by David MacKay, Press & Journal
A community group has submitted a bid to take over a cherished Moray landmark and bring it back to life.
Today is the first anniversary of Forres Area Community Trust (Fact) signing a lease to prevent the local town hall closing.
Now the charity is aiming to take over the ownership of the Victorian building, which has been a gathering point for generations, as well.
Today new art gallery will be opened in the hall during a party to celebrate the landmark, which dates back to the 1850s.
Annual Hogmanay bashes have been revived at the hall for the first time since the 1960s and the town centre venue is also now fully booked for Saturday coffee mornings until the end of next year.
Debbie Herron, Fact’s development manager, wants to preserve the building’s strong links with the community.
She said: “During the last year we’ve had a few people come in who have met their husbands and wives here – it used to be very popular with a lot of evening dances.
“The social history of the building is really important. We knew it was important to the community but I didn’t realise how much until this year.”
Forres Town Hall faced closure with similar venues last year due to budget cuts from Moray Council. Fact has applied to the authority for ownership of the hall to be transferred to them.
Meetings have been set up between Fact, other groups who have taken on their own community facilities and council staff so they can learn from what each other is doing.
The group has drawn up plans for a £1.9million refurbishment of the Forres hall to build on the success of film screenings in the venue with tiered seating and more gallery and office space.
Mrs Herron added: “The biggest challenge for us at the moment is the condition of the building.
“It’s nearly 200 years old now. The roof leaks in places, it’s safe but it’s just another thing that needs repaired.
“Ultimately we want to completely refurbish the entire hall over the next five years. It doesn’t make best use of space at the moment so there’s a lot of untapped potential.”
The celebration at Forres Town Hall today will run from 4pm to 6pm with regular users of the venue present to provide information about what they do.