Chance to get hands-on at new Ardchattan Centre

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Ardchattan Centre board member Lindsay Vare with a piece of vintage wallpaper from the school house sitting room

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You can have designs on turning Ardchattan’s old schoolhouse into a heritage hub.

All will be revealed as part of an open day at Ardchattan Centre in Bonawe on Sunday August 8, where people will have the chance to sign up and get hands-on with two upcoming projects, including working on wallpaper designs for the perfectly preserved Victorian schoolhouse.

The Wallpaper Project will bring the community together to work alongside professional artists and designers to come up with their own patterns as part of the schoolhouse’s refurbishment.

As well as still having many of its original features, the house has a fabulous selection of vintage wallpapers but they are peeling off the walls and the property is in need of a makeover.

‘The idea is that inspired by the house and the surrounding environment, the wallpaper
group will take on the interior design of the house, and will work with designers and artists to research, design and create new wallpaper patterns, lampshades and soft furnishing textiles,’ said Ardchattan Centre’s Breege Smyth.

Over the next three to five years the aim is to develop the school house into a heritage hub and a showcase for visitors.

Hundreds of volunteer hours have been notched up so far to transform it and the school building next door into new spaces for the community and you are invited to take a peek and see what progress has  been made since the successful community buyout back in the spring.

‘We would like everyone to come and see all the work that’s been done and the fabulous spaces which will very soon be available for all sorts of activities,’ said Breege.

The date of August 8 is a definite for diaries, there will be plenty of cake and teas in an outdoor marquee and the day has been carefully planned for social distancing to keep people safe and comfortable.

The deal to buy it, and the school house next door, from Argyll and Bute Council was sealed in March this year after four years of hard work and belief that the defunct property could be brought back to life as a community hub.

Funds from the Scottish Land Fund (SLF)  helped buy it and carry out  feasibility work to make sure the building is an asset. The Scottish Government’s Launch Me fund also provided £10,000 to help progress a five-year business plan if community ownership went ahead and an extra £5,000 from SLF was also available for urgent roof repairs for now.

There was funding too for a development and fundraising manager to see the building transformation through. Major refurbishment work is likely to start in 2024,  with lots more fundraising ahead.

Over the past years the public’s input has played a major part in shaping the old school’s future – exploring ideas of how it can be best put to use from meeting venues for the community and events to providing spaces for creative workshops and a weaving co-operative, also becoming a potential base for small businesses.

Now Covid restrictions allow, the centre is going back to the community to update on what is happening there and to give people another say in shaping up the venue’s future.

While refurbishment continues, a collection of tales and photos recalling stories of the old schools will make up a second community projects to eventually go on display.

To get involved in The Wallpaper Project or Our Stories, either go along to the open day or email theardchattancentre@gmail.com