Off the Wall

Invergordon off the wall is a group which was set up in January 2002 to address the social and economic deprivation of our town. A voluntary initiative, we are a company limited by guarantee, with Scottish charitable status. The committee is made up of a small group of dedicated volunteers comprising a broad cross section of the community, encompassing a wide variety of skills and age groups.

We hope through our efforts to regenerate and enhance Invergordon in a way that promotes community involvement and a sense of local identity.

We intend to promote the rich and diverse history of the town, illustrating the events, people and industries that shaped this ‘Noble Harbour'.

Our Aims

First and foremost, our aim is to create a professionally executed outdoor art gallery, accessible to tourists and locals alike, involving the whole community.

To take our project forward, we set up an advisory panel of local artists and business people.

We anticipate emulating the success of the Canadian town of Chemainus which was a blue collar town reliant on heavy industry. Like us, they lost their major employer and came up with the innovative idea of creating skillfully executed murals.

Twenty years later, from a tourist industry of nil, 400,000 - 500,000 visitors per year come to view the murals and take part in a six week long festival of arts. A theatre has been built to cater for performing arts. Employment has increased due to the opening of 200 new businesses and morale and pride in their town has increased dramatically.

The marketing potential of an East Ross Heritage Trail is evident. Similar interest visitor attractions such as;

increase the potential for overnight and short break stays. We feel that the impact on local businesses can only be positive, encouraging tourists off the A9 to visit local attractions.

Why?

From its inception Invergordon has had a history of boom and bust, from its heyday as a thriving port and busy dockyard to the construction of the distillery which is still in operation.

In the intervening years, the opening of the aluminium smelter and the Nigg oil rig fabrication yard provided a vibrant economy. However, the abrupt closure, without warning, of the smelter on 29 December, 1989 after only 10 years in operation, created mass unemployment in the town. The whole community was in shock; almost every family in the town was affected. The devastation caused by the closure cannot be over emphasized, it cast a pall of gloom over the whole area. It was even more galling to the men and women who chose to remain working at the smelter rather than opting for more lucrative employment at the Nigg oil fabrication yard. The construction yard continued for quite a number of years after the closure of the smelter; in the heady days of the early eighties, employing up to 5000 people; it is now up for sale!

In the meantime, Invergordon had been made a trust port and The Cromarty Firth Port Authority had been appointed by government to manage the town's main asset; due to the oil boom this led to the port being used as an oil rig repair yard and service base.

Oil rigs in Cromarty Firth

Invergordon is now at the heart of the cruise liner trade, with approximately 40 liners visiting the port each year. The Queen Mary 2 visited on Sunday 19 June 2006 and the Queen Elizabeth 2 on Monday 1 August 2006.

Queen Mary 2
Queen Mary 2

Unfortunately the local economy does not see much benefit from this influx of visitors as most of the passengers are bussed away to Loch Ness and other famous tourist attractions.

The deprivation indices published in March 2003, show that of 1222 wards in Scotland, Invergordon is rated the 223rd most deprived.

Although the current unemployment figure is not now at its highest level, this disguises the fact that a large percentage of the male workforce is compelled to work abroad as there is little sustainable employment in the area.

Due to our proximity to the rapidly growing city of Inverness, and the fact that we are bypassed by the main A9, the retail heart of the town is rapidly diminishing.

At the time our group was established there were 18 vacant business premises on the Invergordon High Street.

The need for a sustainable attraction to Invergordon cannot be over emphasised.

How?

By consultation and public support!

In April 2003 our group entered a Rural Voices action research competition and from an entry of 80 was one of a group of 11 chosen to attend a 2 day training course in consultation procedures, and a seminar on rural capacity building. This enabled us to thoroughly consult our community.

Invitations to the first day’s consultation were distributed by a small army of volunteers to every household in Invergordon within a three-mile radius. This resulted in a steady flow of people throughout the day and it is estimated that around 500 people visited the exhibition of old photographs and continuous power point presentation of the proposed mural project.

The day culminated in a public meeting addressed to a packed hall where a comprehensive presentation was delivered. A question and answer session ensued, which resulted in an overwhelmingl mandate to go ahead with our project.

All attendees were asked to fill in a questionnaire or take one away with a stamped addressed envelope. One aspect of the procedure was that every one was given space and time to fill these in and no pressure was ever brought to bear. Some disabled participants required a scribe and where possible their carer was asked to fulfil this purpose.

We then conducted 3 other open days, sited to access as broad a range of the population as possible, at Invergordon Academy, the leisure centre and an evening at the Invergordon Social Club bingo when the house was full to capacity.

Following on from the open days, 12 consultation sessions with local groups were conducted.

Eager to gain more information on subject matter we conducted a Heritage Ceilidh and collected over 400 photographs.

The results of our questionnaire - adhering strictly to Rural Voices guidelines - demonstrate that out of a total of 559 respondents 75.4 % were in favour of the project, 12.8% were not sure and 11.8% were not in favour. These results were published in the local paper and displayed in our local enterprise window for 6 months. We also set up a drop in office which was manned every Friday (Market Day) for 6 months to collect information from local people.

Ken White with Jack Ross and Phil Bell
at Kildary Loch
After consulting with the public for more than a year our first mural “The Loch”, painted by famous mural artist Ken White and funded by CERS (aggregate tax) came into being. The Kildary Loch Angling club and employees of Albyn Housing Society were the groups who consulted with Ken on the content and design.

Every mural is led by one particular community group who liaises with the chosen artist to decide the style and content of the mural; each group therefore establish ownership of their mural. To date the following community groups are involved in the project:

The pride associated with constructing their own mural will enable these groups to feel part of a movement which is regenerating the town both economically and socially. Site Designed by Plexus Media

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Invergordon Off The Wall
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