2014 Rural Innovator Awards
The Rural Innovators Award is for a project, person or organisation which is improving life in rural communities by tackling one of the priority challenges. The more innovative the project, the better!
Stramash from the Argyll and Bute category was the winner of the 2014 Rural Innovator Award which was announced at the Scottish Rural Parliament in November. Stramash is a successful and award winning social enterprise that delivers high social impacts and operates a sustainable business model. They use the outdoors to facilitate personal, social, emotional and educational development and environmental education. The organisation delivers the only outdoor children’s care apprenticeship scheme for young people in Scotland and is the largest provider of outdoor education apprenticeships in the country.
You can see a video of the finalist speeches at the Opening Ceremony here: Video of the finalists
The finalists and winners of categories
Communities Leading with Confidence
The community of Braemar is delighted to have been recognised with this award. Although remote with just 400 inhabitants, Braemar is a vibrant village. In partnership with supportive bodies a range of activities are moving the community forward.
Current projects include running Braemar Castle as a visitor attraction alongside raising money for its restoration, progressing Scotland’s only World , Highland Games Discovery Centre, running an Award winning Creative Arts Festival and the restoration of the nationally important St Margarets Church and conversion into a centre for performing and visual arts. We have a home-grown choir, a demonstration country dance group and a traditional music group as well as pipers and highland dancers. The local History group have produced an exhibition and run weekly guided walks and thanks to community pressure, Kindrochit Castle, the 11th century hunting Lodge of King Malcolm Canmore is undergoing extensive upgrading. A community orchard has been planted, a youth club established ,a junior highland games and a village map created. There are improved transport links and walking routes and work is progressing on a micro hydro scheme and improving care in the community.,
Like all destinations which rely on tourism, the community must continually innovate and refresh what’s on offer. Work is ongoing on an action plan to improve services for both local people and for the many visitors to this tiny village surrounded by the challenges and opportunities of the majestic mountains of the Cairngorms National Park. Moving forward is made possible through a strong community spirit which sees so many people volunteering to support the many village activities, clubs and projects.
Transport and Infrastructure
is specifically aimed at introducing basic road safety cycle skills suitable for 10-12 year old children, volunteer trainers and the road environment. They have delivered a resource that is well researched, easy to use, cost effective, fully embraces the Curriculum for Excellence whilst providing the key information necessary to train a competent and knowledgeable cyclist.
Broadband and Digital Connectivity
Badenoch Broadband & Comms CIC
The idea of Badenoch Broadband & Communication CIC started when our local Laggan exchange suffered a fault which lead to intermittent broadband for 6 weeks. After finally getting the fault fixed by BT, a group of 4 met in the local hotel in the winter of 2010 to discuss the possibilities of improving the community’s connectivity. After looking at all the options, and having realised that our telephone exchange would not be upgraded, we came to the conclusion that a long distance wireless system was the only feasible option. We were advised by Prof. Peter Buneman from the Tegola Project and our thanks go to him for his help in our early stages. To finance the project, the community voted to use some of the SSE pylon mitigation money that we had been awarded. This was match funded by a Leader grant and also, later, the Enterprise Growth Fund.
Over the next 2 years our volunteers built and configured the first three masts which allowed all those in visual distance to connect to a faster more reliable broadband, this included those too far away from the exchange to experience broadband speeds for the first time. In the last 12 months three further masts have been constructed and we are continuing to extend our network to include surrounding villages and soon hope to be offering ’superfast’ connections that will be the fastest available in Badenoch.
We feel very honoured to win receive this award. It is amazing for all the hard work involved to be recognised and it goes to show what a rural community can do when it works together, any obstacle can be overcome! It goes a long way to recognising all the free time and hard work the community has put in to make it happen. Well done Laggan!!!
