Campaigners who saved Moray town halls and community centres from closure on track to make them thrive

© DC ThomsonElgin Town Hall.
Elgin Town Hall.

After keeping the doors open at their treasured venues this year, community groups in Moray are now aiming to expand.

Six town halls and two community centres were threatened with closure at the beginning of the year by the council.

The proposals were part of cost-cutting plans estimated to save the struggling authority about £185,000.

However, the move sparked outrage among communities who rallied to create new groups in order to ensure they continued to have a local venue for shows and fundraisers.

Now, after keeping the halls open, three groups are aiming to increase the offering from when they were operated by the council in order to ensure they have a sustainable future.

Stacey Macdonald, a director of Elgin Town Hall for the Community, has revealed the group is aiming to tap further into the wedding market.

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Fisherman’s Hall in Buckie are aiming to begin a staff search early next year.

Mrs Macdonald said: “It’s a lot of hard work. We’re all volunteers with day jobs and families. We’re a really different group of people though and we’ve all pulled together.

“The biggest difference is that it has to be run as a business now, which maybe wasn’t the case before. If we’re running at a loss then we can’t pay the bills then the doors have to close.

“It’s a challenge but it’s also enjoyable. It was amazing to have the hall completely sold out when Skipinnish played.”

Glen Campbell, chairman of the Fisherman’s Hall Trust, said: “We’ve had teething problems but everything that’s new does. It’s nothing we’ve not been able to overcome though.

“It’s more than a year since we had our first meeting about taking it over. It’s amazing how far we’ve come but we have to be realistic that it can’t continue like this forever with a committee doing everything so we’re going to look at what staff we can take on.”

Both groups have signed long-term leases with the council in order to give them time to develop proposals that we result in ownership of the popular buildings being transferred to the groups.

Improvements are also being made to Cullen Community and Residential Centre, where monthly coffee mornings are being hosted to encourage people to attend and share their views.

Brenda Gifford, a director of the Three Kings Cullen Association, said: “We’ve been delighted by the enthusiasm and support we have received from the community so far, who clearly value the centre.

“At this early stage we’ve focused on freshening the paintwork and making what improvements we can. We’ve just received £5,000 from The Barrack Trust to replace all the lighting in the building with LEDs.

“We’re currently considering invitations to tender for feasibility studies for future development of the building.”

Long-term leases have also been signed at Forres Town Hall, Findochty Town Hall, Longmore Hall in Keith and at Dufftown Community Centre to allow time to for transfer plans to be drawn up.

Meanwhile, a court hearing is due to take place next month about the possible sale of Cullen Town Hall to a property developer, which is supported by the community council, will take place next month.