West Kilbride Craft & Design Town is the UK's Capital of Enterprise
Thursday 28th of September 2006 12:46
West Kilbride Craft & Design Town was voted, by a unanimous decision, as winner of Enterprising Britain 2006, a Department of Trade and Industry nationwide competition to find the most enterprising place in the UK - the city, town, place or area in the country that is best improving economic prospects and encouraging enterprise.

The remarkable progress of West Kilbride as Scotland’s first craft and design town has continued with it's success in the DTI’s competition. Cllr Elizabeth McLardy, a founder member of the West Kilbride Community Initiative Ltd, and Maggie Broadley, Craft & Design Development Officer, left for London on Thursday (14th September) and returned with the winner’s trophy to an ecstatic welcome from the town’s residents.

“This was a whole community effort and we are elated. I feel incredible and am so proud of everybody who has worked so hard. This gives us something to build on for the future.” Said Cllr McLardy

The national judges were particularly impressed by the strong sense of team spirit and local involvement surrounding the project, the emphasis on sustainability, good use of brown field sites and the fact that the project found its Unique Selling Point (Craft & Design) right from the start.

Despite being pitted against 11 other strong contenders that represented a wide range of entrepreneurial activity, from The City Fringe Partnership established by the City of London with over £78 million grant aid invested, to the Glynneath Training Centre in Wales, which started by raising £30,000 but has now attracted nearly £2 million via a variety of grant funding, this small social enterprise company received the accolade of being voted, by a unanimous verdict, the project which:

“..in many ways, sums up the spirit of the competition - being all about creating a community with enterprise at its heart, in a way that many other places across the country could both learn from and be inspired by.”

West Kilbride Community Initiative has achieved a remarkable level of success on a budget of just over £200,000, with almost half the investment achieved by private sponsorship (Airtricity and British Nuclear) and the fundraising efforts (including second-hand furniture sales) of the Initiative and local community. Original support from the Moffat Charitable Trust and the subsequent input of Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire to the value of £115,000 also helped sustain the momentum generated in the early days of the craft & design town.

At its lowest point, the town had 21 closed scruffy shops in what had once been a thriving main street. A public meeting was called in 1998 by the town’s local Councillor Elizabeth McLardy to address the empty shops, decline and poverty in the town. The area’s assets were explored and, as tourism is a key industry in the area, it was decided that, as the return of traditional retailing was unlikely, a specialised theme should be developed.

Situated in this picturesque coastal location are a shop, five studios and contemporary gallery. Displaying a diverse selection of work, ranging from that of local enthusiasts to highly skilled and respected professionals, they present an opportunity to meet the individuals behind the objects. To date, an additional 9 new businesses with 22 direct jobs have been encouraged to join the craft and design businesses now operating from the town

Craft & Design Development Officer Maggie M. Broadley believes the project has struggled against the odds to achieve such an outstanding accolade.
“The Craft & Design Town is an example of two groups of passionate, committed individuals working together to create a small haven of craft and design whilst regenerating the heart of a community.
The WKCIL is a group of dedicated individuals working on a voluntary basis on behalf of West Kilbride, local volunteers carry out much of the fundraising and community activities.
Their commitment is matched by the designer-makers in our studios, who invest huge amounts of time and passion into the creation of well considered, beautifully crafted objects.”

Image details: Enterprising Britain Award Gala Dinner, Llyods Building, London.
L to R: Catriona McLeod,Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire; Cllr Elizabeth McLardy,West Kilbride Community Initiative Ltd; Maggie Broadley, Craft & Design Development Officer; Brian Smail, Scottish Enterprise; Margaret Thomson, Scottish Enterprise.