Here We Are
What is Here We Are?
The Here We Are concept is –
A community resource providing information on the development, education and history of a rural area; designed and resourced by local people for the benefit of local people and visitors alike.
Here We Are Cairndow is –
Housed in a small multi-purpose building on a popular tourist site at the head of Loch Fyne in Argyll, intended both to serve its local community and to be a pilot project to be taken up by other communities in the Highlands and Islands and beyond.
And it is also –
A group of local community activists who responded to the Here We Are concept and made it a reality. Without them the building would not exist and the project could not work.
We Called it Here We Are because –
it is about a place and it's people – here we are for visitors X marks "here we are" on a postcard
Where We Began
The Here We Are idea came from Christina Noble's experience of running a trekking business in the Himalayas. She saw that by stimulating and satisfying the curiosity about how a local community "works" it became easier to bridge the gap between visitor and visited. This gap is endemic in rural tourism throughout the world. She therefore sought to apply the principle back home with our community in Cairndow, Argyll.
As a community together we developed the vision of a centre, with free entry to all, where we could –
Encourage the local community to appreciate itself, to reflect on what we value and through access to information, be better equipped to shape our future.
Provide the wider community (via displays, seminars, exhibitions, discussion meetings) with a conduit for information; a means for views to be heard, exchanged and acted on; and hence a vehicle for encouraging realistic practical development.
Offer to visitors access to high quality detailed information on the locality; agriculture, forestry, conservation, land ownership, economics, culture and industry.
Offer to learners the facilities and information for environmental studies at primary and secondary school level, for Further Education courses in tourism and rural development and for lifelong learning. A vital tool to enhance the education facility, in a remote rural area, has been the introduction of a video conferencing link in association with Argyll College.
Here We Are, Cairndow is intended to be a pilot of a concept. Elsewhere a Here We Are could be attached to a pub, post office, bank or petrol station – somewhere people already come and go. In Cairndow we had the ideal site at the head of Loch Fyne – where Loch Fyne Oysters and the Tree Shop already attract 130,000 visitors per year. However there was no suitable accommodation to house our centre so a new building had to be created.
We have now operated successfully for over three and half years. Our centre is open 7 days a week, from 10am – 5pm in winter and from 10am – 5.30pm in summer. Admission is free and last year we had 13301visitors, an increase of over 6% on the previous year. The centre operates with three part time staff for it's daily running, regular help from 15 volunteers (including the committee) and the part-time Project Director. Due to the increase in the number of "projects" currently being undertaken 3 additional part-time staff have been employed. All staff report to the Community Committee which meets monthly.
What our next three years will achieve and for whom
Here We Are is in the process of becoming a member of the Development Trusts Association. It encourages NGO organisations to bring about significant and sustainable regeneration to their community, and at the same time create new partnerships facilitating improved policies and financial environments.
We will continue to be the contact point for a local trust fund that offers grants to entrepreneurs to stimulate new business in Argyll.
Here We Are will continue to encourage social enterprise by providing quality, well paid jobs with flexible working hours. This especially benefits young mothers who would find it difficult to find employment that fits in around childcare. This in turn encourages young people to stay in the area and ensures a healthy future for the community. Especially important as our 2005 Census revealed that 30% of the current population are over retirement age.
We want to continue to assist and support local people to lobby for much needed facilities – housing, cycle and walking paths, childcare facilities, access to broadband etc. Thus helping to empower the community itself to influence change and to contribute to its future health, well-being, financial independence and success.
We want to develop our website to be used not only to describe the activities ongoing at Here We Are, but to become a community facility. This has been progressed recently and it now includes an up to date "news" page and hopefully will develop further to become a community noticeboard.
Local History The establishment of our local history archive will provide a more thorough research facility for genealogy; we already receive a considerable amount of requests. This will eventually be linked to the new centre in Lochgilphead.
Rural Development – we continue to be in contact with a number of research initiatives. We were successful in securing funding from Leader + and interested private trusts for a film "What Works ?". This looks at development issues comparing success here at Cairndow, Argyll with success in Ballyliffin, Donegal. When completed at the end of August we will encourage its use here, and hope that it may become part of a series applicable to other rural areas of Europe.
Marine Biology – we are in touch with the Coastal Zone Action Plan for Upper Loch Fyne and the Scottish Association for Marine Science at Dunstaffnage. We are setting up an aquarium to show what lives underwater here at the Head of Loch Fyne. We plan seminars based in this project in winter 2005/06.
Climate Change – we have local rainfall statistics from 1950 and thus can monitor the increase. We will thus assist research on the impact on shore erosion, agriculture and hydro electric potential.
Demographics – we have demographic statistics for our locality over the last 50 years and updated our own census in 2005 and can thus monitor population changes here over time and compare them to county and national averages. This information will be useful for those needing data for housing needs, a study of Cairndow as a low carbon community and those lobbying for a cycle path, childcare facilities etc.
Over the past year we have been giving a good deal of thought to our sustainability. At the same time we have responded to local and national initiatives. The outcome is three new projects
"Our Power" - The Extension – The Service Point
1 "Our Power"
Here We Are has recently instigated the "Our Power" project to examine the past and present use of energy in Cairndow parish, with the objective of generating power within the locality and establishing Cairndow as a low carbon community. This locally-led initiative is both a response to the threat of climate change, and a step towards greater economic and energy security for Here We Are and the community in general.
"Our Power" will consist of three phases, namely
(i) An exhibition in Cairndow outlining the potential for local renewable energy use against a historical context, and acting as both an information point and consultation exercise
(ii) A detailed energy audit to establish the extent and pattern of use of all fuel sources by businesses and domestic properties in Cairndow.
A feasibility study to examine the applicability of different renewable energy technologies in relation to the local demand.
Phases 1 and 2 are now underway, using a combinations of Here We Are's internal resources and a number of outside specialist contractors. The funds for the work have been raised entirely by Here We Are. Phase 3 will follow from the outcome of the energy audit in phase 2, but will require a significantly higher budget, and Here We Are is already in the process of applying to HIE Community Energy Company for support.
2 The Extension
A small extension to the back of existing building will provide much needed space for Here We Are to continue to develop and enable us to provide services not currently available as follows:-
"Our Power" Office – a base for this exciting project.
An interview/meeting room which will be available for hire along with office services as required. Interest has already been expressed from local self-employed people, small businesses, Citizens Advice Bureau and Argyll & Bute Council.
A private room to house our existing video conferencing facility currently used by Argyll College students but available for hire.
A base for the housing officer from Fyne Homes housing association who are involved with a new housing development locally.
3 The Service Point
Argyll & Bute's Service point concept has proved a success on the some of the Argyll Islands. The initiative to set one up within the Here We Are centre came from the council; itself and we greeted it with enthusiasm. Cairndow has long been remote from council offices; the distance in either direction, being some 30 miles. And it has had the disadvantage of being on the cusp between Mid Argyll and Cowal. Thus in ways we are as remote as some island communities. Yet we are on the route from Helensburgh and Dunoon to the council's main offices in Lochgilphead. This position is ideal for council staff such as the income maximisation team to meet those in need of their services.
Here We Are
Tel 01499 600350
Fax 01499 600331
Contact Christina Noble – Project Director
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