Merry Christmas from myself and everyone at The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety. Let’s hope the Barony St John gets the Christmas present it deserves….funding to save it.
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”.
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.
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.
As many of you know, I bought the Barony St John church and hall buildings back in December 2014 – almost five years ago now. Since then, I have strived to renovate the hall building as a base for my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety, and looked at how the church building could be saved.
The church building closed around 2010 and with the heating switched off, the radiators burst after the first hard frost which brought down parts of the ceiling below the upper gallery.
Additional roof leaks have seen other parts of the plasterwork collapse but I was sure, that with support from North Ayrshire Council, we could get funding to repair and renovate this iconic building and perhaps even bring some jobs to Ardrossan.
My plans have been published many times over the years – turn the church into an Events Centre which could be a venue for live bands, plays, pantomimes, wedding fayres, art exhibitions, sporting events, etc. and this would, in turn, generate jobs and signpost people to come to Ardrossan from all over Ayrshire and beyond.
The outside gravel areas of the church buildings could also be enclosed in glass and become a William Wallace Visitors Centre with a fantastic view of the seafront.
We have been provisionally donated the Wallace “Braveheart” statue which used to reside at the foot of the Wallace Monument plus a replica of his sword and other historical memorabilia to highlight Wallace’s routing of the English garrison at Ardrossan Castle in 1296.
We all know how American and other tourists love Scottish history and if only one percent of the one million tourists who head across to Arran on the Ardrossan ferry each year visited this Centre, it would equate to 10,000 visitors staying in Ardrossan instead of driving through our town.
Throughout 2017, we showed our plans to the local community including Open Days in the Barony St John hall building. Over 450 local residents took part in our surveys and in 2018 we published a Feasibility Study showing that the local community, through various public events, unanimously agreed that the buildings should be turned into an Events and Visitor Centre.
But unbeknownst to me, there would be three elements which would stand in our way – Greed, Bigotry and Corruption.
You see, instead of seeing the many benefits an Events and Visitor Centre would bring to Ardrossan (the saving of an iconic building which features on almost every photo of Ardrossan’s seafront; an influx of tourists and visitors resulting in increased spending in local shops; the creation of more local jobs; the development of the seafront; etc.), many “movers and shakers” came up with excuses of why not to support the project.
Everything from a rivalry between Ardrossan and other towns – “Why can’t we build an Events Centre in Saltcoats instead of Ardrossan?” and “Why should Ardrossan get all the tourists?” to people wanting their share of what they saw as a potentially lucrative pie – “Why should your charity get all the profits from an Events Centre, we want our own Events Centre for our club / society / group?” and incredibly “We don’t want anything to do with William Wallace because he represents SNP and Independence”.
It seems that despite the local community wanting to save the Barony St John buildings and turn them into an Events and Visitor Centre, the “movers and shakers” can influence North Ayrshire Council, and without their backing (not necessarily financial) this project will not be funded by the likes of the Big Lottery.
So as the church building continues to decline and the likelihood that it will be put up for sale again looms, I have one question for the “movers and shakers” – if the Barony St John will not be used as an Events and Visitor Centre, what will it be used for? Or will this iconic building soon be no more?
Take a look at the photo of our coastline with and without the Barony and tell me what you think – or better still, tell North Ayrshire Council.
Just a quick update to inform you that the total amount raised in our Titan Crane fundraising abseil was £1,738.16
Many thanks to the nine supporters who abseiled off the 150ft crane in Clydebank –
David Bell, Aimee Bell, Norma Baillie, Michael McAllister, Jamie Cuthbertson, Colin Hamilton, Karen Lavery, Helen McMillan and myself (Alan Bell).
Thank you all for your support.
Our fundraising Fashion Show was intended to help raise funds for some much needed renovation and repair work to the Barony St. John buildings but it turned into something much, much more than that.
