A historic landmark will light up tonight in support of live venues during the pandemic and to mark a bright future under community ownership.
The Strathpeffer Pavilion, which was built in the spa village in the 19th century and is now used as an arts and wedding venue, was taken over by the community in a deal completed during lockdown.
The Strathpeffer Pavilion Community Trust (SPCT) bought the iconic building from the Scottish Historic Building Trust (SHBT) for £395,000 and this month also took over the Victorian gardens, tennis court and pump house to once again bring the pavilion and adjacent land under single ownership.
The announcement is being made public for the first time, and tonight at 8pm the building will turn red to celebrate and also mark the Light it Red campaign is support of live venues.
The pavilion deal, which was completed in June, was awarded £484,550 from the Scottish Land Fund last year.
SPCT chairman Fraser Mackenzie said: “It has undoubtably been a tough year for everyone and, after everything being thrown into chaos by the Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty in people’s lives these last few months, the trust felt it was not the time for celebration.
“They agreed that it was best to hold off making an announcement until later in the year and to wait until the adjoining land and property was also secured from the Highland Council.
“The purchase of the building and the Strathpeffer estate has been an incredibly long journey, and certainly not without its challenges along the way.”
He added: “I truly believe the community support for the trust has largely contributed to our drive and ambition through some challenging times in bringing the pavilion back home to the Strathpeffer community and securing its future in our community’s hands.”
The pavilion was built at a cost of £2,769 and was a popular venue when visitors flocked to Strathpeffer for spa treatments. George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Shackleton and Emmeline Pankhurst delivered lectures there.
In the 1960s it was a draw for music fans from across the Highlands and hosted bands like The Beatles.
However, after its popularity diminished it lay unused for many years before it was restored.
The voluntary group the Strathpeffer Pavilion Association (SPA) operated the building for ten years under a lease arrangement with SHBT until 2017 when High Life Highland (HLH) secured its future when it agreed a three-year lease.
A local steering group then investigated community ownership and SPCT was formed to buy the pavilion which will be operated by HLH on its behalf under a management agreement for 15 years, subject to formal review after five and 10 years.
Mr Mackenzie added: “It’s a perfect combination of two Highland charities working in partnership for the betterment of the local communities they each serve.
“SPCT will manage the pavilion and the spa estate while also identifying funding opportunities to maintain, develop and enhance the iconic Victorian building and Victorian gardens in the centre of our community for the benefit of our community.
“We really want to see that area of the village vibrant and strong. I am sure that with the enthusiasm and hard work of the trust board and the expertise of HLH – we have the perfect recipe for success.
“Despite the challenges at the point of taking ownership, the board and I are extremely excited about this opportunity and look forward to a long and prosperous future working on behalf of and indeed with the community to ensure the Strathpeffer Pavilion, pump room and Victorian gardens regains its position as an iconic Highland landmark, while at the same time once again becoming the focal point for the village and its residents to enjoy as we return to some form of normality”.
Sandra Holmes, head of community assets at Highlands and Islands Enterprise which delivers land fund awards, said: “The Spa Pavilion is a source of great pride to Strathpeffer and is a key economic asset for the local community as a visitor attraction and providing employment. Ownership will give the community greater control over these important assets and will help ensure its long-term future.”
Steve Walsh, chief executive of High Life Highland, said: “High Life Highland is absolutely delighted to be working with SPCT and continuing to build on the relationships we have been forming while the trust raised the funds to purchase the building.