The members of the Lit were inspired to hear of the renovation of Dunoon Burgh Hall at their latest meeting.
Ann Campbell, who has had three different jobs in the eight years of the project, is now the community engagement worker.
Dunoon Burgh Hall, funded by public subscription, was built in 1874 to provide a home for the Town Council. The chamberlain’s office was on the ground floor and the first theatre in Argyllshire opened on the floor above. Ann sketched in the early history of the imposing building, how capacity was increased by adding a balcony and how popular the venue became with the addition of the stage.
After 100 years of use the main hall was abandoned in the 1980s and the constant deterioration of the building led to a threat of demolition in the late 1990s. This is when people power kicked in.
A local group stepped up, facilitated the granting of B listed status and persuaded the John McAslan Family Trust to come on board and eventually buy the endangered property from Fyne Homes for £1 in 2008. There was a strong sense that the building belonged to the community.
In 2010 ownership was transferred to the Dunoon Burgh Hall Trust.
Ann explained that the project ‘grew arms and legs’ as more enthusiastic volunteers came on board, some EEC funding allowed two part-time posts to be created, community arts and education projects were held and the lengthy process of applying for grants was started.
Even when the building was closed for two years during structural work on the roof - mostly funded by the Lottery - the arts and community projects continued in a nearby large empty shop.
During restoration the circular stained glass window was removed. After much research the specialist glass restorers were able to recreate the face of the Viking depicted there which turned out to bear a remarkable likeness to the original architect.
Even before the official opening of Dunoon Burgh Hall in June 2017 it had become established as an important arts venue and creative hub. This was confirmed by the recent much lauded Warhol exhibition held there.
The future plans for the directors and the six staff are to make the facility a sustainable business with projects such as the Dunoon Film Festival, youthSTUFF, Cowal Cinema Club and the reintroduction of amateur dramatics under the Burgh Hall Players.
Ann was a very passionate and enthusiastic ambassador for the hall and wished the residents of Rothesay equal success with their much larger project at the Pavilion. On March 13 we will have a speaker on the Pavilion project.