A First For Forres Area Community Trust

A bid to buy Forres Town Hall and turn it into a venue for community, business and training events has been successful in the latest round of grant applications to the Scottish Land Fund.

Forres Area Community Trust has been awarded £116,365 to purchase the hall, which has been a feature of the town’s High Street since 1829, in order to provide community facilities, meeting rooms, study and workshop areas, training facilities and co-working hot desks.

Debbie Herron, Development Manager Forres Area Community Trust, said:

“We are delighted at the news that Forres Area Community Trust has been awarded the SLF funding to buy Forres Town Hall on behalf of the community. This endorsement of our work means that we can continue to work to support the development and resilience of our community into the future.” 

Securing the Town Hall into community ownership and having the support of the Scottish Land Fund is the first step in redeveloping and refurbishing the building for the benefit of the community.

Fabio Villani Chair of Forres Area Community Trust said:

“The Scottish Land Fund’s generous support enables us to purchase Forres Town Hall as well as to further develop our plans for its future. It marks an important milestone in the history of Forres, as one more key element of the town’s heritage is fully returned to the direct care of the local community. It also marks an important milestone in the development of FACT as a key organisation in helping the people of Forres make the most of the Town’s many assets. ”

If anyone would like any further information, please do get in touch on 01309 674388, or pop into the office between 10am and 1pm through the week.

Community group celebrates first anniversary running Moray town hall by submitting bid to own it

by David MacKay, Press & Journal

Picture: L2R – Vicky Flood (Community Development Worker), Kirsty Williams (older Persons Project Co-ordinator), Janice Cooper (Forres On-line Co-ordinator), Kirtsy-Ann Wilson (graduate Marketing), Rory Dutton (Tenant Co-Worker) and front – Debbie Herron (Development Manager) Picture by JASON HEDGES

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.

Forres Skate Park campaigners need community input to carry on

by David Walker, Press and Journal

A funky roller disco for all ages is being held in Forres House Community Centre to raise awareness of the Forres Skate Park Initiative. Getting their skates on are, left to right, Sophie Fullard, Franky Haymer, Kirsty-Ann Wilson and Fi Rodger. Picture: Marc Hindley

Campaigners, who plan to build a Skate Park in a Moray town, have launched an online survey to garner local support and input.

The Forres Skate Park Initiative want to hear from anybody interested in their project to become involved in the campaign which is just starting to gather pace.

However, before they can really get going, they are in desperate need of more members to achieve their goal of installing an all-inclusive skating facility in the community.

FSPI has yet to formally constitute a campaign group, apply for charitable status or gain funding for a feasibility study to support applications for funding.

That is why they have launched an online survey to gauge the public’s view on the Olympic training facility which would encourage the use of skateboards, roller blades, scooters and bikes.

Once they have gained enough support, they intend to commission a study that would look at materials, landscaping options and opening times.

Community development worker Vicky Flood is hopeful that the survey helps the group better understand what the people want.

She said: “There has already been consultation over this project, however it is still important for funding and covers Moray Council’s obligations regarding Community Asset Transfers.

“As the Bogton Road site next to Mosset Park was the second choice for a skate park in the Forres Planning for Real consultation, we have sent letters to residents closest to it.”

The group recently held a popular bright roller disco in Forres to raise funds and awareness of the initiative.

As of last week, nine people had expressed an interest in joining the group and becoming more involved in the campaign.

The group has gained the support of FACT (Forres Area Community Trust) and meets in the Town Hall, but it now wants to stand on its own two feet.

Committee member Fiona Rodgers added: “If we can get people together who can see the potential for an all-year-round skating facility, hopefully we can get the right people on board to make it happen.”

The survey can be found here.

Anyone interested should email

Planning The (next) Big Lunch Forres

Volunteers get together at St Leonard’s Church to plan the next Big Lunch

by Forres Gazette

REPRESENTATIVES from a national charity stopped in Forres to discuss an event to be organised in the area for the third year running.

