Inspiring Scottish regeneration: The 2014 Surf awards

Project2_Layout 1For more than ten years now, Surf and the Scottish government have worked in partnership to identify, celebrate and share the most innovative and effective regeneration projects in Scotland through an annual awards scheme.

The Surf awards for best practice in community regeneration provide encouragement, inspiration and practical lessons for everyone working or volunteering towards the mitigation of considerable social and economic challenges in Scotland’s deprived areas – activities that often go unrecognised.

Applications to the Surf awards from all over Scotland are assessed by an independent panel of experts drawn from Surf’s network of national regeneration bodies and community groups. This year, our judges included senior representatives of, among others, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Scottish Community Development Centre, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, and the Scottish government – as well as its dedicated agencies for enterprise, skills, and urban design.

The judging panel is tasked with assessing applications under five thematic categories, informed by making site visits to 15 shortlisted initiatives operating in communities from Dumfries to the Western Isles. Their final decisions were announced this month by Paul Wheelhouse MSP, the Scottish government’s new minister for community safety and legal affairs, at a presentation dinner event in Glasgow’s Radisson Hotel.

Here are this year’s winners:

Glengate Hall1Town centre regeneration: Collaborative place-making in Kirriemuir

In the current demanding context for regeneration in Scotland, resources are restricted and funders are understandably keen to see the activities they support maximise the potential of existing assets.

This challenge is reflected strongly in all five 2014 Surf awards category winners.

The Town Centre Regeneration category winner Glengate Hall, for example, used an at-risk historic building as the basis for enhancing the centre of Kirriemuir, an Angus town to the north of Dundee with a population of 6000.

The building, a former church, civic centre and dance hall, was constructed in 1846 but became vacant in 2005 and soon appeared on the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland.

In 2012, with the building deteriorating rapidly, Angus Council proactively contacted Glengate Hall’s developer-owner to suggest an innovative collaborative arrangement that ultimately led to its refurbishment into nine attractive and affordable housing units.

The restored landmark building has greatly increased pride of place in Kirriemuir town centre, and for the Surf awards panel it presents a fine example of integrated physical, social and economic regeneration and public-private joint working.






Preparing for employment: Working with business

Edinburgh’s WorkingRite Pioneers programme won the ‘Preparing for Employment’ category, which highlights best practice in effective employability support for young people. As with Glengate Hall, this initiative is centred on something already in existence: small businesses with an interest in providing meaningful work placements.

Established in late 2013 with funding from JP Morgan, the Pioneers approach matches 16-17 year olds that are disengaged from conventional education, and training programmes to an appropriate small local employer for a 3-6 month period.

Support is provided by a WorkingRite youth employment co-ordinator and participants receive a gradual induction process, on-the-job training, a workplace mentor, and a weekly allowance.

The Surf awards judges felt the constantly evolving programme’s remarkable progression rates are unsurprising in the context of the project team’s commitment and the comprehensive life and work skills that the young people develop through their participation.

North Edinburgh GrowsCreative regeneration: Transforming vacant land

The Surf awards ‘Creative regeneration’ category recognises the value of arts-based approaches to place-based regeneration. The winning initiative, North Edinburgh Grows, is a welcoming outdoor community space immediately adjacent to the North Edinburgh Arts Centre in the city’s economically challenged Muirhouse area.

The previously derelict half-acre space – vacant land representing another valuable existing asset – was transformed by local people into a popular community garden, replete with integrated artworks, that opened this summer.

This project shares a number of parallels with the ‘infrastructure and social benefits’ winner Every1’s Garden, a former builder’s yard in the Hilltown area of north Dundee.

In early 2012, members of the nearby community-run Maxwell Centre instigated a process to develop the area into a large, productive garden. The development work was completed in April, and on their visit to the garden the Surf awards panel were highly impressed by the range of meaningful social activities it now provides to the local community, from a children’s club and healthy eating workshops to growing associations and supported gardening & volunteering opportunities.

Sticking with growing spaces, the final 2014 Surf Awards winner is Horshader Community Growing, which serves three villages on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. This rural and remote region, where the nearest supermarket is a 36-mile round trip, has a high elderly population and a 50% rate of fuel poverty.

To address this, Horshader Community Development Trust successfully developed a community space featuring covered allotments and food-growing polytunnels. Since January, the initiative has supplied healthy and affordable fresh fruit and vegetables directly to local people, and is deserved winner of the 2014 Surf Awards ‘Community-led regeneration’ category.

Learning and influencing

We will be working with all five Surf award winning projects in 2015 to draw out and share transferable lessons with our wider network. In May, we will be holding a series of Surf Awards Learning Workshops in which we will explore the value of their successful approaches to other contexts and geographies. Next year, supportive consultancies in the Surf network will also be providing the five winners with pro-bono services to help them further build on their achievements to date.

In recent years, Surf has worked hard to identify practical learning outcomes from over 100 regeneration projects that have been shortlisted for recent Surf awards iterations. This bank of useful knowledge will be used to inform the development of a Manifesto for Regeneration, which Surf will be producing and sharing with the main political parties in advance of the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.

Surf is grateful to all award applicants for helping us understand more about the important community regeneration work that they are involved in. The real goal of the Surf awards is to encourage and inspire more of it.

  •  A full summary of the 2014 Surf awards process, including a special outcomes publication, is available on the Surf website.


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