The project has completely renovated a derelict Galloway cottage in the middle of the village of Balmaclellan, turning an eyesore into a vibrant community hub and multi purpose building.
The original concept derived from two main places 1) a general feeling of redundancy and neglect in the centre of Balmaclellan village and 2)The continued ‘over-success’ of the Catstrand in the neighbouring settlement of New Galloway, being unable to host activities and events at the CatStrand. This resulted in a community consultation being undertaken, led by Glenkens Community & Arts Trust, which identified key points that a)the building was currently unused b)there was a need for a building staffed, not run by volunteers c)A project that make the most of the areas heritage d)provided training opportunities and encouraged young people to stay in the area d)complemented and added to the work of the Glenkens Men’s Shed behind the Smiddy building. In order to address these topics, the building had to be sustainable, accessible and well connected. These points were taken forward in the project brief and design. The contractor (Waugh & Sons) took on an apprentice to work on the building project. Through the construction phase a number of ‘come and see’ events were held for the local community to see progress and start to connect to the building.
The project has retained the external structure of the building – which was not the easiest or cheapest approach – but as a result the building yields both community and aesthetic benefits by retaining the look and feel of the Galloway village but providing facilities fit for the 21st century. The choice to retain the external look of a Galloway cottage is in keeping with the surrounding village of Balmaclellan. But we’ve also added an interesting contrast as part of the new build element, which is clad in larch with a zinc roof. This adds a modern twist whilst being entirely compatible in scale.
While retaining the original Galloway Cottage exterior, we brought the Smiddy into the 21st century by using modern technology to reduce energy usage and address the Climate Crisis – the Smiddy is insulated to a very high degree with triple glazing and funding from various bodies and an individual environmentalist has allowed us to install a 12Kw PV solar system which will completely cover the electrical needs.
We are a fully accessible building and aim to be completely inclusive in all we do. There is a dearth of fully accessible buildings in the area and so that aspect has been at the front of our thinking from day one in the design process.
The building is currently operated by the Glenkens Community & Arts Trust (who already run the popular CatStrand facility in the nearby town of New Galloway) means the variety of uses is massive and the project will actually reduce overcrowding in nearby facilities.
Having detailed the physical build in our project description, our supporting statement below goes more into community benefit and impact.
Supporting StatementWe have nominated this project as it is an excellent example of community-led redevelopment and work to support sustainable communities in action.
In addition to Glenkens Communtiy & Arts Trusts' focus on community needs from the outset of the project brief (detailed in the description above), upon completion of the building, community suggestions for naming of rooms and other features were adopted. The completed building displays a range of local artwork and, following suggestions made, quotes and comments from the occupier of the building when it was previously a Smiddy.
GCAT’s role in overseeing the activities of the CatStrand nearby mean the cultural and artistic elements have come to this project easier than most. GCAT have worked really hard to meet the community’s needs. The Smiddy was only formally opened on the 29th November last year but is already a well used and established community facility in the village. We have a regular and growing clientele of community groups, including: Tai Chi , Yoga, the CatStrand Singers, Creative Writing, Writers Cafe, Tin Whistle, Ukulele group. The building is also seeing regular use for meetings both large and small. We have a true multi-use space incorporation a main ‘ auditorium ‘ type room with two smaller rooms available for hire. One of these has extra sound proofing and has been used for band rehearsal and is designated for other ‘ youth’ activities. We also have the Watson room which is a more formal meeting space for smaller groups but which features a display of Donald Watson paintings. The building has already had hires from Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere, Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership, Glenkens and District Trust, Community Enterprise Ltd, Third Sector D and G, Pamela Young Trust, etc.
We are currently in discussion with the South of Scotland Enterprise Agency looking at developing our thoughts on hot-desking / co-working space to assist the burgeoning ‘ working from home ‘ market. There are also discussions underway with D&G College about designating the Smiddy as a remote learning hub.
On the same site and working in tandem with the Smiddy is the Glenkens Men’s Shed which has dedicated areas for wood working , metal working , bicycle repairs and maintenance and general re-cycling / up cycling . They also run wood carving classes and the Shed is open 3 days per week with one evening session. Various art works have also been produced on-site including the forging of 80 ingots which featured in a recent exhibition at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries.
Here are some testimonials from community members:
As a wheelchair user there are no problems with access to any of the facilities in the building, staff and volunteers seem to be really disability aware as well.
I’ve facilitated workshops and attended meetings at the Smiddy, and found it to be an excellent, adaptable meeting place, while at the same time it recalls the space and traditions of the old smithy. Locals and visitors appreciate the sense of continuity, while the same time making use of the very well-appointed modern facilities.