Atlantic Islands Centre for Luing: biggest investment in island’s history

Atlantic Islands Centre Luing 2

Inspirational news is that the Isle of Luing Community Trust has been awarded up to £360,000 for the planned Atlantic Islands Centre, from the European Regional Development Fund.

This means that the process of building the Centre can now begin.

This grant is in addition to the £754,910 already awarded by the Big Lottery Fund to build and staff the Centre, the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund award of £72,256 to make the Centre energy efficient and low maintenance, and the £15,000 awarded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig for Gaelic signage and interpretation.

The overall investment of over £1.2million in the Luing community is the largest in its entire history – a massive achievement for the drivers of this imaginative and ambitious project. Pulling funds like this together, as all those who try to do so know too well, is like herding cats. It is an effort requiring endless patience and determination – and the resolution to overcome disappointments en route to a moment like this one.

Atlantic Islands Centre, Luing

The Centre will provide much needed facilities for residents and visitors to take meals and refreshments, to celebrate and learn about the heritage of Luing and other islands, to visit art and craft exhibitions, to enjoy events and make use of work spaces for learning, health promotion and leisure.

It will be a community hub, also offering modern ICT facilities, providing jobs and volunteering opportunities which will assist the community to welcome the many visitors to our beautiful and historic island.

As a result of donations, its Buy A Slate appeal and fund-raising events, the Trust has also raised over £6,000 for the Centre and it will be continuing with its fund-raising efforts to equip the Centre fully. However, with £1.2 million funding secured, the Trust can now begin preparations to advertise for a Project Manager and for a building contractor for the Centre.

Trust Vice-Chair, Norman Bissell, says: ‘This is a huge achievement for the Centre and for the Luing community. We are delighted that all our hard work over so many years has paid off and would like to thank the funders and everyone who has helped us to obtain this tremendous outcome for the people of Luing. We are now looking forward to the Centre being built.’

The Trust is holding an open Information Night about the Centre in Cullipool Hall on Friday 30th November at 7.30 pm to discuss future activities to take place in the Centre and fund-raising events.

For further information and comment:

Contact Norman Bissell:

  • by phone on: 01852 314322
  • by email at:

or Trust Secretary, Peter Hooper:

  • by phone on: 01852 314252
  • by email at:

Argyl and Bute’s MSP, Michael Russell, a supporter of the project, has congratulated the Atlantic Islands Centre for securing the funding  to allow the ground-breaking project to go ahead.

Photographs: Top: shows the magnificent view looking west to other Argyll islands from above Cullipool. This will be similar to the view from the Atlantic Islands Centre. Above: shows the view over the quarry pool in Cullipool to the ruined Engine Shed of the slate quarry where the Atlantic Islands Centre will be built.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • A heck of an investment in a small remote project, with a limited footfall to sustain it. Your article also suggests a fabulous return on investment if all the community had to do was stump up a ridiculous £6000 to attract all that funding. Are there any conditions attached to the money on the table, which let’s be honest will only yield facilities that the private sector would have provided were there genuinely sufficient need….so the island wants a cafe and exhibition space for woolly jumpers and other trinketry!?

    I for one, feel the funds would have been put to better use supporting a project based around a larger centre of population. I also hope such generocity will abound when the funders are approached by other urban projects such as Dunollie House in Oban with their ideas for a Clan MacDougall centre, or will they be dismissed and left to privately fund their community asset?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    Recession Buster November 21, 2012 12:11 am Reply
  • I’m curious how many gaelic signs you get for £15k. This is mainly ERDF and Lottery money, so if Oban has tenacious and well organised fundraisers there’s no reason they could not obtain similar funding.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    db November 21, 2012 12:26 am Reply
  • Hopefully the centre will be of great benefit to the community but if the present ferry is nearing it,s end and the debate about the what will replace it in one form or another is still to be decided how will people be able to visit or even put down potential roots.
    The funding is also interesting when money is supposedly tight especially the gaelic but best of luck.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Neil MacIntyre November 21, 2012 7:51 am Reply
  • Well done Luing – an inspiration to all of Argyll’s communities.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Dr Douglas McKenzie November 21, 2012 8:29 am Reply
  • This sum seems similar to other amounts that have been poured into other island communities over the last 10 years, with often excellent results. The fact that the Trust on Luing managed to achieve this in a time of recession when funders are having to be even more careful about where their money goes suggests that their business plan was robust. Also, what better time to invest in the future of the island when having a hub for locals, source of jobs (just a few hours more work can make a huge difference to local families), a reason for more tourists to spend money when they come to the island, and an attraction that will have a benefit on local accommodation providers will make a difference.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Stooshie November 21, 2012 8:31 am Reply
  • It’s a shame that the first comment here is a negative one. Why can’t folk just be happy for the Luing community that after 10 years of voluntary unpaid effort by Trust members we have achieved so much? The whole of this funding was raised by untold hours of hard work which had to convince the funders, as Stooshie has said, that our Business Plan was robust and that the Centre would be viable.

