Oban Communities Trust has announced the green light to start work on the refurbishment of the main building of The Rockfield Centre.
‘We are absolutely delighted’, said Eleanor MacKinnon, project facilitator with Oban Communities Trust (OCT). ‘This is a major milestone in our journey. Just four years ago the vision to create a community cultural hub in the former primary school was established and here we are today ready to embark on a new and exciting life for the main building at The Rockfield Centre thanks to the support of our many funders and the wider community.’
OCT has announced the works will be undertaken by local firm TSL. Speaking on behalf of the company managing director Andy Knight said: ‘We are delighted to have secured this highly important work on such an historical building which will be of such benefit to Oban and its communities.’
From the start when the community purchased the building in May 2015 it has been a roller coaster few years involving a determined fundraising campaign. Integral to raising funds was a community shares offer and £210,000 was raised from supporters of the project both within the town and further afield. ‘We were overwhelmed with the support given by the community,’ said OCT chairman Gordon McNab.
The first major funder, the National Lottery Community Fund kick-started the capital works fund raising. This was boosted by Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, supporters of Oban Communities Trust from the early development stages which has pointed up the importance of The Rockfield Centre to the area’s communities and the Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (Argyll & Bute Council). Other funders include the Co-op Foundation through its Community Spaces Programme, the first award in Scotland.
Caroline Clark, acting Head of Grants at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), said: “We are pleased to support the Rockfield Centre redevelopment project through our Historic Environment Repair Grant scheme. ‘It’s great to see the local community take ownership of an at-risk building in this way, with plans to create a vibrant, sustainable community space, and we look forward to working with the Oban Communities Trust throughout this ambitious project.’
Jim Cooke, Head of the Co-op Foundations said: ‘We’re delighted the Rockfield Centre is the recipient of our first ever investment into building sustainable community spaces in Scotland. Our funding will help create a hub of activity in Oban where local people can come together to enjoy shared interests and build connections that last across the community.’
In keeping with a community social enterprise project, a raft of contributors have also supported the capital works campaign including The Hugh Fraser Foundation, Scottish Sea Farms Heart of the Community Fund, Bids 4 Oban, MacQueen Bros Charitable Trust, The Crerar Trust, JTH Charitable Trust, Agnes Angus Trust, RBS Community Funding and an Historic Environment Scotland Technical Grant, plus many individual donors and legacies.
The Rockfield Centre is already a thriving part of the community working from two refurbished huts in the former playground. The centre’s many volunteers have helped from the start using their skills to help stabilise the buildings with support from many local trades and businesses. This work transformed the huts to support events from the day the community received the keys.
This vital support gives Oban Communities Trust an operational base to test and pilot activities enabling everyone to get involved. These activities will be ready to transfer to the main building when opened.
Eleanor MacKinnon said: ‘Our volunteers continue to influence and support the development of the project by assisting the various task groups establish the internal ‘kit out’ requirements for the main building as well as being on hand for day to day operations.’
The capital building work is expected to take a year with the main building opening in Summer 2020 when hut activities will transfer to the much larger space ready to grow and thrive.
Gordon McNab, Chairman said: ‘OCT has a committed team of trustees who are just as passionate about the project as the team based in the Centre. Andrew Pinkerton, will continue to lead us through the intricacies of managing our capital works project with the extended design team of Page and Park Architects.’
‘With the mix of social community benefit and a strong economic boost to Oban and area, we can look to The Rockfield Centre being a hugely important ‘beacon’ for our town reaching out in so many ways and a shining light as the heart of our creative and caring community,’ said Gordon.
He added: ‘Oban is developing at a fast pace with more visitors coming to the town than ever before. With an increasing local population and a burgeoning tourist sector, The Rockfield Centre will be an important and vital part of our town centre – a focal point that will not only provide activities and facilities to benefit Oban and the wider area but become a national destination as a centre of excellence across the board.’
Eleanor said: ‘We’re carrying on as we started and ‘doing things differently’. Everyone in the community can be involved and has a say in how The Rockfield Centre will run, what’s on offer and how to make it a focal point for Oban, its communities and its visitors. This project will make a huge difference to the lives of many in our community and support all age ranges to be active and involved.
‘We are all very excited. It is truly the start of a new era for The Rockfield Centre, for Oban its communities and as part of the national scene.’
Alison McNab Tel 07879 646 170
NOTES to Editors
The Rockfield Centre is a former primary school in the heart of Oban that closed in 2007. It lay empty for seven years. A campaign started to save the building. Oban Communities Trust was established (2014) and the building was bought by the community in May 2015. Volunteer groups worked to eradicate wet and dry rot and save the building.
Community activity started in the huts in the former playground. January 2016. Between August 2017 and August 2018, 148 events and activities carried out had an attendance of 4,502 people. In addition 4,561 people attended activities organised by others and held at the centre. Volunteers donated 8426 hours of time – a value of over £130,000. Local trades donated over £89,000 of services in kind to support the project.
The centre has hosted public heritage events, public arts events and creative workshops and enabled additional groups and enterprise to make use of this new resource. The Rockfield Centre has engaged in partnerships to run joint events with Glasgow School of Art, The V&A, the venue for the Venice Biennale Festival of Architecture in Scotland and Locating Lorne project and celebrated live performances from award-winning musicians, poets and playwrights and the hosted the very popular Children’s Lego Club and Art School.
Activities at the centre include Blether Sessions, Camera Club, Open Mic nights, Scratch Choir, Song-Writing and Music Sessions, Yoga and Mindfulness, a Community Charity shop, Heritage events, Exhibitions, Workshops, Art ,Sewing, Weaving classes, Support groups, Children’s groups such as Mini Music, Young Carers, a Community Windband and many different craft sessions. The Rockfield Centre will provide more destination activities to support tourism on a year round basis enabling greater spend and accommodation use and supporting employment opportunities to the benefit of all.’
Volunteers are a vital component of the project which amongst other activity has developed a heritage walking trail, a children’s play map of Oban and archive recordings of various Oban social histories.