Published: 13/06/2014 09:14 - Updated: 13/06/2014 09:30

New life for Buckie Drifter

Written byHazel Lawson

James Alexander at the Buckie Drifter
James Alexander at the Buckie Drifter

ESTABLISHING a centre for traditional music and culture in Buckie would benefit not only the town but Moray and Scotland.

A meeting will be held to help build support and form a steering group for a project to transform the former maritime museum into a school of excellence.

Musician James Alexander, a founder member of the Fochabers Fiddlers and Speyfest, is behind the proposal to see the Buckie Drifter brought back to life.

A meeting will be held on Wednesday at which Mr Alexander will give a presentation on the vision for the centre, and when it it is hoped that a group will be formed to progress the project.

Built on two floors, the Drifter has several small rooms suitable for music practice, as well as a large area upstairs where the old fishing vessel used to stand.

Provided the structure is sufficiently strong, this room will be the main performing area, with the space below on the ground floor earmarked as backstage space.

The building also includes a café boasting views over the Moray Firth.

Mr Alexander said: "It’s a great building for performing. It has all sorts of possibilities; we could do all sorts of things.

"The maximum occupancy here would be about 170 seated, and twice that for standing.

"There is a café area and a kitchen that is all kited out – it’s all there."

Mr Alexander first had the idea for a traditional music school in Moray before the National Centre of Excellence was established at Plockton, in Wester Ross, in 2000.

He suggested that the old Lhanbryde school could be a suitable venue, but that plan never came to fruition.

Mr Alexander has been involved with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, but with only 15 student places a year, he feels there is a need for more opportunities to develop the wealth of talent that exists in Moray and beyond.

Former Moray College principal Mike Devenney had been keen to get behind the project, and representatives from the University of the Highlands and Islands will attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Mr Alexander said: "What we would like to do fits in with the Curriculum for Excellence, where there is a lot of cross-curricular work going on. There is an opportunity to go out and do work in schools.

"There would also be a place for Doric here. There is a lot of promotion of the Gaelic language. There’s nothing wrong with Gaelic, but Doric needs its place as well."

Once a steering group is established, work can begin on a business plan to apply for a community asset transfer of the building.

Money will also have to be sourced for work to be carried out on repairs to the exterior cladding and replacing the heating system, estimated to cost around £200,000.

Mr Alexander said: "This has to be a community project, and it has to be for the whole community. You don’t have to be a musician, but people can come along and enjoy performances.

"We have to be optimistic. With everything that could go on here, it would be a busy place."

Buckie councillor Gordon McDonald will chair Wednesday’s meeting. He said: "This will benefit not only Buckie but the whole of Moray and further afield.

"The potential is really encouraging and there is the prospect of creating several jobs."

As well as UHI, representatives from Highlands and Islands Enterprise will attend the meeting, which will be held in the upper hall of Buckie Town House from 7pm.

Roddy Burns, chief executive of Moray Council, has also been invited to attend.

The Buckie Drifter, on the town’s Freuchny Street, has lain empty for nine years. It opened in 1994, telling the story of fishing communities along the coast of the Moray Firth and the importance of the herring industry.

Its doors closed in 2005 as a result of rising costs and dwindling visitor numbers.

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