The Community Plan from 2011 highlighted that people were concerned about a lack of business premises in the area and visitor hubs in the villages. The Columba Centre, formerly a Historic Environment Scotland (HES) exhibition space, was mentioned as one of several empty buildings that could be a good opportunity to remedy this issue.
Thanks to their community engagement initiatives, Historic Environment Scotland were keen to work with SWMID in making the Columba Centre a resource for the area. While half of the building was retained by HES for maintenance and storage space, a lease for the other half was arranged and SWMID moved in at the start of October 2017.
The lease of this building has been vital for the functioning and growth of SWMID as an organisation. Originally SWMID was just one staff member working from a small space in the Ross of Mull Historic Centre in Bunessan. With the use of the Columba Centre we are now able to hold monthly directors’ meetings in our own building and have enough working space to expand our team; as of 2019 we have five staff members based here. We also rent out parts of the building; in addition to covering the rent to HES, this enables us to offer business space or meeting rooms to local groups and individuals at reasonable rates.
During further consultations in 2016 we asked the community what sort of activity they wanted to see in the Columba Centre. The top suggestion was an Arts and Crafts exhibition space, and we are delighted that now the main room is rented to the South West Mull Makers (a local arts and crafts collective). During the summer months, the makers showcase and sell their work, from paintings and pottery to quilts and psychedelic patterned shoes, while in winter they run workshops teaching skills like weaving, patchwork, sculpture and upcycling.
Many of the local people consulted in 2016 also had the excellent idea of using the Columba Centre for more “indoor leisure activities” and a committee has been set up to transform one room into a community gym. Another popular suggestion was supporting the business community by providing new offices, meeting rooms, and consulting space. Since moving in we have been able to rent out one office to Rural Housing Scotland, as well as provide space for hot-desking, meetings, Business Gateway workshops, Gaelic classes and even Book Bug sessions.
We love our new offices and look forward to seeing new projects growing at the Columba Centre in the future!
For more information on the community gym, please contact Fraser McKenzie, Cheryl-Ann Paterson or Rowan McCallum.
To hire a space in the Columba Centre or for any other questions, please email Saskia on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01681 700 021.