Provost Jim Todd was chuff chuff chuffed with his visit to Kilmarnock Railway Station. He popped in to see for himself how well the new Kilmarnock Station Community Hub is progressing and check out the newly refurbished pedestrian tunnel, linking Hill Street with the town centre.
He explained: “Depute Provost John Campbell and I were present at the opening of the Kilmarnock Station Railway Heritage Trust projects last year when they opened up seven previously disused rooms on the station platform for community use. It was great to come back, together with local historian, Frank Beattie to see for ourselves the fantastic difference the projects have made.
“The Trust brought together numerous partners and sources of funding to bring about the refurbishment and create a community hub here, and my visit today confirms it’s really working! It’s an inspirational place, giving all sorts of people an outlet for artistic activities, historical research, cycling, socialising, eating and drinking and shopping!”
Provost Todd first enjoyed a stroll through the bright and airy refurbished tunnel under the station. He, the Depute Provost John Campbell and Frank Beattie spent some time chatting to students from the new Ayrshire College who use the tunnel daily and remarked how much they like its bright feel and fascinating artwork.
It was while they were doing this that Council Officer, Jamie Poole made a shock discovery… Among the historical photos and pieces of artwork adorning the walls of the tunnel he saw a picture from the 1970s, taken by Frank Beattie, then a reporter at the Kilmarnock Standard, on the day before Portland Street was shut off to traffic. He suddenly realised that his much younger self was featured in the foreground, along with his late grandparents!
For Jamie, it brought back happy memories “It’s lovely to see this, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up, but I’d no idea this picture had been taken, and having Frank here is great, he still has the original and has promised to give me a copy. It was my haircut I recognised!”
Frank, who holds a vast archive of photographs and documents about old Kilmarnock, had helped supply the photos which were used in the tunnel. “I’m delighted that Jamie has found himself in this picture. It’s making me wonder how many other people will find themselves on these walls, and of course there are lots of other things people will relate to, like the “waves on” sign from the old Kilmarnock Baths wave machine. It’s great to see the station and its environs so much improved and to see people stopping to look at the artwork, relaxing in the coffee shop and making use of formerly unused rooms is just great. The station has been here for a long time, has seen many changes over the years, and this latest change is all very positive.”
The Provost particularly enjoyed visiting The First Class gift shop. Run by volunteers, it is entirely stocked with the work of local artists and craftspeople. He said: “I was overwhelmed with the range of gifts, cards and pieces of art on display. From local school pupils to ladies knitting baby clothes and shawls, beautiful jewellery, ceramics and painting made by local artists, it’s a treasure trove of individually designed items.
“What impressed me was that the creators can sell their work here for a very low commission in return for giving a couple of hours to help in the shop. It’s a testament to all our local talent that we have such fantastic hand-made items on display.
Next Provost Todd visited The Killie Browser and Storm in a Teacup coffee shop. A combined second hand bookshop/library, meeting place and cafe, it is run with the help of volunteers in recovery from addictions or mental health issues. He was delighted to meet a group of people taking part in one of the regular “station creation” classes. “It’s amazing just how many classes and activities are going on in the station. I was particularly impressed with the interaction between the generations, with more mature ladies passing on skills such as knitting, embroidery, crochet and woodburning, in return for the younger people giving them help with techonology, tablets, and smart phones etc. For one woman, being able to get here by train in her wheelchair and access the cafe easily is a big draw, and she comes down from Glasgow specially every week.
“Isolation and loneliness are a big problem in today’s society, and finding ways of building people’s confidence, encouraging social interaction and providing structure are all a part of tackling those issues. This Community Hub is really fulfilling its promise. There’s already a feeling of community here, even at a time when there were no trains arriving, there were people everywhere chatting, laughing and having a great time. I’d urge everyone to visit and see it for themselves.
The station is also home to a complementary therapies suite, offering massage, reiki and reflexology. For those who want to pedal about town, the Active Travel Hub offers electric and pedal bikes for hire, while for those interested in railway history, the archive of the Glasgow and South Western Railway Association is housed in a room at the end of the platform.
Among the groups which regularly meet at the station are:
• Active Travel Hub
• Kilmarnock Family History Group
• Mental Health Recovery & Wellbeing
• East Ayrshire Council Youth Justice Team
• The Music Therapy Guitar Group
• nky Elbows (A writer’s group)
• Station Creation (a creative classes group)
• Kilmarnock Academy Young Entrepreneurs