Friday, 1 March 2013

Craigsfarm in the Archives

This week I thought I would look at the records we hold relating to Craigsfarm, which is a community centre that has been integral to the development of Livingston’s community since 1967.

Craigsfarm was in a state of
dilapidation before renovations took place

The renovations used a lot of volunteer support

A little history – when construction began on Livingston in the 1960s, Craigshill was the first area of the town to be built. Livingston Development Corporation Policy at the time was to demolish older buildings that were in the way of their housing developments. Craigsfarm was scheduled for demolition once Craigshill had been completed, but a campaign in the then fledgling community of Livingston, led by Med Cruickshank, who was a church of Scotland Youth Worker, saved the building from demolition. The Church of Scotland agreed to take on a full repairing lease and to contribute to the costs of renovation, whilst the Corporation agreed to make the building water tight. The agreements changed over time, but for the next twenty years renovation work took place, turning Craigsfarm and its outbuildings in to a community centre.

By 1993 £250,000 had been spent on renovation costs by the LDC and the Manpower Services Commission, whilst Lothian Regional Council provided revenue grants to provide staffing costs. John Hoey was, for many years, the manager of the community centre.

Over the years Craigsfarm has hosted many initiatives for the betterment of the community around . These include a community laundrette, a nearly new shop, a catering service a rock school for teenagers, film and television workshops, all of which helped the long term unemployed or were aimed at disadvantaged kids. This is in addition to rooms in the building that were available to community groups and “Newsflash”, a newsletter aimed at local residents and run by volunteers.
We have a lot of records about Craigsfarm in the archives. The Reverend Dr Maitland was in Livingston from 1966, and he was there as the campaign to save Craigsfarm from demolition was launched; his papers include correspondence with the Church of Scotland when the building was bought and initially refurbished. It was a not straightforward process, with various building firms and chartered surveyors offering bleak views on the chances of success, one firm, from Glasgow wrote:
“These are very old buildings, and in our opinion near the end of their working life. We do not think they justify the expenditure on modernisation.... we would that say in our experience, the reconstruction and modernisation of structurally poor buildings is never satisfactory.”  (Letter is found in WL26/1/1/4/1)
The Church of Scotland Home Board also had its doubts. However, local campaigners persevered and the renovation went ahead.
Craigsfarm went on to be a lynchpin of Craigshill's community
There are many, many files, mainly technical (architects papers, engineering contracts etc) in the Livingston Development Corporation’s records about work done on the building of Craigsfarm showing how the building was redeveloped; there are also minutes of meetings of the Board of the Corporation which explain why they invested money into the community centre. The Corporation minutes, record, for example, that even after the Church of Scotland had taken on the lease, the Corporation was still suggesting that the building should be demolished:
the general manager reported a meeting he had had recently with the Rev Hamish Smith, Appeals Secretary of the Craigshill Community Development Project... he [the General manager] had suggested that the building should be demolished and that the Corporation consider erecting in its place a building suitable for community purposes. The Board delayed consideration, pending hearing from the Project Committee.”  (Minutes of the Livingston Development Corporation Board, 178/d, 1967)
Newsflash kept the community informed
- through volunteer labour, for nearly 20 years
The main collection that we hold is, of course, that of Craigsfarm itself (WL20). I am currently cataloguing this collection and have got as far as a rough list, which means I don’t have any specific examples, but the papers of the collection include minutes of meetings from the Craigsfarm management committee, reports of the Annual General Meetings, copies of the newsletter Newsflash, financial information about funding from government bodies and the yearly accounts, copies of advertisements, information about the rock school, about the catering business, about the Craigshill Initiative (which aimed to help long termed unemployed with work) about the Community Forum which sprang up in 1996 to give a voice for residents in Livingston (especially against the proposed waste incinerator at St John’s hospital) – the archive captures a wide variety the activities of Craigsfarm over the decades, showing us how it was at the centre of the community of Craigshill. In a few hundred years when Livingston is no longer young but old, the Craigsfarm archive will remain an important resource for anyone looking at how the community in Livingston formed, about what the people of Livingston found important at the time; about what the everyday community cared about in day to day life and how they fought for it.

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