• Town Hall News

    Find Out the FACTs

    An activity day where people can try their hand at drumming, listen to children’s storytelling sessions and enjoy a spot of Highland dancing and piping is taking place this month.

    Forres Area Community Trust is staging a ‘Find Out the FACTs’ event in Grant Park on August 21.

    The event is to showcase what the Trust does and how the Forres Town Hall is used.

    Kirsty Williams, who is the Old Persons’ Project Co-ordinator with FACT and who is organising the day explained: “We are really looking forward to Find Out the FACTs which is really an opportunity for people to come along, have some fun and find out more about what we do.

    “FACT works with so many different partners and we have a very busy schedule with loads of activities that support many different groups in the community. All we want to do at our Grant Park event is spread awareness of what’s available to do in the area, not just by ourselves but those organisations and groups we work in partnership with to make the area a better place to live, work and visit.”

    “Through the pandemic, FACT really came to the fore and we worked with a range of partners to support those who were vulnerable or struggling during the lockdowns, but now things are getting better and restrictions are easing, we are working on promoting our classes and workshops and just want to showcase what we and our partners have to offer the people of the area.”

    In March, it was announced that FACT had taken ownership of Forres Town Hall after a successful community asset transfer process. The Trust had been managing the building since 2018.

    It is now pushing forward with a fundraising strategy to raise the £3.4 million for a regeneration project to redevelop the building as a thriving venue and facility fit for the 21st century and to provide services and resources for the area into the future.

    Kirsty said: “FACT is delighted to be the custodian of the Town Hall on behalf of the community, and our event will also allow us to talk to the public about the hall and what the plans are for its future. We can also share with attendees about all the great activities that take place in the hall.”

    Find Out the FACTs will take place between midday and 4pm on August 21.

    FACT secured funding from the Scottish Government, via Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), from the Communities Recovery Fund.

    Kirsty said: “HIE is co-ordinating the Communities Recovery Fund in the Highlands and Islands, on behalf of the Scottish Government, for all eligible community organisations, who are implementing changes to reintroduce the delivery of existing services and activities that have been suspended or severely reduced because of COVID-19 and/or deliver new services identified as a priority by the community as a result of COVID-19.”

    “We are delighted that our event is able to go ahead after securing this funding. There will something for everyone. We have some great entertainment lined up and there is something for all age groups. We have drumming with Active Minds Moray, Forres Online will be there to explain how they can help people improve their digital knowledge, we will have storytelling from Margot Henderson, Scottish country dancers and pipers from the Forres and District Pipe Band.

    “We invite people to come along and bring a picnic and spend the afternoon with us. It’s a real community event. Wave Radio are supporting us by handling the announcing and the organisers of the Forres Highland Games which have been hit hard by the pandemic are lending us tables and chairs.

    “If a picnic is not your thing, we will be situated near Mather’s so there will be an opportunity to grab something from there as well, and for kids to not only enjoy what we have on offer but have fun at the playpark and in Grant Park too.”

    Community Asset Transfer Completed

    Fantastic News ! – Its official  – Forres Town Hall is now in the hands of the community following the conclusion of a successful asset transfer to FACT (Forres Area Community Trust). We here at Forres Area Community Trust would like to say thank you to everyone who has helped make this possible and look forward to the regeneration project and bring the Forres Town Hall back to life for all the  community to enjoy! Why not check out the proposed regeneration plans and images for yourself here.

    Next steps for Forres Town Hall

    Forres Town Hall logo

    As FACT conclude the final stages of a Community Asset Transfer for Forres Town Hall, with support from the Scottish Land Fund, steps are now underway for a major Refurbishment Project for the Town Hall.

    This project aims to bring the building up to current standards in terms of accessibility, building services and fabric insulation, and to repair and refurbish the building in order that the nearly 200 year old Forres Town Hall can continue to thrive in the 21st century.

