CELEBRATION was in the air on Tuesday when the refurbished and extended Dickson Hall in Laurencekirk was officially opened.
The official opening was due to have been performed by Housing and Communities Minister Alex Neil, who had to call off due to personal reasons, so his place was ably taken by the Provost of Aberdeenshire, Bill Howatson, a local Mearns Councillor.
Other invited guests included Alex Johnstone MSP and the Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire, Carol Kinghorn.
Chair of the Dickson Hall Trust, Rev Ronnie Gall welcomed the company, thanking all those who contributed to the success of the project, including the main contractors CHAP.
Mr Gall said: “The hall is looking great. Those who have been here before will appreciate the difference you see today.
“As chair of the Trust, I appreciate all those who have been our partners, including Sue Briggs and Karen McWilliam of Aberdeenshire Council who helped us through the application stage.
“Ed Murray the architect had had to put up with me on the ‘phone to him every day and has done so with patience.
“The work has been of high quality. The old building had a quality and the work done has served to enhance that and given us a thing of beauty.”
Speaking before unveiling a plaque, Provost Howatson said: “Regeneration is very much alive in Laurencekirk.
“We are approaching the anniversary of the reopening of the railway station and this is another example of the spirit that abounds in Laurencekirk.
“The hall was gifted to the community by the Dickson family in 1904, so has served Laurencekirk and its hinterland for more than 100 years and it a vital part of the community infrastructure.
“Now that it has been refurbished, it is ready to serve for another century.
“The hall is in a prime location to be a valuable hub of the community.
“This town is seeing great renewal, including the railway station, a new academy and housing and commercial growth.
“In 2009, funds were made available to help projects reach their full potential and it was no surprise to me that Laurencekirk showed the character to rise to the challenge and bring this about.
“This project meets all the aspirations behind the funding and those involved will continue to build on it for the future.
“This is an excellent example of partnership working and I congratulate all involved, including the Dickson Hall Trust, Mearns Area Partnership, Villages in Control the area manager’s office, Community Learning and Development and the Economic Development team.
“This is a great success story for Laurencekirk and is an example to other communities as to what can be achieved with spirit, drive and energy as well as the get up and go attitude of the people of Laurencekirk.”
Susan Brown of the government’s regeneration department said it was very satisfying to see the finished hall.
The Town Centre Regeneration Fund supported a total of 66 projects, involving strong local partnerships.
Congratulating everyone who worked on the project, the speaker said she hoped the hall would be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for years to come.
Saying that he hoped that the new hall will be a venue to encourage arts and music, Mr Gall introduced Sarah, Lucy and Nadia from Mearns Academy, who provided musical entertainment.