For over 100 years the old Village Hall in the centre of the village was much loved and much used by the Community. As the years rolled on, the building, and particularly its kitchen and toilets, was showing signs of old age and needing refurbishment. The hall’s Management Committee recognised this and attempted to raise funds to address these issues but after much debate and consultation it became clear that a new build was the answer.
As we moved into the Millennium another village project was set in motion – a general “sprucing up” of the area around the Boat Hotel including the Station Master’s old garden and the area leading into the Strathspey Railway Station. From small seeds grew an exciting project – the creation of the Community Garden by the newly incorporated Boat of Garten Community Company. The creation of the Community Company enabled the village, with the aid of Moray & Badenoch Enterprise funding, to employ a Community Agent, Lorraine MacPherson. In 2001 Lorraine took on the task of setting up, administering and evaluating a Participatory Rapid Appraisal Survey – a part of which became known locally as the Bean Count Survey. The Community Company sourced further funding from MBSE and Highland Council to contract two Community Development Officers, Lorraine and Anna Barton, who worked with The CADISPA Trust – ‘Conservation & Development in Sparsely Populated Areas’ – to organise a Scoping Study to find out what the residents wanted for the village. Top of the list was a new Community Hall.
The data collected during the survey also provided statistical back-up for an application to fund a feasibility study (2002), a joint project between the Public Hall Committee and the Community Company, into whether the old Village Hall or its site might be suitable for developing a newer, larger community facility. It became obvious that this idea was impractical because the facilities that were needed required more space than the old hall site. Attention was turned to the community owned Playing Field area and the solution of building a new hall on the land adjacent to the playing field was reached after much consultation, planning and research.
A Bright Beginning
To enable this exciting project to drive forward, Boat of Garten Community Hall Company – a company limited by guarantee with charitable status, was founded in May 2004 to take over the project from the Community Company. Over the next two years a Business Plan was created, other halls visited for ideas and applications for funding made by the Community Development Officers, who were still funded by the Community Company. 2005 and 2006 were nail biting years for the village as it waited for the results of these applications and worked hard to raise over £100,000 to support the project, including a donation of £5,000 from the Community Company raised from a number of festivals and events. Eventually with all the funders in place (and a hefty sigh of relief) the process of going out to tender for the construction work began. By mid June 2006 a project team and main contractor had been appointed. The dream was about to become reality. 15 months later, on the 18th August 2007, the new Boat of Garten Community Hall was opened by Councillor Angus Gordon.
The aim was to build a hall that would fulfil the needs of the Community for many years to come. Therefore it had to be as flexible as possible and, being in the Cairngorms National Park, as eco-friendly as was practical.
Since then these aims have been achieved. The building is practical yet flexible, having a large main hall with stage area, storage and a control room for sound and light, a comfortable lounge for smaller gatherings, meeting rooms, an office which doubles as a bar, an art gallery/computer room, a superb kitchen and toilets/changing rooms. It is eco-friendly, being well insulated, heated by a ground source/heat pump/buffer tank system that serves the underfloor heating and the hot water. There is also solar panelling as a supplementary heat source for the hot water. The gents changing rooms also have modern eco-friendly “dry” urinals.
In 2010, the car park was upgraded and resurfaced with the help of a donation of £3,000 from the Community Company.
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