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Blank Space 2010 Issue 5

Memories of Highwayman Youth & Community Centre 01Established as the Highwayman Youth and Community Centre in 1999, the building (previously a pub) became a respected focal point for wide-ranging activities and classes.

I became involved firstly as an active member of the Hulltoon Writers’ Group, in the Spring of 2007. At the HYCC local management group AGM in 2008, I decided—on the spur of the moment—to volunteer as a Committee LMG member, as Secretary, with meetings chaired by Lindsey Harley, then Martyn Sloan and latterly Jaimie Bain.

What struck me most about the Highwayman was the lively and friendly atmosphere, and the warm welcome to all visitors, from all staff members and all volunteers. There was a real camaraderie. Classes included (not an exhaustive list) mosaics, jewellery making, arts and crafts, creative writing, computing, exercise, dance, plus a wide range of kids’/ youth activities/adult learning, organised by centre manager Jim Dunlop with Bruce Hosie and Joyce Guthrie.

Memories of Highwayman Youth & Community Centre 02In addition, the café—run by Elaine Melrose – provided tasty home-made soup and a main meal, fresh fruit, etc, at very low cost, providing nutritious food to all who visited. Pool tables and a widescreen TV with Nintendo Wii interface added to the homely atmosphere, while the well-appointed IT suite was a quiet venue to develop computing skills, and work space for volunteers and LMG members. The back room was where most of the arts, crafts and adult learning took place, adorned with displays of members’ artwork and creative output.

Special community-wide open events were where the place really came alive, including ceilidh dancing , massed choirs, fiddlers and bands at Fest N’ Furious, November 2009; the Hilltown Christmas Festival 2009; the Burns Night celebrations in 2010 featuring the Ferryport Fiddlers, plus a full dinner of haggis, neeps and tatties; and fundraising quiz evenings, ably compered by Martyn Sloan. My team, Hulltoon Writers’ Group, had the honour of winning the quiz trophy four times.

In early 2010, news of the pending demolition of the Highwayman shocked and dismayed the community. Letters to the local press commented on the friendly spirit at the venue and the valuable work done for the people of Hilltown, appealing for the centre to remain intact, but to no avail. The centre was demolished to make way for new housing ; a landmark venue was gone forever.

But out of the ashes, phoenix-like, a new Highwayman project has emerged. The LMG led by Jaimie Bain, supported by May Lawrie, Martin Duthie, Eddy Copeland and myself, decided it was vital to continue the valuable work of the HYCC at new venues. Site visits were made to assess the suitability of buildings. The decision was taken to establish the new Highwayman at AOG Free Gospel Church, Constitution Street, with additional classes/activities taking place at the Mark Henderson Centre, Grey Lodge, and other venues.

Ably supported firstly by outgoing centre manager Jim Dunlop and administrator Brenda Mills, then by Angie Wilson – Volunteer Support Worker/ICT, Doug Rennie, Section Leader, and administrator Cheryl Hayes, the LMG managed to transfer the groups and classes to the new venues to preserve the spirit of the old Highwayman. With the enthusiasm and experience of Bruce Hosie and Joyce Guthrie, children’s/youth and adult learning classes continue to go from strength to strength. As we approach the next AGM, and plan ahead for 2011, building relations with Coldside Community Forum and other like-minded organisations, we reflect on where we came from and look ahead with optimism, serving the people of Hilltown.

Dedicated to all LMG members, volunteers, paid staff members and sessional workers past and present who have contributed time and energy to the Highwayman cause.

Article by Erik Zoha

Photos courtesy of Eddy Copeland, Vice-Chair, Highwayman LMG

Dudhope Park Open DayFriends of Dudhope Park Steering Group organised an open day at Dudhope Park on Saturday July 3rd so that local people could give their opinions on the Park. People were treated to a dog training display, teddy bears picnic, street football and sports with the skaters and BMX bikers on hand to entertain.

The aim of the day was to allow some consultation on the good and bad in the park. One of the main complaints from local park users was the lack of lighting and a need for improvements in the facilities. Ideas included restoring the original Victorian lights, new benches and an updated play area.

On the whole people indicated that they liked the park, it was well used and could be better with a range of improvements, including lighting, improved play area, resurfacing the tennis courts and upgrading the toilets.

Other people indicated that they would like more information on the park and other events which would be happening. The Steering group will be holding a follow up meeting after the summer which will be open to all.

For more information please contact Elaine Pratt on 22160 or email elaine.pratt@dundeecity.gov.uk

The allotments holders at Stirling Park would like to thank Lesley and Valerie from the Community Payback Team for the super job done on their hut. They came to their assistance and got the inside of their meeting hut painted and installed banisters at their stairs so that the more stiff amongst them could climb the stairs into the hut.

They held their flower and vegetable show on Sunday 12 September with their heads held high safe in the knowledge that all comers are welcome and able to access their hut.

For more information on the organisation please contact http://www.stirlingparkallotments.org

A well-established Dundee charity opened new premises in Hilltown recently, with the aim of getting long-term unemployed people ready for work via person-centred training. Local MSP and Public Health Minister Ms Shona Robison officially opened the new centre at a well-attended public event on 25 June – which included a breakfast buffet.

CraigOwl Communities’ Learning Place (previously based at Stirling Street) provides tailor-made courses for unemployed people, helping tackle deprivation and joblessness in the Hilltown area. The bright and airy, spacious new premises has had £317,000 invested in it, providing a focal point for regeneration and renewal. People can learn basic IT software skills – MS Office and ECDL – improve their literacy and numeracy, brush up on jobhunting techniques, and learn about food hygiene and Health & Safety regulations.

Work placements are available in office admin, retail, care work and hospitality. People can also come in off the street with general enquiries and be re-directed to relevant agencies for advice on housing, money, contacts at local voluntary groups etc. A suite of 10 desktop PCs, comfortable seating, height-adjustable desks, a crèche, level access and disabled toilets are all features of the new space, providing a relaxing, positive environment conducive to learning.

Board member Mr Ian Ball presented a slideshow giving details on CraigOwl and the transition from Stirling Street to Hilltown, emphasising the quality of the new premises and the courses offered. He said that the Learning Place signalled “a new phase in CraigOwl’s commitment to excellence”. Mr Ball drew attention to the employability outcomes for the Learning Place students – 53% gain accredited qualifications, 31% go into employment, 11% into further education, and the remainder “make progress”.

Afterwards, Ms Robison cut the tape to declare the centre open. She said: “Being in work gives people an income, boosts their self-esteem, gives them confidence and improves their mental health.” Ms Robison added that it was important to “make the most of the resources we do have” amidst “tough times” for the public sector… “At this time of a difficult economic climate for the city, this is a really welcome service to help people in a deprived community who have a number of challenges in finding work… The other great thing about it is, it is a wonderful building that has been created here.” Ms Robison said it represented an “anchor building” signalling an “area on the turn, out of deprivation.”

Julia Morris, CraigOwl’s employability programme co-ordinator spoke of the success of the organisation in getting people ‘job ready’, and referred to the ‘employability pipeline’ and CraigOwl’s associations with relevant linked agencies. She said around 50 people are involved in programmes at present. She added: “We run flexible programmes so clients can get to choose which elements they want to follow. We will also develop a programme for their individual needs.”

Article by Erik Zoha used with permission of Blank Space

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