Kirkcaldy Old Kirk is the “B” listed former Parish Church in the heart of the town. Its iconic square medieval tower has loomed over the buildings of Kirk Wynd since the 15th century and its oversight of the town’s affairs on the harbour and High Street is commemorated in one of the fine stained glass windows by John Clark with the image of the Town House.
In October 2010 when the Church of Scotland declared the Old Kirk surplus to requirements, Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust was formed, after a public meeting endorsed the vision of a group of local people to secure the future of the Kirk, the oldest building in continuous use in Kirkcaldy, and maintain it for the community. The Trust was set up as a building preservation trust under the helpful guidance of the Architectural Heritage Fund and Fife Historic Buildings Trust. Supported by the community with 1200 signatures on a public Petition to the Church of Scotland, Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust (KOKT) succeeded in purchasing the building, due to the generosity of a local businessman, whose father was a former Minister there and whose mother’s memorial window, beautifully created by Crear McCartney, had been installed for the 750th Anniversary of the church’s consecration in 1994.
Since August 2011 KOKT has successfully maintained the Old Kirk as a community venue, heritage centre and an ongoing non-denominational church. There are 3 parts to the building: the medieval tower; abutting it, the main church building of 1807 which replaced an earlier dilapidated church; and a 1960s extension, containing the toilets and a small meeting-room with modest kitchen facilities. A Building Study was commissioned by KOKT early on from Stephen Newsom, Conservation Architect and has guided subsequent developments and alterations, amended in more recent phases by Arc Architects, led by Conservation Architect Tom Morton.
KOKT realised a sustainable future for the building, was essential to pay for its upkeep. It must serve the present day community while encouraging future generations to appreciate it and conserve its heritage. KOKT therefore embarked on a programme of works to enhance the performance facilities for both participants and audiences. This included the installation of a new audio-visual system, re-connection of the loop system, creation of additional toilets, the design of modular staging and movable stage curtains.
Measures followed to improve energy efficiency – roof insulation, insulating the annexe walls and ceiling, double glazing and a major project to repair the vandalised Burne-Jones/William Morris windows. Roof repairs and the creation of a tarmac path through the historic graveyard to assist disabled access to the Kirk were also undertaken.
Today, by purely voluntary effort KOKT has maintained the Kirk and developed its resources to provide a much-used concert venue and meeting space for primarily voluntary groups. We have a healthy mix of social and cultural backgrounds amongst those who use it, with a busy programme of cultural activities, especially musical events, and a steady stream of visitors to view its cultural heritage.
Supporting StatementWe are a community-led organisation – in our roots, structure and aims. The aim of the Trust is to preserve the heritage of the Old Kirk for the community as an ongoing community resource. The project came from community roots in a public meeting and concern amongst local people to preserve their history. KOKT Trustees are elected annually at the AGM by the membership - members of the public who choose to support the organisation. Volunteers from the community undertake all management tasks apart from our cleaner.
The support and involvement of community groups in using the Kirk has been crucial for its success, as the income from hires of the facilities, together with donations, are the main source of revenue. In addition, regular and individual donations and legacies have facilitated capital expenditure. e.g. All the chairs in the auditorium have been sponsored by individuals or groups and currently some £3,000 has been contributed to the planned tower repairs.
The numbers of those using the church as a community venue has risen substantially over the last few years from our standing start. Last year we hosted 40 concerts and Graeme Wilson, leader of Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society, said at one of them that “the Old Kirk has become the venue of choice” for music groups in town. With fine acoustics for music, a good baby grand piano and one of the best pipe organs in the area, the Old Kirk is well-known and well-used by musicians and choirs from the community. Such has been the interest and attendance at the Organ Recital series introduced for our 775th Anniversary celebrations last year that we have had to extend it for another 9 months.
Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society, “Fife’s community orchestra”, is based in the Old Kirk as is Kirkcaldy Music Society, Kirkcaldy Civic Society, Adam Smith and Abbotshall Ladies’ Probus, Kirkcaldy Knit Club and Overeaters Anonymous, while some 32 other groups regularly use the building for music, drama, meetings, talks, training, support and wellbeing events.
Also increasingly popular are Kirkcaldy Civic Society talks and conferences, Doors Open Day events, our annual historical exhibitions and guided tours. We open the church regularly to visitors both local and from overseas, and are working at joining this up in a heritage tourism offering along with other venues in town. For the active, climbing the tower to take in the panoramic view and historical perspective is another highlight of their visit and we are planning for a webcam to include those less able to climb.
As one person said, this is “a sign of hope and increased activity in a town centre suffering from economic retrenchment “. Kirkcaldy Old Kirk is making a contribution to civic pride and raising spirits by its activities, with increased footfall while retail footfall shrinks and KIrkcaldy with its proud history of trade and industry struggles to regain identity in a post-industrial landscape. Our cultural and heritage activities are bringing people to the town centre again as our contribution to town centre regeneration.