    The exhibition spaces will showcase some of the heritage and culture of Luing and the other main Argyll islands which we believe are well worth celebrating. Most of the Gaelic funding will be used to translate parts of the many interpretation panels already produced by the Luing History Group into Gaelic since we were once a predominantly Gaelic speaking island and we don’t want the language to die out here. We received letters of support from the Dunollie Trust, we support their fund-raising efforts and intend to exhibit some of the MacDougall Collection in our series of changing exhibitions.

    Small communities with declining populations are worth supporting as well as larger areas of population and the Centre will help to reverse this decline by making more jobs available, creating more spending on the island and encouraging new businesses. Unfortunately until now private companies haven’t invested in facilities on Luing but this will create new opportunities for them to do so.

    The current ferry will continue until a decision about its replacement or a fixed link is made. Either way the Centre will be a valuable focal point and asset for islanders and visitors. Unless it’s being suggested that we be cut off from the rest of Scotland because our population isn’t large enough?!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

    Norman Bissell November 21, 2012 1:32 pm Reply
  • Please do not asume that mr bissell speaks for Luing, HE DOES NOT. It has been shown that the majority of the 174 residents do not want HIS project. This is not for Luing. this is for his personal gratification. It has been said before that Luing has been TRUMPED, greed for gold is the motivation. The gaelic language has not existed on luing in living memory. mr bissell has opposed plans that were submited for residential development on Luing.
    mr bissell is oposed to a fixed link. There has never been a business plan published because one has never existed. The population of luing is falling,the school has 7 pupils.
    mr bissell is the driving force that has split the community. Who in their right minds would pump that sort of money into a business when population is falling. It would have made more sense to have built a centre showcasing Luing in Oban where there is a viable population. Come to Luing and discover what people really think. The Trust is not trusted. They have a knack of networking and telling you what they want you to hear and you listen, but you don’t see. One day the truth will prevail with gods help.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    local November 21, 2012 11:35 pm Reply
    • Even if all you say is true, what harm exactly will this project do? It is difficult to see it as a bad thing, even if some think the money could have been spent more wisely.

      I look forward to visiting the centre when it opens.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Scots Renewables November 22, 2012 12:43 am Reply
    • ‘local’ – why is it that I get the impression that what you really want is for the population of Luing to go on falling until you can preside over your island in glorious isolation?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Robert Wakeham November 22, 2012 1:21 am Reply
      • Yes, there has been a division caused by this project but not by the people who have worked so hard to push it through, and have abided by the sensible constitution and and membership rules of the Trust (unlike Easdale!)

        Instead it has been the small minority of people who have been scurrying from cottage to cottage, spreading their vitriol and winding people up. The same people who wrote offensive letters of objection to the Council Planners comparing Trust committee members to Hitler and Pol Pot (and that then subsequently were put on the Council website because they didn’t check the content!).

        And all orchestrated by someone who was totally behind the project at the start when he offered his land up for sale for the centre, but who then mysteriously turned against it with venom once his land was rejected by the Council as being at risk of flooding.

        Looking at the comment above by “local”, the mention of Mr. Bissell being against a fixed link has nothing to do with this project in reality ….. but in the minds of a small number of protestors they want the fixed link above all else and don’t really want to see the island thriving until a fixed link is built and they can say “see, we needed that fixed link!” And what will be the first thing to happen when a fixed link is built …. the school will close. It has already been said by the council and it will happen.

        Luing is a fantastic place to live, with a hugely supportive and welcoming community …. but like anywhere that is naturally insular due to it’s geography, when disputes arise they can be blown out of all proportion by a small number of people until those residents that have a differing view feel cowed and unable to speak out in public.

        This has happened with the fixed link debate and the Centre, and on both occasions it has been the same vocal minority that have created this situation (and my apologies to the very reasonable residents who for their own reasons do want a fixed link or don’t want the centre that aren’t part of this vocal rabble, I am certainly not referring to you)

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        Islander November 22, 2012 9:03 am Reply
        • Islander – I think you are being unfair blaming one person for the opposition to the centre. Many people are concerned about the size of the Centre. We wanted a museum and maybe a small tearoom – instead we have a grandiose Atlantic Island Centre. We already support 2 village halls – what will happen to them ? We thought the engine shed had been bought to preserve and adapt as a museum as the Trust’s original objective was to preserve the island heritage not to demolish it. We were told that the centre will provide employment for the island children – what as – the centre manager?Cleaners? if there are only 7 children in the school (who are too young to work) and other older children already have jobs in Oban or are at college or university, is there really either the demand for “jobs for the children” or the opportunity for “jobs for the children” that we have been told there will be? Realistically the jobs will go to adults…and possibly not local adults, as those who want to work,in all likelyhood already do! We worry how the ferry will cope with the expected numbers- during the winter it runs half hourly until 6pm – so evening events are out for the winter – during the summer, we are told every year that we may not get our late ferry, – so what will happen during the summer if we dont – it is only for a limited time anyway (usually June until the beginning of September- so Easter and autumn evening events are out.
          Who will be resposible for the running costs of the centre when the funding runs out – rates electricity etc? Will the residents pay or will it be mothballed? We are not on a tourist route – many people find Luing by accident and love it but many more pass by. People say a fixed link is the answer but then it stops being an island and would lose its unique atmosphere. Without a bridge you feel safe allowing children to roam about, not locking doors etc but with a bridge/fixed link would the roads cope with the increase in traffic etc? There are many things to think about with both schemes – good & bad but are the bad parts really worth it?

