Atholl Centre - bringing people together

A Community project Pitlochry, Scotland, Pitlochry, United Kingdom

We'd like to build a disabled-friendly conference/ large meeting room to give equality of access to all the folks who come here.

Project aim

We'd like to build a fully accessible conference/meeting room to give equality of access to all the folks who come here - the locals for community groups and events and folks from further away coming for conferences & holidays.

About the project

Who are we?

The Atholl Centre, Pitlochry is a holiday & conference centre & community venue with good disabled access in the heart of beautiful Highland Perthshire. We are a Christian run charity designed to serve people from all backgrounds. We are used by other charities, church groups, small business start-ups, educational and youth groups, including many local community groups. In fact we host 15 regular community groups, with additional community day events put on by Perth & Kinross Voluntary Services, Perth & Kinross Council & NHS Tayside as well as community led groups - and we are the local food bank and emergency centre for when there are power cuts or weather related incidents. 

We host groups involded in training and education & enable disadvantaged, disabled & chronically ill groups & individuals through hosting holidays, support groups & courses. We also do B&B in the summer and have 2 self-catering apartments - good for short breaks (respite) as well as ordinary holidays. The Atholl Centre is a Scottish charity (SC015113) & company Ltd by guarantee & operates as a non-profit social enterprise, which means any profit we do generate is ploughed back into improving our services & funding discounts to vulnerable users and community groups.

What would we like to do?

We would like to make a new accessible conference/ large meeting room by extending our current dining room and then dividing it with a soundproof. movable partition, allowing the space to be used as one very large room or two good sized rooms (each seating 60). As well as being more accessible for mobility impaired guests, the new room will have built in Audio Visuals with a loop for the hard of hearing. This room would be used both by our local community and by residential  & day guests.

So, what's so exciting about a conference room?

Well, for a start, it's the last piece in the jigsaw for our disabled users, making the whole of our ground floor into a fully accessible holiday & conference  complex with meeting rooms, a place to eat, accessible en-suite bedrooms & even a fully accessible self-catering apartment (the last 2 items officially opened by Deputy First Mininster John Swinney in June). We've achieved so much over the last couple of years. This would make our ground floor complete.

For the locals who use the Atholl Centre as a community venue this room is just as exciting because such a high percentage of people in Pitlochry are retired (25%) or have a disability or chronic illness (22%), so mobility problems are widespread and the current conference room upstairs has been largely useless for them. This new room will not only be easy to get into (and out of), the built in Audio Visuals & loop will mean that the significant number of hearing aid users here will be able to join in properly with whatever is going on, and when they meet for U3A or WA lunch club for example, even videos & presentations will be accessible because the loop will be fully connected to the AV.

This new room will give equality of access to all of our guests, helping to fight social isolation and promote integration. Our vision states we are in the business of bridge-building, between disabled & able-bodied, old & young, church & community and we enable the vulnerable & lonely to take part in social & friendship groups.

Thirdly this new room will help to make the Atholl Centre more sustainable. First it will save us money becasue having our accessible conference room on the ground floor will mean no future lift costs - either to maintian the lift (~6K pa) or to buy a new one. Second, it will make us money. We intend to open up to commercial day conferences so we can earn money with this room when the community and residential groups are not using it to balance out the discounts we give to vulnerable & community users, meaning we will no longer have to rely on donations to keep us going. So this project is special because it solves 2 problems: equality of access and sustainability.

How much have we already raised?

I was going to tell you we have already raised £81,000 through Trust Fund applications & donations, but in the last couple of weeks that has risen to nearly £84,000! So now we just need to raise another £26,000 to get started. The full cost of the project will be £146,900 (which includes architect's fees and improving the foyer & corridor leading to the new room), but we have also been granted a low interest loan of £60,000 which we can draw down when we reach £110,000. We are hoping to rasie £10,000 through crowdfunding and if we make more, the extra will go towards improving the foyer and corridor which will complete all of our ground floor improvements.

The funny thing is we've learnt you can be passionate & practical at the same time.

When we put in a woodpellet boiler & solar panels, we chose this method of heating & hot water becasue we are passionate about being good stewards of our planet, but we found it was practical too. The Atholl Centre became both cosier and cheaper to heat as a result.

We are passionate about bringing people together and we are passionate about offering the same welcome to everyone and so equality of access is hugely important to us, and this new room will enable that to happen. However the new room is practical too. In the long run it will not only save us money through avoiding lift costs, but it should also help us make money so we can balance our finances and keep the Atholl Centre going strong.

When you're a social enterprise money still matters, not as an end in itself, but because if you fail financially you let down all those people you're helping.

So please donate so we can continue to bring people together

& help change lives well into the future.