£2 million to raise for Helensburgh Heroes’ signpost to the future

Tom Vaughan

Holywood is contributing two ambassadors – a film actor and a film director. Holyrood has government ministers in a supporting role. The mobiliser of the project has a rock solid track record in IT, education and managing community training and performance projects.

It’s not hard to feel that Helensburgh Heroes’ latest spaceshot looks like it’s got the rocket fuel to blaze a trail to another educational planet, for others to follow.

The vision is a digital skills academy in Helensburgh, with training and production hard wired to needs and contracts in business and industry.

A campaign starts now to raise £2million to make it happen.

The idea is to locate it in the planned Helensburgh Heroes Centre – which will be a warehouse conversion with studio and work spaces, a cinema and a three storey Wall of Fame. This will be a memorabilia wall celebrating Helensburgh’s stellar human contributions to the creative arts. These range from the creator of television himself, John Logie Baird, to Holyrood heyday stars like Deborah Kerr and today’s crop of film folk, writers, musicians and sporting heroes.

Initial planning permission has been granted and the project team is now tasked with raising the major funding needed to deliver the Centre.

Actor Lex Shrapnel – with a name like that he’s a guided missile to action movies, who starred in the recent BBC television series Hunted, has agreed to become an official ambassador for the campaign as a representative of his grandmother, the legendary Holywood actress. Deborah Kerr, born in Helensburgh.

Lex, who also starred in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), is the second Hollywood luminary to become an official ambassador for the Heroes Centre campaign -  after Helensburgh-born film director, Tom Vaughan [top photo] gave his official support earlier last year.

As a young man, Tom immersed himself in self taught experimentation with cameras and creative production before training in drama at Bristol University and moving into television and film direction. He director episodes in the cult TV series, Cold Feet in 2009 and has a number of feature films to his credit including the memorable Extraordinary Measures in 2010, starring Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford and Keri Russell.

Sam Wilding

Joining Lex and Tom as  as local hero ambassadors children’s author Sam Wilding [above] and Britain’s No 1 wheelchair tennis star and London 2012 Paralympian, Gordon Reid [below right].

The Scottish Government has welcomed the initiative saying it will give ‘the next generation of Scots a creative environment to acquire new media skills and expertise.’

Government Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP for Glasgow, says: The Creative Industries are a growth target in our economic strategy and contribute £2.7bn to the economy. The Scottish Government is committed to developing the sector and welcomes initiatives that support the development of creative practitioners and opportunities for improving digital skills.’

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Fiona Hyslop, formerly Education Secretary, has these two reasons for a private visit she made to check out these plans in Helensburgh and is understood to have been excited by them.

heroes centre

The plan is to create a digital complex and specialised IT educational facility by converting a derelict Victorian warehouse in George Street, Helensburgh [above].

It will operate year-long, providing a fully functioning digital education facility designed to nurture content creators of all ages and equip them with the ‘new media skills’ required for online broadcast and video.

In addition to the education space, the Centre will also contain two high tech auditoriums – capable of showing the latest in digital film and entertainment – and a Helensburgh themed ‘50s diner for the benefit of the local community.

Businesses will be able to access facilities for web promotion and marketing.

lex shrapnel Gordon Reid

Lex Shrapnel [above left - and we can't resist using this 'boy's own' name again], says: ‘As I discovered on a recent trip, Helensburgh’s got an incredibly rich seam of TV and film history so I hope that by supporting this exciting venture, we can build something that not only does justice to its successes from the past but also inspires its creative talent of the future.’

The Heroes Centre is the brainchild of Phil Worms, an IT industry specialist of 25 years and director of Helensburgh Heroes, the charity behind the project. Phil has some successful – and massive – Helensburgh Heroes’ creative challenges with people of all ages in the town already tucked away in his ‘done that’ file.

In our book, Phil’s proven capacity and will to ‘deliver’ in this field is another serious reassurance on the viability of this plan. He has the contacts. He has the skills. He has the initiative. He’s already shown he’s in it for the long game. What’s not to support?

He says: ‘As the convergence of internet and TV technologies gathers pace it’s widely recognised that we need a new generation of digital content creators – and yet a major issue facing Scotland is the dramatic decline in the numbers of young people taking IT related subjects in further education.’

At the forefront of all of this are two parallel and intertwined imperatives.

Youth unemployment is the most serious challenge facing Scotland today.

Education in Scotland – as is the case elsewhere – has had plenty of tinkering but is conceptually anchorless and is drifting, failing and expensively so, at all levels in a world it no longer fits.

This initiative, given the support it needs, has all of the ingredients to provide, not a formula [which is a restrictive safety belt] but a leading light in the gloom towards a more organic and connected linkage between education and work.

There is a very new world to be discovered and explored.

The Heroes Centre blast off today sees this mission on its way.

Phil Worms says: ‘We are absolutely delighted to have such high profile ambassadors on board and with the Scottish government also keen to see this happen.

‘What we need now is for Scottish businesses to get behind the idea by pledging their financial support so we can raise the two million pounds we need to turn the Heroes Centre into a reality.’

Note: Helensburgh Heroes, the organisation behind the Heroes Centre project, is a Charity registered in Scotland: SC040114.

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