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Spirit of Community 2 public meeting at Forres Town Hall reflects on town's achievements and aspirations


By Garry McCartney

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FACT project officer Lorretta Oliphant noting the ideas and suggestions provided by a random group of attendees at the town hall. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
FACT project officer Lorretta Oliphant noting the ideas and suggestions provided by a random group of attendees at the town hall. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

MORE than 50 people attended a public event at Forres Town Hall aimed at improving the town.

Forres Area Community Trust (FACT), Forres Area Forum, tsiMORAY, Forres and Dyke community councils, and Moray Council’s community support unit helped organise ‘Spirit of Community 2’ (SoC2) on the evening of Wednesday, April 27, to reflect on the achievements of Spirit of Community in 2014 as well as focus on aims and aspirations now.

Outgoing Moray Councillor, Lorna Creswell, came up with the idea of Spirit of Community events at a meeting of Forres Area Forum.

She said: "I feel the most successful outcome of the original event was local environmental groups - including Forres In Bloom and Transition Town Forres - agreeing to meet regularly to share their progress, plans, expertise and resources.

"The themes - local environment; transport, traffic and access; leisure and tourism; facilities and services - were more specific this time. Also, we had people from Moray Council and tsi attend alongside local residents.

"Fresh eyes help generate enthusiasm for future possibilities."

A brief networking session was followed by speeches from FACT development officer Debbie Herron and the Lord-Lieutenant of Moray, Major General Seymour Monro.

Debbie Herron was co-presenter.
Debbie Herron was co-presenter.

Debbie reminded the attendees of some of the accomplishments of local groups over the last eight years, including FACT's Cameron's Champions befriending service and free directory of local services delivered to each household in Forres.

She also highlighted the work of social enterprises such as ReBOOT, Moray Waste Busters, Findhorn Bay Arts, Colours of Cluny and Piping At Forres.

She said: "There are around 200 local groups in our area that are making a real difference. Volunteers are also involved in the Forres Highland Games, Forres Theme Day and Scottish Week.

"Volunteering is worth a lot in value, in fact I worked out that there has been around £5-7m-worth completed here in the last year!"

She added: "Community Asset Transfers have gone through for the Tolbooth, Nelson's Tower and Forres Town Hall, and one is in progress at Leanchoil Hospital. These are all assets for our community.

"Investment is available via The Community Renewal Fund - we need to come together to plan how we can get some of it for more local projects."

Co-founder of the Moray Emergency Relief Fund and Moray’s Lord Lieutenant, Major General Seymour Monro, also flagged up the European Pipe Band Champions which took place at Grant Park from 2012 to 2018.

Lord Lieutenant Seymour Monro opened the evening with a speech focused on the many positive projects in Forres.
Lord Lieutenant Seymour Monro opened the evening with a speech focused on the many positive projects in Forres.

Maj Gen Monro discussed the difficulties people faced during the pandemic and are now facing during the cost of living/energy crisis.

He praised the opportunities and life-lessons available via organisations such as the Scouts, Cadets and church youth, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme and Moray Badge Platinum Jubilee project.

Focussing on the future, he said: "A 4G sports pitch, a skate park, an outdoor gym and improved internet connections are aspirations already being looked at for Forres. But what about more indoor facilities - somewhere for IT skills, a youth cafe, an improved careers advice service or a green think tank? Local businesses and landowners may be able to help with what is suggested via SoC2."

Maj Gen Monro used the examples of AJ Engineering and AES Solar to show how "small acorns can grow into large trees", pointing out that by providing young people with supported life skills via improved facilities, there could be more local successes.

"We need to involve young people in group discussions in future," he said. "Let us make sure they get the best possible start to their adult life."

Discussions took place throughout the evening. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Discussions took place throughout the evening. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Attendees chose two themes each and spent around 20 minutes discussing them in groups before noting their ideas and reporting back at the end of the event.

Cllr Creswell said: "We were encouraged by the attendance and the responses at the round table discussions. We will now collate these and produce a report, as we did last time."

Local citizens trying to improve on what Forres has to offer. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Local citizens trying to improve on what Forres has to offer. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Fabion Villani of the tsi leadership team is looking forward to working together to support community led activity in the area.

He said: "It was great to see so many people at SoC2. These events are key to ensuring local plans are based on local people’s knowledge of and aspirations for our area. I would like to congratulate FACT on a very successful event, building on all that the trust has achieved over the last 10 years.

"We look forward to continuing to work together to support community led activity in the Forres area and beyond."

Small groups came up with a number of ideas. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Small groups came up with a number of ideas. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Ms Herron added: "Please complete and share https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/WDZSBH7 before the survey closes on May 31. If anyone needs paper copies, we have them in the town hall for collection.

"We will be able to write SoC2 report once we have completed this next strand and undertaken further focus groups to capture as wide a demographic as possible."

Forres Community Council chairwoman Kathleen Robertson, Major General Seymour Monro, Sandra Maclennan of Forres Area Forum and Joanna Taylor from Forres Area Community Trust.
Forres Community Council chairwoman Kathleen Robertson, Major General Seymour Monro, Sandra Maclennan of Forres Area Forum and Joanna Taylor from Forres Area Community Trust.


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