poverty and “extreme deprivation” by providing jobs and economic growth?”

Have they given the Ardrossan community what they asked for; Employment opportunities? Investment in local businesses / infrastructure? More or improved sports and leisure facilities? More social spaces for young people? Improvements to the local environment? An upgrade of Glasgow Street & Princes Street?

Has the £1.6 million funding met its own objective of making a “massive and lasting positive difference” to our town?

I honestly don’t know so I will leave these questions for YOU to answer. Email me your thoughts at Alan@ScotCPS.org.uk – just don’t make a hue and cry about it.

Halloween 2019

It’s that time of year again folks…. Halloween at the Barony St John Centre.

Happy Halloween

Soar like a Rocket

Ardrossan’s coastline view is admired all over the world and instantly recognisable – why? Because the former Barony St John church soars into the skyline like a rocket reaching for the stars. And, in a way, that is what Ardrossan needs to do – reach for the stars.

I’ve been harping on about saving the Barony St John for five years now, but for those of you who haven’t heard or don’t know my plans, here is a short explanation.

Once all the pews are taken out of the church building, it is just a large, two storey building with a fantastic organ feature.

It can become many things but the one thing YOU the community wanted, was for it to become an Events Centre.

Capable of seating over 1200 people, the Barony St John could hold live bands (let’s face it, we don’t always get the weather for seaside open-air performances), musicals, plays; even sporting events such as boxing matches, MMA, martial arts competitions; or how about art exhibitions, wedding fayres, conferences, community activities; or even weddings.

In fact, the building could host 101 events making it THE go-to venue in Ayrshire, attracting people .

During the Summer months, we could team up with local production companies like Capall Dorcha and Ardrossan Music Experience to put on a summer-time programme for children. This would encourage families to come to Ardrossan and when they can’t enjoy the beach (that pesky rain again) they can enjoy an indoor show.

But my idea wasn’t just to turn the Barony St John into an Events Centre which will bring visitors back to Ardrossan and provide much needed jobs and income to the area. Oh no – my idea was to also enclose the gravel area surrounding the front of the church and make this into a seafront café cum visitor centre with historical figure William Wallace as the focal point.

As many of you know, Wallace is connected with Ardrossan Castle as far back as 1296 and you all know how tourists love Sir William and anything connected with him. All we need is one percent of the one million tourists visiting Arran on the Ardrossan ferry each year to turn left at the lights and pop into the Visitor Centre – that’s 10,000 tourists.

Just think of the money they’ll spend in Ardrossan if they actually stopped, got a photo with the Wallace statue in the Barony St John Events and Visitor Centre and were then signposted around Ardrossan via Ardrossan Castle.

Think of how many jobs we would have to create to enable us to cater for 10,000 tourists PLUS thousands of visitors to Ardrossan. YOUR jobs.

The Barony St John Events and Visitor Centre would help develop the seafront area; provide activities and a social space for young people; provide employment opportunities; and will encourage more funding and investment into Ardrossan.

In short, this project will make a massive and lasting positive difference to YOUR neighbourhood.

To make this happen, we need the Council to back us – and not even financially – just back us in producing plans to take these ideas to The Big Lottery or Historic Environment Scotland or other funding bodies.

You see, if the Council aren’t interested in this project, neither will the funders – regardless of how many jobs this will provide or how much income it will generate in Ardrossan.

So, get a hold of your local Councillor and put our case forward. Write to the Council or better still, pop in and see them.

Have a chat with the new Ardrossan Community Development Trust and ask them to support the Barony St John Regeneration Project.

Let’s get this ball rolling.

Our Place?

I’ve been in Ardrossan five years now and I would like to say that it has changed over the years – but I don’t think it has.

My arrival in Ardrossan, back in 2014, coincided with The Big Lottery announcing 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”.

The aim of this funding was to “empower local people and organisations to bring about a massive and lasting positive difference to their neighbourhood”.

Luckily, Ardrossan was named as one of the town’s getting a minimum of £1.6 million to be spent on projects which would benefit the local community – and the good news was, the local community would get to decide what to spend the money on.

Now this really would make a “massive and lasting positive difference” to Ardrossan – but it mystifies me, that despite a £1.6million investment, I still cannot see what differences have been made. Can you?

A business called Community Renewals was given the task of distributing the Our Place Ardrossan funding and they set about surveying the local community – you – to see exactly what you wanted the money spent on.

In the Spring of 2015, following street and house surveys, Community Renewals published the local community’s “Top 10 ideas to make Ardrossan a better place to live“;

 

  1. 15% of the Ardrossan population wanted more activities available on a regular basis for young people.
  2. 12% wanted more shops / amenities.
  3. 9% – Upgrade Glasgow Street & Princes Street.
  4. 9% – General tidy up of environment.
  5. 9% – Develop Seafront and wasteground.
  6. 9% – Employment opportunities.
  7. 9% – More funding and investment.
  8. 8% – Sport / Leisure facilities.
  9. 8% – Better play facilities.
  10. 6% – Social space for young people.

Now, five years later, and struggling to see where any of these goals have been met, I decided to email Community Renewals and ask them what the money had been spent on.

Since 7th August, I’ve emailed three members of their team (including their Chief Executive) and the general “info” address a total of 11 times but so far, I haven’t had any response.

If anyone can help answer the mystery of what projects the £1.6 million was spent on to make a “massive and lasting positive difference” to “alleviate poverty and deprivation” in Ardrossan, please get in touch with me and I will let everyone else know in a future article.

Thank you.

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