Over the last year my charity, The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety (ScotCPS), has worked alongside various charities and businesses representing registered blind people as I developed a Big Lottery sponsored personal safety course specifically for the blind and visually impaired. One of these businesses was PrioritEyes, a North Ayrshire business that provides specialist rehabilitation and support for people who have low or no vision – and it was from PrioritEyes that I got some of the “modelling” team for our Fashion Show.
The gathered audience of almost fifty people cheered and clapped as the models, many using long canes to guide them down the catwalk, strutted their stuff. But when I saw Gillian and the rest of the PrioritEyes models come onto the catwalk, I got a lump in my throat.
It was a very emotional experience and I was so proud to be involved in it.
Gillian Morrow lost her sight about a year ago but then she also found out that she had breast cancer. The subsequent chemotherapy resulted in her losing all her hair but she is a real trooper. Gillian’s own words best describe her feelings;
“I have had a gruelling time with the cancer treatment and at one point I had to move out of my family home to a flat as I couldn’t cope with how it was affecting my family. Although my husband and children are extremely supportive, this Fashion Show was invaluable for me. I know that sounds like an exaggeration but after being bed bound, I was in a wheelchair for some time and I only got my long cane mobility training on Wednesday, so this was the first time I have been able to participate in anything since December. I can’t describe what a positive effect this day has had on me. It’s a massive “one-off” experience that has made me feel like my old self again.”
The visually impaired models, some as young as 11yrs old did us all proud and registered blind founder of PrioritEyes, Norma Bailey, said; “It was fantastic that so many people with low or no vision were involved in this event. Dressing in terrific outfits, walking the catwalk with our long canes and hearing the cheers of the audience, made it an amazing experience for us all and a wonderful day to remember.”
The Fashion Show raised £615.45 and raffle prizes for the event were donated by various local businesses including M&Co, The Kandy Bar Bakery, Garfields, P&M Property Services, The Saltcot Wetherspoons, Cassandara’s Café, Saltcoats Tescos, Stevenston Morrisons, B&M, The Red Squirrel, A. Lothian Butchers and Belhaven Pubs & Restaurants.
I am extremely grateful to everyone involved in making this day happen from the businesses who donated raffle prizes to M&Co for allowing us to run the event in their store, our trustees and volunteers who helped organise the day, all the people who came to watch and support the event and especially the models. Thank you all for making this such a memorable day.
For more information on the Fashion Show and what the fundraising day has managed to finance, check out my charity’s Facebook page on http://www.Facebook.com/ScotCPS but in the meantime, here are a few more photos from the event. 😀
……Okay, our “little job” of clearing the small hall room of debris had turned into a mammoth task.
Paul and Peter (our builders from P&M Property Services) had to don coveralls, face masks and hard hats as dirt, sand, plaster, rubbish and debris of all sorts rained down on them.
We’re guessing that some of the sand used to mix the cement between the sandstone blocks of the walls may have been taken directly off the beach in front of our building.
Strangely, as the dust settled, Paul was left covered in white dust and Peter was covered in black dust.
I’m wondering who’s the saint and who’s the sinner. LOL 😀
And the van load of rubble bags turned into several van loads….
But we need about £20,000 to transform the room into a Training Room – so if anyone reading this knows of a sponsor, funder or someone willing to donate money towards what will be a great room for our charity when dealing with female and child victims and the most vulnerable groups of our society including people with disabilities and the elderly, then please get in touch or click on the “Donate” button on our website http://www.ScotCPS.org.uk
I’d like to say a huge “Thank You” to The Hugh Fraser Foundation for donating £7,000 towards this project.
Every £1 helps and goes directly to this project. No-one at the charity gets paid (including myself) and all the money donated is accounted for to a Board of Trustees and OSCR (I say this to put people’s minds at rest, as far too many charities pay their CEOs a fortune or siphon money into other costs / salaries before they fund the project they are highlighting. We are not one of those charities!)
Many thanks for your help and support, in advance.
Alan – The Ardross-man