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Dingwall and District's Men's Shed secures welcome boost from local academy kids under Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) programme with £3000 prize helping craft village dream move forward

By Hector MacKenzie

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Dingwall Academy pupils Jessica Mackenzie, Liam Squires and Charley Garbett helped deliver the goods for the project.
Dingwall Academy pupils Jessica Mackenzie, Liam Squires and Charley Garbett helped deliver the goods for the project.

A ROSS-SHIRE community working together to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis is laying solid foundations for a trailblazing project.

Enterprising pupils at Ross-shire's largest secondary school have dealt a welcome boost to ambitious plans for a "craft village" in the county town.

Dingwall and District's Men's Shed is working to transform a former skateboard park area into a community craft village open to all.

As well as offering an outlet for the town's remarkable creative talent, the scheme has been credited with reducing social isolation and building bridges between different generations.

Last week, S3 pupils at Dingwall Academy followed through on a fact-finding visit to the project by successfully pitching for £3000 from the the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) programme, an active citizenship programme that empowers young people to make a difference in their communities.

Dingwall Academy's principal teacher of English and Literacy, Nick Green, said the effort was particularly poignant as – after a two-year hiatus when presentations were delivered virtually due to coronavirus – they had returned to the in-person format.

He said: "It was particularly special to be able to return to in-person presentations for a live audience.

"We are incredibly proud of our S3 pupils for their hard work learning about and promoting local charities. For many, this was the first time they were able to present in front of a live audience for two years, and the quality of those presentations was fantastic.

"We are all impressed with the enthusiasm, maturity, and focus they demonstrated throughout the entire project, and with the courage and determination of the seven finalist groups, who presented in front of a live audience of 200 peers.

"The group picked Dingwall Men’s Shed because they were horrified by how much higher male suicide rates are, so they wanted to find a local charity which dealt specifically with men’s mental health. Once they met the people behind the charity, the fire was lit.

"On the walk back to school they were talking about how they ‘had to win it for them’ because of how many people the charity helps. They were also very pleased that the shed also opened its doors to women and young people as well.

"I would add that the folk at Dingwall Men’s Shed were absolutely amazing, and as a school we’re incredibly grateful for that. They invited our pupils to come see them. They were welcoming, spoke with them, showed them around, took pictures with them, and left the pupils feeling very excited about the charity and its real purpose in our community. So hats off to them!"

Steve Dovey with the plans for the new buildings. Picture: Callum Mackay
Steve Dovey with the plans for the new buildings. Picture: Callum Mackay

Steve Dovey of Dingwall Men's Shed said the group was touched by the efforts of the pupils.

He said: "It is all very useful. We are saving up. We have major works taking place and are looking at a workshop and social unit. The idea is to create a craft village which is open to anybody and everybody."

A singing and craft group already uses space available and it is hoped to build on that as the project takes shape.

In November we reported how the project had been gifted materials for a log cabin.

When complete, the craft village will include the log cabin with decking, polytunnel and a shed and greenhouse. Backers hope it will be a creative hub where a wide variety of skills are freely shared across the generations.

The project pays tribute to Andy Foley, the group’s former secretary, who passed away last August. He said: “Originally Andy was our founder member, it was his idea in the beginning, he thought it would be a good idea to have one in Dingwall.”

Do you have a picture or a story for us? Email hector.mackenzie@hnmedia.co.uk

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