1. Fundraising and ownership of the Town Hall
It is increasingly difficult to secure any grant funding for capital developments in a building that is not owned by the charity itself. Currently the hall is owned by the Council, but they are more and more restricted in the money they have available to keep buildings like this going.
We are at a critical point in terms of engaging with an asset transfer process. We have to convince, not just other people, but ourselves too, of the financial and practical viability of any plans and we remain a rather small steering group of trustees. While not guaranteed, it is likely that, if we were to put forward a sound business plan, the decision would go in our favour. It feels like a big step to take, and a long term lease would be another option, but the reality is that the world has changed and councils are not suddenly going to have resources again to maintain or improve Town Halls like ours. This makes the choice a fairly stark one but Dumfries and Galloway Council Asset Transfer Department have indicated they would offer guidance throughout such a process.
We were delighted to win grant funding support from The Heritage Lottery Fund, Awards for All and the Architectural Heritage Fund to a total of £15,000. This allowed us to commission a viability study which explored the feasibility of LING taking over the ownership of the Town Hall. We appointed Creetown Initiative, led by Andrew Ward, to carry this out and the work took place between March and August 2019 resulting in a positive evaluation of the options open to us. The work included a detailed architectural survey of the condition of the hall and what it would cost to bring it up to scratch, as well as recommendations about some of the modifications we might want to make. In particular this included the installation of a lift – a top priority for us.
Funding will be needed to pay for the full costs of this process, including, we very much hope, the employment of a part time member of staff. We had a huge boost, following an application to the Blackcraig Wind Farm Community Fund in August 2019 – their first round of funding – when they agreed to a grant of £25,000 towards the installation of the lift. This was followed by a further £7,000 from the Hugh Fraser Foundation. Both are, of course, dependent on our securing matched funding and on proceeding with the Asset Transfer process. All this takes time and we wish we had magic wands to make it happen faster.
2. The New Galloway Story – an exciting new project
LING is delighted to have secured grant funding from the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership for a heritage project that will develop The New Galloway Story concept further. Essentially the idea is to build on some of what has gone before, like The New Galloway Story Exhibition that was mounted in the Town Hall a number of times, and the Paintings and Photographs Exhibition, also in the Town Hall, which was much enjoyed last year.
We also will tap into, and hopefully incorporate, projects which are currently in train, such as the Oral Histories project which is underway, with young people interviewing older residents about their early memories of life in New Galloway; and the Shops and Businesses Trail project which will identify houses which used to be shops etc so local people and visitors will get a sense of how things used to be – not that long ago, actually!
It feels really good to be able to pull these things together under one umbrella. And there may well be other things that will evolve and find a natural home within this development. Some of the history of the Garroch Estate, for example, and the walled garden there.
It’s essentially a ‘heritage’ project, so the intention is to try to capture and value aspects of what has been inherited from the past lives and experiences of those who went before. It’s about people as well as places, and is about how history lives on in the present day.
The project will involve developing three outdoor display boards with a specially designed map of New Galloway indicating places of interest and telling some of the history of New Galloway as the smallest Royal Burgh. The three boards will all be the same, but located in different parts of the Burgh. Also there will be a website, called The New Galloway Story, which will provide more in depth information and can evolve over time with new contributions being added as appropriate.
It is very much a part of the motivation behind the project to engage the interest of a wide range of people from in and around the area. The success of the project will depend on how well this comes to feel like a project people in and around New Galloway want to be a part of. It would just be lovely if people want to share ideas initially and comment on suggestions. There’s lots of material around already that can be incorporated, so I don’t think we’ll be short of inputs. But the planning process will be at the heart of its success.
With that in mind, please do respond to this message with any thoughts, reactions, suggestions off the top of your head. (Or not – no pressure!). If you would like to be kept in the picture, please contact Bob (LING Treasurer)) firstname.lastname@example.org, who is heading up this project, and he can add you to the mailing list for people interested in this project and log any suggestions or comments you may have. We anticipate an initial open meeting will be held on 29th March 2020 in the Town Hall.
3. Walks and Pathways
Some short and some longer local walks are being mapped and tested out by volunteer walkers with a view to providing detailed information on how to find your way. Our intention is to make these available on this website soon.