Review of Lecture by NVA Creative Director Angus Farquar
This week Angus Farquar shared with us NVA’s current project of resurrecting the old site of St Peter’s Seminary in Kilmahew. He explained the socio-historical significance of the surrounding woodland, including an original family home on the site, and later the residency of the Catholic church. In 1961, two young architects designed a radical modernist building, which has attracted much admiration, curiosity and contestation throughout it short life span. Abandoned due to maintenance problems in the 80s, NVA propse to restore part of the building as an arts and education hub, while retaining some of the modern architectural ruin.
My interest in the site lies in the operational management of the restored space to secure success for the local community and economy, as well as the arts organisation intent on occupying the site. However wonderful a new arts space is, in the local area, there is not a huge need for it. Farquar mentioned that for the neighbouring village of Renton, where unemployment, crime and drug misuse are problems, there is a need for employement opportunities. I do not see how an arts space will solve this problem. I appreciate that the creative industries are a huge contributor to the national economy, but locally I am concerned about how the centre will engage the local community effectively. Within the Invisible College, will the local and unemployed community be encouraged to take part in workshops? Will the workshops add to their employable skills set? Will there be a synergy between place and local people, and not just people visiting from Glasgow or beyond.
Significant progress has been made to date in gaining local and national support for the proposals. This includes securing major funding for the capital works from Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, Creative Scotland, Argyll and Bute Council and private donors in the region of £5m. Planning & Listed Building Consents for the outline designs have been approved and in a remarkable gesture of goodwill and support the current owners of the site Archdiocese of Glasgow have conditionally agreed to donate the entire site for the public good in 2016.
Over the next eighteen months NVA will undertake an extensive period of development which will include a range of survey works to assess the physical condition of the buildings and landscape, producing architectural design proposals and continued fundraising to reach the final target of £7m.