Loft Youth Project, The
HIE's community land unit has played a crucial role in some of the most high profile land buy-outs of recent years. But one of its latest grants has enabled a youth project to buy a restaurant, providing jobs and training for young people in a town where such opportunities have become rare.
The Loft Youth Project (LYP) is less than three years old. But, ambitious, energetic and persistent, it has rapidly established a feisty reputation for getting things done for young people in and around the Moray town of Keith.
Now, in a move made possible with a £40,000 grant from the community land unit, the project has bought a 32 seat restaurant in the town's main street.
LYP's plan is to run Craighurst's Restaurant as a commercial venture, with social aims. In the first year of trading they aim to be an ethical employer to at least four staff, providing training opportunities for a minimum of four more. With a commitment to 'green' sustainability practice, produce will be sourced locally where possible.
Situated exactly half way between Inverness and Aberdeen on the A96 main road that links the two cities, Keith has a population of around 4,700. Five surrounding rural communities collectively known as Strathisla swell that number to 6,150, according to the 2001 Census. The town's once solid economy, underpinned for generations by two successful woollen mills, suffered hammer blows when the textile industry all but vanished from the town in the early 1990s. In the years since, whisky and farming, other traditional sources of employment, have become increasingly less labour intensive, adding to the area's economic difficulties.
In common with many similar communities, Keith had no venue in its centre, other than pubs, where young people could spend their leisure time. Growing numbers of teenagers wandering the streets at night became a problem.
Amid these challenging circumstances LYP was born – a reaction by a small group of concerned parents, who believed they could make a difference by getting a place in the town centre where they could support the social, leisure and training needs of the area's 12-24 year olds.
From its launch in 2002, in the rented function hall of a former hotel just off Mid Street, Keith's main shopping street, where the project set up a youth cafe, the Loft has gone from strength to strength. It has become an established part of life for the town's youth and has developed strong links with Keith Grammar School and other organisations.
Unusually, young people dominate the project's management group, by a ratio of five to three. Skilled at sourcing funding and unwilling to be put off by setbacks, the charitable organisation last year bought its premises, assisted with grants totalling just over £100,000 from the community land unit and Scottish Land Fund. With the assistance of local enterprise company HIE Moray it was recently equipped with a commercial kitchen, where young people train in food preparation and provide catering for groups using the facilities.
When Craighurst's came on the market, it presented an ideal opportunity to generate revenue and further develop the opportunities it offers. The eating place, which had opened in the last year was equipped and decorated to a very high standard, including a brand new kitchen.
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86a Seafield Lane
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