The Eden Project communities team were at the town hall to discuss The Big Lunch which took place over the last two summers at Transition Town Forres and Grant Park. The Eden Project want as many people as possible to get into the picnic spirit, grab a blanket, neighbours, friends, sandwiches and have a Big Lunch on June 1 and 2.

Richard Lochhead MSP attended the workshop and expressed support for the event.

He said: “It was great to hear how the initiative helps to bring people in communities together. There are many social benefits to people being more connected and it’s clear that The Big Lunch is making a difference to communities right across the country. The Scottish Government recently published its strategy for tackling loneliness and social isolation, and projects like The Big Lunch can play a vital part in that agenda.”

He added: “Forres has a fantastic community spirit, and I pay tribute to those who have organised big lunch events in the past – I hope that they’ll continue.”

Big Lunchers provided first-hand accounts of the power of the Big Lunch in bringing people together, offering suggestions arising from their experience throughout the workshop.

Kirsty Williams of Forres Area Community Trust, the creative force behind last June’s Big Lunch in Grant Park, helped organise the workshop.

She said: “It was an informative day and my colleague Vicky and I have already arranged a planning meeting for March 19, inviting different groups along so we can all work together to make The Big Lunch a success this year.”

Discussions led to possible future Big Lunches in the town hall, the Findhorn Foundation and Hopeman, to add to those planned for streets and gardens around Moray.

One participant, native to Forres but working in Gairloch promised to take the Big Lunch to the west coast after attending the workshop.

Over 40,000 people in Scotland took part in The Big Lunch last year.

Free starter packs, tips and ideas can be found at or by calling 0845 850 8181.

Hogmanay celebrations to return to beloved Moray venue for first time in half a century

Forres Town Hall has stood on the High Street since the mid 19th Century.

by David Mackay, Press and Journal

Hogmanay celebrations will return to a treasured Moray town centre venue for the first time in half a century.

Findhorn Bay Arts is hosting the shindig at Forres Town Hall with a wealth of traditional music acts taking part.

The venue used to be the home of Hogmanay for the local community but has not hosted such a party since the 1960s.

Now revellers are being invited to dress up with “dazzle and sparkle” from the era of the last celebration held at the town hall in order to bring in 2019.

Kresanna Aigner, director of Findhorn Bay Arts, explained that the recent takeover of the venue by the Forres Area Community Trust from the council had inspired the decision to revive the events.

She said: “The hall is in the hands of the community now which has made it possible to open it again for Hogmanay.

“We had such a successful festival this year that it just felt like the right time to resurrect the parties at the town hall.

“We’ve got people from six to 86-years-old coming. It’s a real mix but we want to help bring people together.”

Tickets for the event are nearly sold out with proceeds being put towards supporting creative activities in the local area.

Crowds are also expected to gather at the foot of Dufftown’s clock tower to bring in the bells, while sharing drams and shortbread.

In Aberdeen, meanwhile, ABBA tribute band Thank You For The Music will be one of the top attractions.

They will be joined on stage on Schoolhill by local musicians Rachael Bisset and Scott Mellis and the Celtic rock band Gleadhraich, with the fun beginning at 9pm.

Marie Boulton, the city council’s culture spokeswoman, said: “There is always a great atmosphere in the city centre on Hogmanay.

“Our free street party is an excellent way to bring in the bells.”

Toun Mercat just one of Scottish Week highlights

by Forres Gazette

SCOTTISH Week returns on Saturday and with it comes a buzzing street market in the town centre.

The triennial event co-ordinated by Forres Community Activities Association (FCAA) continues the Gala Week tradition, including the highlight for many, the crowd-drawing Toun Mercat on Friday, June 8.

Rachel Philp, from Philp’s Fine Food, is organising the market stalls this year.

She said: “With just three weeks to go, there has been a phenomenal interest from both stall holders and performers wanting to secure a place at the popular open-air market held along the entire length of Forres High Street between 6pm and 9pm.

“We have almost 80 stalls confirmed already and applications are still coming in!”

Attendees will find a pedestrianised high street, closed off to traffic for the evening, full of stalls, demonstrations, fairground rides and live performances.