Land use, planning and land reform
Roots Design Workshop
Roots Design Workshop is a rural architecture studio, based on the Isle of Tiree. Roots recognise that the most sensitive landscapes in rural Scotland can often be the most remote from professional design services. Roots help overcome this by operating as a mobile studio who travel between rural communities, offering advice about design, construction and energy-efficiency.
The studio are currently working on a number of commissions across Argyll and the islands. This includes the renovation of Iona Abbey; private houses on Tiree, Mull and Islay; community-owned affordable housing on the Iona; and feasibility studies for making groups of Churches in the Cowal peninsula more sustainable. The studio also played a leading role in setting up Tog Studio; a summer school where architecture students learn practical construction skills by working on a real building project. The latest summer school saw the studio help volunteers from across the country to build a community-owned boathouse on the Isle of Tiree.
The finished Boathouse has been widely publicised and is shortlisted for a Design Award by the Glasgow Institute of Architects (announced in mid November). Micheal Holliday, who runs Roots Design Workshop from the Isle of Tiree, said “We are delighted to have won an Innovation Award at the inaugural Scottish Rural Parliament. We are passionate about working with rural communities from across Scotland and this award is a testament to the diverse range of projects our creative team is working on. Our experience has shown that the people who live and work in rural Scotland tend to be resilient, resourceful and rewarding; much like their traditional buildings!
Protecting our natural assets and adapting to environmental change
Gatehouse Development Initiative (GDI) Chairman, David Steel said “I am delighted that we have won the award for Protecting our Natural Assets and Adapting to Environmental Change. This award recognises the hard work undertaken to safeguard the heritage of the Gatehouse of Fleet area and to adapt to climate change. I would like to thank all those who voted for us”
The GDI is composed entirely of volunteers. The main objective of the Initiative is the promotion of the welfare of the community of Gatehouse of Fleet. GDI provides volunteering opportunities every week to work on a wide range of environment projects. Over the past year volunteers have enhanced the site of a mediaeval motte, cleared dikes for rebuilding, planted hardwood trees in the headwaters of the river Fleet to reduce acidification, dealt with invasive species, planted fruit trees on Council land and undertaken path maintenance and beach cleaning.
The GDI is also working with partners from across Europe to develop best practice to promote the built and natural rural heritage. The GDI has its own small wind turbine which it operates in conjunction with an organic farm and ice cream producer. It has helped to retain the local library by reducing energy costs. It has assisted the Community Centre to become self-sufficient by installing photo voltaic panels, air source heat pumps and double glazing. It has turned a redundant tourist information office into a year round sustainable building for showcasing local crafts and providing affordable office space.
Rural businesses & employment
Isle of Jura Community Shop
The Isle of Jura is home to 5000 deer but less than 200 people. With no direct car link to the mainland we rely heavily on the services on Islay and the weather dependent ferry that gets us there.
In 2012 Jura faced the reality of losing the island’s only shop. Part of village life for 130 years, the shop was not only provided access to essential goods but was also a vital part of the social fabric. Following overwhelming support from the community to save the shop, The Isle of Jura Development Trust led the project for a community buy out and just 6 months after having our Community Right to Buy application accepted, completed the acquisition in March 2013.
Money from The Big Lottery Fund and HIE paid for the purchase, a major refurbishment and extension and 4 years revenue support, giving the business the best chance of long term survival.
Extensive learning from other shops and support agencies led us through the minefield, but all the key decisions were made by the community, including setting up an independent Community Interest Company to run the shop. 19 months on and the shop is thriving. Volunteers play a huge part in running the business (well over 2,500 hours recorded), but we are proud to say all the staff working in the shop are paid employees. There are no shareholders – Jura Stores Community Interest Company encourages membership but we promote truly inclusive ownership and believe that our shop belongs to everyone who lives on Jura. We’re delighted to have won the Rural Innovator award – not only as a recognition of how much the community of Jura has achieved in the last 2 years but also as a way of sharing our story and hopefully giving other communities the confidence to take their own projects forward.