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Builders revamping The Rockfield Centre (TRC) are scheduled to hand the keys back to the community next month.
Work on refurbishing the centre is progressing well after lockdown, says Oban Communities Trust which is leading the project to convert and refurbish the former primary school into a community cultural hub.
As soon as restrictions eased, contractors TSL had workers back on site to get the £2.8million scheme finished.
The main building and site was acquired for the community in 2015 with arts and culture, history and heritage, enterprise and education and community well-being the themes at the heart of the re-development ambition.
Fundraising for the main building make-over has been achieved in just over five years. With the added challenges brought on by Covid, this is a remarkable achievement for a community project, said Eleanor MacKinnon, TRC’s transition operational manager.
‘Despite the pandemic and all the challenges this brought with loss of earnings overnight, the centre remained an anchor for our community. Our staff and volunteers continued to work with telephone calls, deliveries and the distribution of monies
via the Community Support Fund to a plethora of organisations supporting the Covid response,’ she added.
Although the site shut, TRC moved its clubs and activities online with the support of
staff, volunteers and the wider community, keeping the door open for film, comedy and drama nights, writing and poetry sessions, arts sessions, camera club, children’s activities and the blether sessions which have been vital in helping beat loneliness for people socially isolating.
‘More recently as restrictions have lifted, the centre, like every other organisation has
adapted to the new normal. It was heartening to see the response to our requests to brighten up the shelter in the grounds which has hosted our book bank and other outdoor sessions and more recently the response to the charity shop opening and the limited opening of the huts as a venue for artists during Artmap Argyll.
‘The receipt of the keys for the building will begin a new era for TRC and the conversion of large rooms will open up many opportunities to serve the area long into the future.
‘Although the building is refurbished, additional fitting out work is required, some of which will require additional funds. So much depends on how the pandemic recovery pans out,’ said Eleanor.
And she added: ‘We are proceeding in a phased entry to accommodate the kit out plans with the first phase moving to tenant occupation in January. If all goes to plan early spring will include a move to some limited opening within the building alongside a mix of online and on site activity. However, we obviously have a lot of logistics
to consider including recruitment of new staff and the delivery requirements to keep everyone safe. Meantime all our clubs and our programme will, in the majority, remain online.’
A winter programme of online activities is being compiled. Details, when complete, will be available on www.therockfieldcentre.org.uk and Facebook.
TRC customer liaison officer Lyn Connelly has also put out an appeal for more volunteers.
She said: ‘For now the community charity shop remains in the hut by the
car park and the shelter adjacent to the car park will continue to host the book bank and the food hub. We are very lucky to have many willing volunteers but there is always room for more whether helping in the charity shop, offering support to activities or, as was the case recently, decorating the shelter, making visors, or moving the generous donations of furniture and equipment for the centre. This new era for the centre is an ideal time for people to join the team efforts.’
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