Cafes, bars and shops will also be open, and a new farmers’ market area will offer fresh, local and organic products direct from the producers.

The theme for window dressing and fancy dress (open to everyone) is ‘Come As You Were’ in keeping with Scotland Year of the Young Person 2018.

The entire event will also be compered by Wave Radio.

Forres Area Community Trust development officer Debbie Heron is organising the entertainment.

She said: “We know from experience that people look forward to the Toun Mercat but it’s up to businesses make it special.

“I’m delighted we’ve had so many applicants but there is room for plenty more, especially street performers.

“Anyone interested can contact me at the FACT office, 1 Leask Road, Forres or by telephoning 01309 674388.”

Stalls are £15 and High Street retailers are given priority outside their shops.

Booking forms for stall holders can be downloaded at or picked up from the FACT office on Leask Road between 9am and 1pm.

They are also available from Rachel at Fresh Horizons Café on the Forres Enterprise Park between 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday.

Scottish Week 2018 runs from June 2-10.

A Rock concert at the terraced hills in Grant Park on Saturday, June 2 at 8pm kicks off Scottish Week with a bang showcasing some of the best live music Forres has to offer; there will be performances from Forres Pipe Band including a march through the town centre to the park on Saturday, June 2 at 7pm; street racing for children and adults around the town centre on Monday, June 4 at 6pm has been organised by Forres Harriers; the Burgess Ceremony at Forres Academy is on Tuesday, June 5 at 7pm when six worthy folk will be officially recognised by the townspeople and installed as burgesses of the Royal Burgh to the live sound of Moray Concert Brass; a vintage tea dance with John ‘The Prof’ Matheson and friends is on at Forres Town Hall on Wednesday, June 6 at 2pm; historical tours are on offer including an evening walk around local landmarks and a lecture on witches at the Tolbooth on Thursday, June 7 at 7.30pm; a pet show located between Forres Area Soccer 7’s clubhouse and Forres st Lawrence Cricket Club pavilion will show off youngster’s handling and looking after of their animals on Saturday, June 9 at 11am; and the Riding of the Marches is on Sunday, June 10 at 2pm, a modern twist of the ancient tradition of riding the town’s boundaries on horseback – this year it will be by bicycle!

You are welcome to The Big Lunch

Forres Area Community Trust (FACT) is hosting the Big Lunch on Sunday, June 3 from 1-3pm – organiser Kirsty Williams hopes as many people as possible take the opportunity to meet each other and make new friends.

She said: “Being part of a connected community means knowing who you live next to; saying hello, smiling, waving and stopping for a chat from time to time. Ultimately, connected communities are residents who look out for each other.”

There will be games including, giant Jenga, skittles, draughts, welly wanging and People Bingo.

Kirsty added: “Cameron Court and Varis Court residents, members of the OAP Association and The Cameron Project clients and volunteers are all making bunting to decorate the marquee.

“The community is already contributing – the support is overwhelming.”

The Big Lunch, organised by the Eden Project, is the UK’s largest annual community get-together. The idea is that, for a few hours, cars and shyness will stop and folk will come together to meet, greet, play games, sing, and laugh.

Last year, 9.3 million people took to their streets, gardens and neighbourhoods across the UK to join in.

Around 100 Forres folk enjoyed the local event at Transition Town Forres.

This year, the Big Lunch coincides with Volunteers Week so attendees will also be celebrating all the volunteers who make our area such a vibrant community.

Kirsty said: “We want as many as possible to join in so they can get a special thank you for all that they do. Many groups would simply not exist if it wasn’t for the volunteers who so willingly give their time. Now it is the community’s turn to thank them all.”

Volunteers for any group or third sector organisation in the Forres Area are welcome.

Tea, coffee and juice will be provided but FACT ask that attendees bring along picnic food to share such as sandwiches and home bakes, as well as blankets or chairs.

The Big Lunch will be near the play area in Grant Park.

For more information email or call 01309 674388.

Team to form a green space vision for Forres

by Forres Gazette

AROUND 25 people have offered to help achieve the ‘green space’ aims of the Forres 2020 Vision.

