You Tube Academy: Helensburgh Heroes initiative could be big news for Scotland


How fantastic is ambition. Let’s assume that the best ambition always involves vision – and then let’s look at what you’ve got when ambition and vision are married to skills, experience, industry contacts and have got some key practical foundations already nailed in place.

Who’s going to be daft enough not to see the capability in a package like this?

You Tube aren’t.

YouTube is working on a plan to establish YouTube Academies across Europe to develop the content creators of the future. It currently has plans for Spain, Germany and has established its UK academy in London.

But when IT industry expert Phil Worms, pitched the plans his board and his ambassadors have for the Helensburgh Heroes centre and digital academy – YouTube were very quick to get it.

Following a meeting last year in its London HQ, they have been offering support and sharing information as their pilot academies roll out . If he gets the centre off the ground, Phil hopes that YouTube will consider this project as a potential Scotland Academy.

The team have £2 million to raise to convert the building they have already found and got planing permission to convert to house this fabulously ambitions and utterly achievable project.

This is something for Argyll and Bute Council to get right behind – not to take over but to support and assist by opening doors for the team to pitch to appropriate funding bodies.

This could be a first class team effort with real benefits for Scotland, focused on Helensburgh.

The building

Over this bank holiday weekend, the team at the Helensburgh Heroes project held two Open Days at the building – a Victorian warehouse -  they have secured for the project in George Street.


It could not be better.

HH 4

It’s a sound. four-floored  structure, with great open spaces on all four – already easy to see how it can work. The end facing George Street will get a full height, chunky, flat roofed upward extension, giving it the same four floors of the rear section.

Its history of the place is fascinating, the proportions are good, the capacity exciting and the plans a fluent amalgam of what the building can offer and what it needs to host.

This building was once a warehouse for cargo coming in by train – with what was then the Helensburgh railhead alongside.

HH 5

Horses and carts queued up in the double height channel n the ground floor [above, back]. The freight was unloaded from the train and passed directly in from the platform to the first floor level which was the reception area immediately above. It was then lowered straight down on to the carts below and driven off. [Two thirds of the space in the width of the buiding is out of sight to the right in the photograph above.]

The building has always been a working building, a hub, a place for reception, physical effort and transmission – essentially a service depot.

The plans for the Helensburg Heroes Centre will see it retain every one of these functions and characteristics into the future.

It is to be a place where the digital creative industries and local people come together to meet, eat, talk, create, produce, watch films and learn skills from industry professionals who bring their own high level skill, contacts and experience to the table.

It will also work with higher and further education to accredit the courses it will run – but these courses will be today-capable, targeted on industry readiness and an awareness of how things are done in that world. That’s what they’re for.

The facilities

There will be an American-style diner on the ground floor, with washrooms, a box office, a 100-seater digital cinema and a lift to the three floors above.

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The second floor will be a place to sit and talk, meet, discuss – with coffee.

HH 10

The third floor will be a second diner, with washrooms and a 70-seater digital cinema, with the academy and its studios on the top floor [below] – under a part glassed roof with a balcony looking straight out onto the wide Clydeside waterway.

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The building is a few streets away from the absolute town centre – and all the better for it. The hard fact is that there is is little for anyone in the shabby has-been of Helensburgh town centre.

The foolish decision to allow Waitrose to locate outside the town and with a coffee bar / restaurant – rather than compel it to go to the site projecting into the Clyde that currently hosts the car park and sports centre – drove some serious nails into the coffin of the town centre that both public and private sectors are long guilty of neglecting.

Creating something new, driving, exciting, offering multi-generational escape and new beginnings – on the edge of the town centre – may galvanise the will in Helensburgh to reinvigorate itself.

Outside, there will be eight disabled parking spaces in front of the building; and 20 parking spaces down the side – on the land currently occupied by the skips.

The Phil Worms pitch

Visitors HH 18

What hooked YouTube to initially meet with Phil Worms about the plans was a shared vision and appreciation of the need to provide people of all ages with the skills for  video and content creation and ‘wow’ factor of establishing an Digital Skills Academy in Helensburgh is the birthplace of the Father of Television, John Logie Baird. Certainly no other location on the planet can claim this.

This is the other part of the equation – the people, at all levels of involvement: with the skills, the ambition, the inventiveness.

They’re already in. Previous articles we have published on this project [some key ones linked below] record the series of stellar joinings.

Former television producer Morag Bain and founder of Strathclyde University’s School of Marketing, Professor Michael Baker, rolled up their sleeves and were on station at the weekend.

Morag and Michael Baker

The name – Heroes Centre – is being trademarked right now. It is intended to be a model that could be used in a variety of ways in any town in Scotland, for a type of centre bringing together yesterday and today in a fuel mix to drive a future.

The notion of ‘Heroes’ is wonderfully triumphalist. It’s very un-British in its open celebration of achievement, understanding that admiration can be a challenge to match and better existing achievements.

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This focus on ‘heroes’ is part of the motivation to mark these achievements up front, in putting up plaques at the birthplaces in the town of its many and varied heroes.

Visitors HH 15

HH 14At the Open Days this weekend, there was a set that caught a sense of the mood and style the place will have – fresh, modern, funky [the sofas are heavy duty blow-ups] – and collecting memorabilia to remind people continually of what Helensburgh folk have done and are doing. A niche in the set showed off the London 21012 track suit and Olympic torch of local hero paralympian, Gordon Reid – Britain’s No 1 wheelchair tennis star.

People are taking ownership of the project already.

Some who came in to the Open Days immediately offered to donate some fabulous memoralia for it.

Phil’s daughter and her friends went out for the evening and came back with £19 they’d taken the initiative to raise.

They’d done some baking at another friend’s house and just decided to do it for the project.

Visitors HH 17

This place will give young people belief in themselves, skills and experience to back up that confidence and connections with industry players to advise them on how to earn a living with today’s creative digital technology.

Visitors HH 16

This prospectus has the building; it has the people – you have to pinch yourself to believe the level of expertise, experience, achievement and sheer clout on its board and acting as its ambassadors; it has the ideas – and it has the savvy attuned opportunism without which there is never enough.

We envied Helensburgh after our visit to the Open Day on Saturday – and we’ll be delighted to see the impact a national facility like this can make on a town that can learn from it in aspiration, effort and total commitment to making it happen – whatever ‘it’ is at any moment.

Starting from the most recent, here is a selection of previous articles focusing on the series of achievements of the Helensburgh Heroes team:

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2 Responses to You Tube Academy: Helensburgh Heroes initiative could be big news for Scotland

  1. Superb initiative. Tend to agree that location of Waitrose a major concern for future wellbeing of town centre.

    Still think a bit of competition by location of M&S on part of pier would redress the balance.

    There would still be plenty of space for new leisure pool etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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