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          part timer November 26, 2012 4:07 pm Reply
          • thanks for your comments, part timer. And to clarify, I was blaming the vocal minority (which does have one or two “ringleaders”) for the unpleasant division, and not blaming them for all the opposition as I am well aware that there are locals who don’t want the centre but they behave with courtesy and respect to other islanders. Everyone has the right to have their views heard but when so much unpleasantness is stirred up so that some people feel that they don’t dare state their opinions then something has gone wrong.

            The jobs I am thinking of are part time waiting jobs in the cafe … the sort of jobs that were available twenty odd years ago when The Buttery was open and that some of the island mums still talk about with fond memories!

            From my understanding the cafe, museum and exhibition space will cater for visitors during the day (as well as maybe in the evening if the ferry service allows). At the moment there are already lots of visitors that come over and walk (usually the circuit round Port Mary), bring their own bikes or hire bikes from the caravan park. Add to those the visitors already staying in the caravan park and holiday cottages on the island. Plus there are also every day during the summer visitors in cars that drive down to the ferry slip on the Seil side, and gaze across before driving off. If there was something here that would tempt them over then great!

            The ferry will cope with unexpected numbers the way it always does – by doing extra runs if needed. But I doubt that there will be huge surges in demand as a result of the day-to-day running of the centre. And surely, the more steady demand there is for the ferry then the more reason for the Community Council to push for our summer sailings, and the more chance we have of getting them.

            The funders would not have given money if they did not think that the centre could sustain itself in the future. Hopefully the centre will have a positive effect on the island in many small ways but without dominating it.

            Just looking back at your reply above, you make the point that “We wanted a museum and maybe a small tearoom – instead we have a grandiose Atlantic Island Centre” and you also ask “Who will be resposible for the running costs of the centre when the funding runs out”. From memory the original plan was for just a museum but early on it became clear that the only way to get funding and remain viable in the long run was to have a bigger centre that could bring in income – hence the need for the cafe, plus flexible space that can be used for larger events when needed.

            (For info – I am not one of the directors of the Trust and never have been, but I have taken a keen interest in the project and my own views have wavered over the last few years but I now think it is a positive thing. And by the way, I totally agree with your views about the fixed link … just don’t quote me on it!)

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

            Islander November 27, 2012 3:38 pm
    • ‘The gaelic language has not existed on luing in living memory.’

      This is absolute nonsense.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Peter November 24, 2012 6:44 pm Reply
    • ….”The gaelic language has not existed on luing in living memory.” You must be a very very young local then.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      John MacKenzie November 24, 2012 9:22 pm Reply
  • Shades of Easdale all over again.

    Am I correct to assume from the moniker “local” that Mr. Bissel is an incomer?

    It seems a ridiculous amount of taxpayers’ money to pour into a small island in times of national hardship, particularly for something the locals do not seem to want.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    JimB November 22, 2012 7:11 am Reply
  • I just have to ask – where does all the money coming in from the wind turbines go ?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Malcolm Kirk November 23, 2012 7:34 pm Reply
    • The income from the wind turbines goes to the landowner as far as I know. What exactly does this have to do with the Atlantic Islands Centre?

      Very disappointed to see the vitriol in this thread.

      Don’t it always seem to go
      That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
      They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      Scots Renewables November 23, 2012 8:05 pm Reply
      • Is that the submission to Planning SR – they are going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot attached to a new development ?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        Malcolm Kirk November 24, 2012 7:44 am Reply
  • Well done to Norman Bissell and the Isle of Luing Community Trust. 🙂

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

    Simon November 23, 2012 10:44 pm Reply
  • I too have my concerns about this project and the costs involved especially, as mentioned above, there are already two village halls. However, Luing has a far greater population than Easdale Island (approx. X 6, I believe) and therefore may have a greater number of volunteers keen to make it a success for the community, rather than simply an arts venue for visitors.
    I also feel that it’s in completely the wrong place. Where will everyone park? Why should the pump house be demolished? Why so close to some of the residents’ houses?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    Lowry November 27, 2012 4:44 pm Reply
  • There is no issue with the tedious money thing — grab what you can while you can. Please, however, spend it prudently and find a sensitive designer in tune with the locale. Perhaps, however, by raising yet another bungaloid with the largest dormer in the west this is thought to be in tune with the vernacular. Yes, indeed, build on the old [engine house?] but lets see some contemporary imaginative innovation.

    Do LOOK at the proposals again and create a building worthy of location, function and investment. Not a banal travesty that even a flattering [Chinese] slate roof will disguise.

    You know it’s worth it. Go on — think again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    Gordellan December 22, 2012 10:06 pm Reply

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