Since 1928, Iona Village Hall has been at the heart of the local community and forms part of the lives and memories of local residents and visitors alike. It is our ‘everything’ community space; the place where our children grow up, have birthday parties, perform their school plays, dance, and get married. It forms the backdrop to the collective memory of our community and of many visitors. It is our debating chamber, our stadium, our cinema, our playground, and our gathering place. It is also completely community-led and managed by volunteers.
The original hall, constructed by islanders, was much-loved, but consisted of a single space which was becoming cold & leaking, increasingly expensive to repair every winter and desperately in need of improved toilets, kitchen and disabled access. Knowing that a long-term solution was vital, in 2012 we secured LEADER/Awards for All funding and commissioned WT Architecture and Community Enterprise to carry out a community-led feasibility study for both refurbishment and new build options. Although the old Hall meant so much to us, after careful consideration we decided to take forward designs for a new Hall which would best cater for future generations of islanders.
During this time, it became clear that that an unincorporated organisation was no longer robust enough or, indeed, able to take ownership of the land required. We explored the options available to us and achieved our SCIO charitable status in April 2017.
Over the following six years we worked tirelessly on securing the additional land we needed from the National Trust for Scotland and funding. In July 2019 contractors Corramore Ltd. were appointed and the historic last dance in the old Hall was held.
Islanders were involved in every step of design and decision-making, and were called upon regularly for their wisdom, expertise, muscle and assistance as well as a staggering feat of fundraising. We had unbelievable support from our funders but the ‘heart’ of the fundraising happened here on Iona – running and walking, golfing and dancing, tablet-making and cake bakes, flower walks and plant sales, art auctions and livestock auctions – there was no limit to the ingenuity and generosity.
The new building continues to host all the activities of the old Hall whilst delivering greater flexibility, durability, accessibility and connection to place. Accommodation includes a main hall, two meeting rooms, a kitchen, bar area and ‘gathering space’ to be used as the island’s’ communal living room.
The building was completed in May 2021. Despite facing periods of extreme weather, regularly cancelled ferries and the disruption caused by the pandemic, the strong partnership between the design, construction and client teams helped to deliver a high quality building within an extremely tight budget.
The new Iona Village Hall delivers on our vision to be more than just a ‘village hall’, building on wider strengths of the community such as our social capital, volunteering ethos and creativity and ensuring that community life on Iona continues to thrive.
Supporting StatementCommunity Involvement, Benefit and Impact
The plans for the new building and IVHCT operations were based on exemplary, sustained community engagement over almost a decade. We consulted islanders, local businesses, island diaspora, Iona stakeholder organisations, second-home owners, seasonal staff, regular visitors and day-trippers. We used questionnaires, focus groups, presentations, workshops, meetings, mailing lists and social media. We sought views, opinions and advice at every stage and this embedded a strong consultative culture which has been sustained beyond the building completion.
Build Design and Quality
The design was developed to reflect the scale and form of the neighbouring village buildings and through use of sensitive materials and large areas of glazing create a bright, open and welcoming building that feels like it lies at the heart of village life. External materials were selected for their durability in an often harsh climate. Internally the Hall is configured as a series of warm, tactile, flexible spaces capable of holding numerous different activities within the building at the one time, or opening up to form a fluid and overlapping arrangement of rooms.
Preservation or Enhancement of the Local Built Environment
Iona Village Hall is situated in a sensitive Conservation Area, adjacent to the world’s smallest Carnegie Library and Iona Nunnery, a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It was critical to create a building which would meet the needs of a living community whilst being sensitive to these surroundings. Blue zinc roofs, larch cladding and rendered blockwork echo the slate tones and materials of nearby buildings. Stone walls were constructed in donated pink granite from Tormore quarry, Fionnphort and slate donated by the community on Luing, creating a sense of belonging in the landscape and standing as testament to community collaboration and the generosity of fellow islanders.
Achievements of the Project
The project has been transformative for our island community. After so many years of planning and fundraising our new Hall could not have come at a better, more needed time.
Community events in the new building provided some of the first opportunities for socialising after lockdown, including ‘whole community’ events such as Bonfire Night or Christmas Craft fair and specific group activities such as Playgroup and Ladies’ Group; supporting and involving some of those most at risk of feeling isolated. This has helped restore personal connections and intergenerational relationships which underpin our shared knowledge of our community, our needs and those most vulnerable.
A large proportion of the community have developed new skills and knowledge around use of equipment and looking after the building and have enjoyed Pilates, book-binding, yoga, creative writing, Makaton, history of Iona and much more. These are new activities on the island, specifically enabled by the new spaces. Re-establishing the regular physical activity groups alongside new opportunities has been significant, particularly as the island has no alternative dedicated sports facilities. This winter, we have established our ‘Island Living Room’ sessions which provide regular, informal opportunities to get out of the house and work quietly or socialise with others.