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Community spirit on show as Evanton micro-businesses take spotlight in Victoria Diamond Jubilee Hall


By Hector MacKenzie

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The cafe went down well even if access issues highlighted the need for some changes. Picture: Callum Mackay
The cafe went down well even if access issues highlighted the need for some changes. Picture: Callum Mackay

A SHOWCASE of businesses and initiatives – as well as community spirit – in an Easter Ross village hall welcomed almost 100 people.

Organised by Evanton Community Trust, it was a chance for owners of micro businesses to meet, share their work with locals and visitors and ponder creative collaborations down the line.

The Victoria Diamond Jubilee Hall is itself at the centre of a community consultation with the possibility of an extension to make the 120-year-old building more user-friendly for local groups using it on a regular basis.

Visitors took the chance to check out the bright new anteroom, described by ECT's Gabrielle Buist as "an inviting space for many things to unfold".

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Jacqui Steel, Youth Highland; Neve Forde, Lucy Stokes, Amy Marshall, Jessica Christman and Claire Mollet. Picture: Callum Mackay
Jacqui Steel, Youth Highland; Neve Forde, Lucy Stokes, Amy Marshall, Jessica Christman and Claire Mollet. Picture: Callum Mackay

She said: "As organiser together with Friddy at Home, I am very pleased with the event mostly because of how so many people pulled together to help make it happen and showed up to make it a success. I'm proud of our growing list of nearly 70 micro businesses in a small village where apparently 'not much happens', but clearly much more could and will.

"As development officer I will keep listening to the needs and ideas of residents like Emily who pointed out last summer that our village has so much more to offer than people realise, and so we will keep thinking up ways to support our community to dare to shine a bit brighter and do ever greater things with this kind of event as a recurring launch pad."

Mackie and Moira Henderson. Picture: Callum Mackay
Mackie and Moira Henderson. Picture: Callum Mackay

Visitors to the Diamond Jubilee Hall were greeted by local musicians with guitar music and singing, followed by bite-size cake on trays offered by members of the new youth club.

The hall was full of beautiful handmade jewellery, arts/crafts, organic skincare, massages and everything from Nordic walking instructors to unique children's clothing handmade by the cohost Friddy at Home.

Ms Buist said: "We also had some brand new Evanton initiatives present and enjoying an opportunity to meet the community and talk about what they do, for example Seeds of Scotland and Jess Christman Design who received a very warm welcome. We opened our newly renovated anteroom up as a cafe for the event with teas served by youth as a fundraiser for their new club and decorated beautifully by Moss 'n' Wild blooms.

Lauren McNaught, Tracy Forsyth and Gabrielle Buist in the cafe set up for the day. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Lauren McNaught, Tracy Forsyth and Gabrielle Buist in the cafe set up for the day. Picture: Callum Mackay.

"This latter is a new business who decided to start up after the momentum and enthusiasm of last years Evanton Initiatives showcase event in October."

She added: "The hall's out-dated internal layout was apparent as folk were expected to go outside and around the building – in a hail storm – in order to enjoy the new anteroom cafe. The only other official way is through the kitchen. On a busy multi-generational day like this the shortcomings become quite apparent with too many tight and awkward areas and doors opening on small people in somewhat precarious ways.

"There is plenty of charm and original features but it isn't very user friendly for these times."

The community consultation and survey that took place in February thanks to funds secured through the Scottish Land Fund will be brought back and reported on on Thursday, April 20.

Ms Buist said: "We were very pleased with the community engagement getting 240 responses to the survey. With community backing we go for the second stage of the funding in May which will hopefully allow us to purchase a strip of land at the back of the hall to build an extension. This would give room for a rethink of the internal layout ensuring better health and safety and usability going forward."

The next big event at the hall will be to celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, April 23 from 1-4pm with local artists getting creative with activities for the whole family, Evanton Community Woods taking people foraging and putting on a trail, and some soup and scones.


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