Following the inaugural meeting of the Forres Green Spaces User Group at the town hall last week, the volunteers have agreed to progress some of the priorities detailed in the 2020 Vision Action Plan, launched last November.

These include joint management of local woodland, meadows, fields and orchards with Moray Council.

Community support officer, Sylvia Jamieson, said: “It will be a pragmatic group, not just a talking shop but one that actively helps progress work by groups in green spaces in Forres.”

Ms Jamieson and lands and parks officer, Ken Kennedy, confirmed shared goals with the volunteers, and how they can be achieved through partnership working.

Initially, the attendees were seated in four groups facilitated by council representatives Ms Jamieson, Mr Kennedy, Grant Speed (Lands and Parks) and Emma Gordon (Development Plans).

They looked at: what Forres already has in terms of green spaces work; what would make things easier for the people working in them; and how this could be achieved.

The working group was formed afterwards, including representatives from Forres Community CouncilForres Sports HubForres Area Community Trust, the Sanquhar improvement group, Dava Way Association, Castlehill Veg, Forres in BloomForres Rotary Club and Forres Theme Day.

Ms Jamieson added: “There was recognition of the huge amount of work being done by volunteers already, and the number of events and activities taking place in them.

“Common themes and ideas for action included recruiting volunteers (particularly younger folk), sharing resources and volunteers, joint funding applications, joint responses to consultations, training opportunities and sharing of information/networking.”

The next meeting of the Green Spaces User Group will be in March or April.

New member, Sandra Maclennan of Forres In Bloom said: “It is to be hoped that this will happen soon and momentum can be revitalised.”

Ms Gordon highlighted the forthcoming drop-in consultation event at Forres Town Hall (Thursday, March 8, 2-8pm) on the Local Development Plan Main Issues Report and the ongoing core paths consultation.

FACT working on three projects for Forres

by Forres Gazette

During January’s meeting of Forres Community Council, Forres Area Community Trust (FACT) officer, Debbie Herron, talked about the campaign to get a local skate park built, plans for a Community Asset Transfer of the Town Hall and the ongoing digital support service, Forres Online.

She said: “We have been working to get a new skate park since 2012. With support from AJ Engineering, BAM Nuttall and Forres Tesco, we now have a pop-up ramp currently in use at The Loft in Kinloss.”

Forres Skate Park Initiative outsource the ramp by arrangement. It is hoped to set it up in Tesco car park in the Springtime.

Debbie added: “We will work with the 2020 Vision green spaces group to find a permanent spot for a skate facility over the next few years. Fundraising will begin in earnest once we have a clear plan agreed.”

FACT has approached Moray Council about a CAT of Forres Town Hall and carried out costings for major improvements including raised seating similar to that at Nairn Community and Arts Centre.

Debbie explained: “We want to have have movable raked seating to enable us to use the space as a open hall for dancing, band practice, coffee mornings etc, and to have seating for things like Film Forres, the panto and youth concert. There could be office space at the far end of the building, a studio and multipurpose area, and lifts at both ends. We estimate the upgrade would cost around £3 million in total.”

Around 4500 people currently use the Town Hall every week. FACT is scoping support for its ideas among the user groups.

It is hoped financial support could come from local fundraising, online crowd funding and organisations such as Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery Fund and Big Issue Invest.

Finally, Debbie appealed for volunteers to help the FACT Forres Online scheme which already provides: free access to computers in a safe and encouraging environment; one-to-one development in customer support and engagement skills; and access to online courses to develop skills gained while volunteering.

She said: “Forres Online has recorded 610 attendances from 185 individuals/groups over the period September, 2016 to November, 2017. These include people over 55, unemployed and benefit claimants, small businesses, community groups, social enterprises, young families, vulnerable adults and refugees.”

Last year, FACT was awarded £149,427 to develop its volunteer base, as well as a social enterprise centre/hub to facilitate more partnership working in the area.

“FACT has 250 members and is free to join,” finished Debbie. “We have a strong board and a sustainable business plan. To get involved, please contact 01309 674388 or vemail”