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Community rescue effort transforms this derelict primary school building into an arts and culture centre

The Rockfield Centre in Oban is now a hive of activity.
The Rockfield Centre in Oban is now a hive of activity.

It has taken six years.

But a derelict school building in Oban, once destined to be sold for £1 to make way for flats, has become a vibrant centre of activity.

The Rockfield Centre in the heart of the Argyll town’s centre was formerly Rockfield Primary School.

Oban Communities Trust was formed to step in and save the building for use by the people of Oban.

Arts and crafts workshops.

Covid prevented celebrations when the keys to the newly refurbished £3million building were handed over at the end of 2020.

With the easing of restrictions, and staff now moved in, the community is finally able to use the building.

From the youngest to oldest, all are utilising the space the Rockfield Centre has to offer.

What sort of activities are happening at the Rockfield Centre?

Activities are based around the four themes of arts and culture, education and enterprise, history and heritage and community wellbeing.

Live performances, workshops, classes and both local and national exhibitions have kicked off with the first live performance given by the Horse MacDonald Trio.

This follows on from the successful raft of activities carried out online and in the community huts while renovations were ongoing.

The now well- known Art Explorers and Master Builders Lego Club are located in the main building alongside a range of workshops. These include CalMac’s coastal creatives sea plastics, printing exploration and felting workshops presented by a range of local artists.

Conference space is available.

Winter tales, family fun day and nights, and the young archaeologists club are aimed at younger users and their families.

There are even workshops teaching people to make organic skincare products.

One huge success which was established during lockdown is Rockfield’s nationally recognised Eco Creative Dye Garden. It not only brought a disused space back to life, but also supported a host of international webinars with artists from around the world.

The history of Oban and its heritage is managed by Rockfield’s Heritage Hunters. They host a series of monthly “Blether” sessions with various topics being explored.

An exhibition curated and presented by the Heritage Hunter volunteers is currently on show. “A trip down memory lane – George Street – shops of the past,” includes pictures, artefacts and Oban stories.

Craft workshops

Add to this seasonal arts and craft workshops, poetry and writing classes and the Rockfield Knit sessions.

Eleanor MacKinnon, operational manager, said: “The last few months has been a huge learning curve. We not only hosted our first conference, but our first national exhibition and a host of workshops.

A hive of activity is taking place at the Rockfield Centre.

“It has really brought home just how far we have come in six years.

“Being able to see the rooms busy and used for such a variety of community uses really makes it all come to life. This is the start of the next journey for this much loved building for the next generation to enjoy.”

Gordon McNab, chairman of Oban Communities Trust, said: “It is wonderful to see the latest stage in the Rockfield Centre journey. The lights are on and so much activity is happening in the newly re-furbished building.

“It just goes to show that with an initial determined belief, a driven team and lots of hard work that dreams can indeed become reality.

“I can only pay huge tribute to everyone. Most importantly, our community, for their support in coming so far in such a short space of time.”

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