    Since 2017, following extensive community consultation, FACT has been able to develop a clear vision for Forres Town Hall, which will see its functionality transformed. The stated aims of that vision are: 

    • The wish to transform the Main Hall into a modern multi-purpose accessible performance space      
    • A need to ensure universal accessibility to upper floor accommodation at both the front and the rear of the building 
    • A need to maximise opportunities to create additional flexible floor space for use by the community and social enterprises 
    • The wish to restore the Lesser Hall to become a beautiful event space once more that celebrates the heritage of the building 
    • The wish to make the entrance foyer more welcoming and practical 

    To achieve the above future vision for Forres Town Hall, funding from the Scottish Land Fund, which also supported the Community Asset Transfer, has enabled applications for planning permission and listed building consent to be submitted to Moray Council’s Planning Department for a transformative project to refurbish, insulate and improve the building.

    Links to the planning application and listed building consent applications can be found on Moray Council’s Planning Online portal under Ref.No. 20/00888/APP and  Ref. No. 20/00889/LBC.  The Design and Heritage Statement, one of the supporting documents submitted as part of the planning and listed building consent applications, provides a full summary of the design proposals. 

    The design proposals submitted for planning permission and listed building consent, sub-divides the Town Hall into three parts – a front section with foyer, toilets and a restored Lesser Town Hall, a central section with a large multi-purpose performance space and a rear section with three levels of flexible workspace, and meeting rooms. It does this by proposing: 

    1. To remove the art deco alterations from the Main Hall – revealing the original roof structure – and to install retractable seating in its place, to allow the Hall to be used for more flexible uses 
    2. Through removing the gallery in the Main Hall, to re-purpose the first-floor corridors (and the stairs that lead to them) that service the gallery as flexible work/ meeting space and storage 
    3. To create new multi-purpose rooms and support space over three floors in the place of the current stage, including a new room below the roof structure overlooking the Main Hall 
    4. To insert a new second floor mezzanine in the first-floor room on the front elevation
    5. To provide new platform lifts at the front and rear of the building, to provide almost universal access throughout  
    6. To introduce natural light to the Main Hall via new rooflights 
    7. To provide modern fit for purpose sanitary facilities including accessible toilets and an accessible shower 
    8. To greatly improve the functionality and size of the existing kitchen 
    9. To establish dedicated plant space at the rear of the Main Hall to allow the future installation of efficient energy systems 
    10. To restore the Lesser Hall to its former grandeur through careful restoration and redecoration 
    11. To improve external accessibility to the building by adjusting external levels and improving surfacing in the pend 
    12. To carry out essential and desirable fabric repairs 

    The Long section drawing shown below gives an idea of some of the above changes.

    Community Asset Transfer and lockdown

    When Moray Council took the decision to close Forres Town Hall completely in 2017, Forres Area Community Trust (FACT) stepped in to lease and manage the building on behalf of the community. This has been very successful as FACT have worked with user groups to increase occupancy and use of the building which doubled in the first 12 months of taking on the building. 

    Until lockdown earlier this year a wide range of user groups including Forres & District Pipe Band, the Varis Players, Film Forres and the Forres branch of the Royal Scottish County Dance Society have been able to continue using this space. 

    FACT has also been able to offer various activities in the Town Hall such as the popular Forres Online drop in sessions, and Older Persons Project activities such as gentle seated exercise and welcomed new groups to use the building including Turning Point Church, Zumba and Pound exercise classes, Guide Dog Training and community meals with Moray Food Plus. 

    During lockdown it has been possible for Forres Town Hall to serve as a hub for the Forres & Kinloss community food project which has allocated over 1,000 meals since May of this year. It has also been open at limited times for donations to be made to the Scrubs project, food donations, masks, and blankets for the Cameron Project in a Covid-safe way. It has even been possible during lockdown to have the help of volunteers to refresh some of the current décor in the North Room on a socially distanced basis. 

    Following the successful lease period, FACT is now in the final stages of concluding a Community Asset Transfer for Forres Town Hall, with support from the Scottish Land Fund. The final sale has not yet gone through as it has been delayed by the pandemic, however this is expected to complete before the end of the year. The building will then be owned by the Forres Area Community Trust on behalf of the community.

    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.

    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 www.thebiglunch.com 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 https://forresarea.org/tounmercat 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!

    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 info@forresarea.org”