An exciting new BMX track and play area and funding for The Hut to become a centre for youth work and a meeting place for groups were just some of the issues discussed by the Newton Stewart Initiative.
The April meeting of the Initiative was well supported with nine of the current 12 committee members attending and three apologies received.
Susan McKie welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced two invited guest speakers.
Nathon Jones from the Newton Stewart and Minnigaff Traditional Music Festival and Wolf Richthofen from the Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce had been invited along to discuss their various projects.
The meeting began with Nathon bringing the group up to date with progress on the festival which takes place on the 10th and 11th of July in several venues around Newton Stewart and Minnigaff.
The Newton Stewart and Minnigaff Traditional Music Festival will take place on July 10th and 11th.
Nathon reported that after the success of the event in 2014 his committee had successfully applied for funding to help run the event in 2015. Various acts had already been signed up for this year’s festival and various musical and song-writing workshops had been arranged over the two days.
Tickets for the event are on sale now and these can now be booked on line at www.tradmusic.com/buy-festival-tickets.asp
The committee agreed that the festival committee should be congratulated on their work and that NSI would support Nathon and his committee in any way they could.
During discussions it was noted that the stage at the McMillan Hall although fitted with new curtains did not have any stage lighting. It was understood that there had been lighting in place prior to the renovation works but this had not been replaced. It was suggested that contact be made with the council to request that this be replaced as soon as possible.
Susan thanked Nathan for coming along and wished him success with this years event.
Wolf introduced himself as chairman of the WCC and outlined some of the work he had been involved in over the past year.
WCC are working hard to improve the many aspects of business life in Wigtownshire. This includes trying to increase the profile of the Machars and Rhins as a tourist destination and attracting inward investment from abroad.
The Initiative committee are keen to work alongside the Chamber to explore the possibility of working together on various projects. Members had expressed concern about the lack of directional signage pulling tourists along the A75 corridor into the Machars and the Rhins of Galloway. It seems there are plenty of attraction signage but the only directional signage was on the Castle Douglas bypass which sends touring visitors North into the Glenkens area.
It was suggested that a new ‘West Galloway Coastal Tourist Route’ could be created taking in Gatehouse, Carsluith, Creetown, Newton Stewart, Wigtown, Garlieston, Whithorn and Isle of Whithorn, Port William, Glenluce, Sandhead, Ardwell, Port Logan, Drummore, Mull of Galloway, Portpatrick, Stranraer, and north to Girvan. It was also felt that an area specific fold out directional map showing the route and the many attractions available along it would encourage visitors to venture into what is a stunning scenic area.
NSI and WCC decided that this was an exercise worth pursuing and both groups would begin contacting as many groups, elected members, and MP’s from the area and invite them to a discussion meeting sometime in May.
Susan thanked Wolf for coming along to the meeting and looked forward to both committees working together for the benefit of everyone in Newton Stewart and Wigtownshire.
NSI Secretary Laura Hunter produced a draft letter to be sent out to various groups seeking their support for better signage along the A75 and also expressing NSI’s disappointment at the closure of the town’s visitors’ centre due to a fall in the demand for its services.
It was felt that this was a negative response by VisitScotland and a more positive attitude could be adopted. Action aimed at increasing visitor numbers rather than accepting the decline so readily would be a more forward thinking approach. The committee felt that with the backing of all concerned in tourism in the area and the Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce perhaps pressure could be brought to bear on VisitScotland to have a rethink and work with accommodation providers and tourist facility operators to reverse the trend.
Margaret Munro, event co-ordinator for NSI, reported that arrangements were going well for Mayfayre 2015, running on May 30 and 31 at the McMillan Hall, with 25 stalls already booked to date and still time to achieve the target figure of 40.
She also reported that she hoped that senior pupils from Douglas Ewart High School could be brought in to carry out some market research at Mayfayre 2015 and The Wheelie Good Bike Show to gather information and feedback from stall holders and members of the public to ensure the events were gaining favourable public opinion.
A decision was taken, albeit not unanimously, not to allow other groups to become part of the Mayfayre on this occasion in order to focus public interest on the crafters’ stalls alone and that Mayfayre should be only a crafters’ event.
NSI will be helping Newton Stewart Rotary Club by organising the craft/market stalls at this year’s Wheelie Good Bike Show to be held on the 2nd of August. More information on this event can be viewed at www.wgbs.org.
The initiative are currently working on various funding bids. Financial support is being sought to fund a full time project worker to help carry the workload of the committee on a daily basis. The committee felt that the town would benefit from having two town notice boards where groups could advertise their events as and when required.
In the light of the ongoing debate regarding the use of banners on railings in the town it was felt that this was a priority. Both Jewson and Rembrand builders merchants have offered to supply the material required for the boards free of charge and local joiners were currently preparing quotes to make and fit them into position. It is not known yet where they should be positioned, but it was agreed that the town clock building would be one suitable site. NSI received good news recently from The Hollywood Trust who have agreed to part finance the work to bring the the Hut building back into use. An award of £10,000 has been granted. The funding committee are currently seeking a further £6,000 to complete the finance package which will allow the project to go ahead.
This building, when reopened, will be used primarily for youth work and training but will also be available to groups in need of a venue for meetings etc.
Plans are now lodged with the council for permission to redevelop Douglas Park to accommodate a new BMX cycle track and seven-a-side football pitch as well as a new children’s play area with seating suitable for parents. Funding applications have been submitted for this project.
NSI membership is increasing and volunteers are coming forward.
A spokesperson for the group said: “If you are reading this then you must have an element of interest in what the Newton Stewart Initiative are doing. If you are not a member you can join us by downloading a membership form from www.newtonstewart.net or contacting a member of the executive committee.
“The more support we have, the more weight we have behind the initiative, and it wont cost you a penny!”
Discussion took place regarding the constitutional point that only those who live and work in Newton Stewart can become members.
The point was raised that people who were born and raised in Newton Stewart who have moved to work or live further afield may like to support NSI by joining the group. It was suggested that perhaps a ‘Friends of NSI’ could be a way of allowing them to become involved.
The next meeting will be held in Creebridge House Hotel on the 11th of May at 7.30pm. The committee would like to hear from anyone who feel that they may have something to offer the group or have suggestions or ideas they would like them to look into, or any relevant expertise they could make use of.