On the 12th December 2012, myself and the Secretary of of the Kirkton Woodland and Heritage group- Michelle, traveled down to Glasgow for the SURF award ceremony as representatives of the group. We had been put forward by HIE. A selection of judges had visited the project on 18th December 2012, and a film crew had come up on 23rd December to film a little more about the project.
A few of us had met the judges, i found the questions they asked helped affirm the work we are doing locally, we showed them around the tree house and new craft shop, talked about where we had come from, and importantly where we are going and why. We explained about the current un-sustainability in our local community, the rapidly aging population of 47.3% over 60, the drain of working age people due to economic hardship, lack of affordable housing or salaried work in the area. We also plied them with soup and sandwiches provided by Michelle’s business the Carron Restaurant. I suppose we felt a bit embarrassed that we didn’t have any high tech presentation, we are not a suit wearing briefcase wielding group of people. But we certainly are dedicated to our community and are determined, flexible and multi-pronged in our battle to create a future and unlock assets for people in this remote rural area.
We were a little surprised when the film crew came, i dragged myself out of bed with a stinking cold, as i’m the directory that gets pushed forward to always do the public speaking or camera things, not because i enjoy seeing myself or hearing the sound of my own voice, far be it! But I am sufficiently blase to not get flustered by it. I think my experiences of paparazzi like cameras and film crews in Russia has rendered me immune!
So when the 12th came around myself and Michelle headed off by bus from Inverness. Our tireless Local development officer sadly couldn’t make it as she, being the busy bee that she is , was off at another conference. It is Kristine who goes all the hard graft, fundraising and form filling for our community work, we would be lost without her.
The awards ceremony was at the Radisson, nerves were dispelled upon realising of course that everyone was in the same boat. Community workers from all over Scotland who are usually hands on people, sleeves rolled up and wellies on, grafters, all dressed up & looking for familiar faces. It was all very welcoming and friendly, a real warmth was in the room and acknowledgement that EVERY project was doing vitally important work no matter how diverse the project, areas or approaches. Each community has a different set of problems, different resources, assets and people to drive forward positive change. Everywhere there are real pressures now on the poorest people in society and the most vulnerable communities, it can take a massive effort by volunteers to forge through negativity, bureaucracy apathy, financial strife, volunteer burn out, and indifferent regulatory bodies. The awards ceremony felt like a wee reward for folks for all that hard graft. Community work is not a bed of roses, the smiling photographs are the rewards for all that negotiation, patience, arbitration and hours and hours of thankless work. I don’t wish to paint a bleak picture, just a realistic one. I am not disappointed when we hit difficulties, i just accept it as part of the job, challenges to overcome, part of the ebb and flow of community life. However the chance to put on a posh frock , have a nice dinner and meet lots of other people in the same boat was a great reward for that work. I wish the whole committee and all the volunteers could have come along too !
A representative from HIE had come along to accompany us, there were 3 projects shortlisted from the HIE area. It was great to meet other people from rural regeneration projects, making connections. There should be lots of photographs and ( cringe ) films available at some point, i’ll upload them when they come out.
The Scottish government minister for Local Government and Planning. Derek Mackay MSP, gave a very good rallying speech as did SURF Chair Brian MacDonald. One of the judges from each criteria talked about each project that was shortlisted before the winners in each category were announced. I had heard something though, that films of the winning projects would be screened after the announcement, since we’d been filmed, this gave me the heads up that we’d have to do the long walk and a wee thank you speech, adrenalin kicked in and it got a bit fuzzy thereafter! When ours was announced it was wonderful to hear that applause, again i wish we could have canned it to bring back to the village. It was a great honour to accept the award and speak on behalf of everyone who works so hard here. We won the category for creative regeneration, which pleases me especially as being an artist, i believe passionately that Arts should be and can be an integral part of social projects and are not a luxury to be dropped when times get hard. For our project they are key to connecting our rich cultural past to a potential future. But not only that a creative approach to project management can be key to overcoming difficulties. Adopting a holistic approach to seeking social solutions needs to have creative thinking at its heart.
Then there was the meal, interviews, more filming, photo calls, lots of congratulations and happy faces. fantastic. A great night. I said at the time something about how much we had achieved as a community, but that it was only the beginning, we have an awful lot more to do. The award will provide a lift onto the next difficult stage. THAT is another story, watch this space.
The Kirkton Woodland and Heritage Blog about it.
The official SURF website.
What HIE had to say about the night.
the official publication about all the shortlisted projects & winners.
Official picture of us with Derek MacKay MSP thanks to the SURF awards.