Kinning Park Complex is housed in an old red sandstone building, built around 1910 by Govan Parish School Board. It subsequently became the science block of Lambhill Street secondary school.
In 1976, the then Strathclyde Regional Council (SRC) roughly converted it from a school to a local neighbourhood centre. SRC subsequently Glasgow City Council then ran the complex until 1996 and during that time the centre hosted a wide variety of educational, sport and leisure classes and after-school care club.
By ‘96 the building was showing its age, and in need of upgrading and repair. There had been no investment in the fabric of the building for many years previously and there were holes in the roof where water came in. Plaster and paint were flaking from the ceilings and walls, the wood paneling and doors were worn and damaged, and the heating system was inefficient and expensive to run. Substantial, costly upgrading was required - however, against a backdrop of cuts in Council services, very similar to those currently being imposed today, the Council decided not to invest in the building, but to close it instead.
The community, however, thought differently. Recognizing the beauty and history of the building, understanding the value of a space where art, music and sport were practiced and community events were held, and knowing that communities need public spaces in which to flourish, they made a strong case to the Council for keeping the centre open.
Initial discussions became deadlocked and the Council remained stuck on its initial plan to close the centre and sell off the land, so the community decided to act. The centre's users occupied the building for 55 days and nights and pressed their case for the centre to be kept open. Meetings were held, petitions signed, banners painted, and a delegation marched to the City Chambers.
The campaigners, of course, wanted the Council to continue to pay the costs of staffing and running the building, arguing that they had a right to decent community facilities and services. The Council was adamant that they would not pay the ongoing running costs nor fund any repairs. The deadlock continued, until finally a compromise was reached. However it was a compromise that placed a substantial burden upon the community.
The Council’s wanted to cut its costs and responsibilities however; they did recognize the inherent value of the building being used as a community facility. The campaigners wanted to keep the centre open for community use. In the end the community had no other option but to propose that they would take over the management and the running costs of the centre themselves. The issue of the major repairs was left open with the original lease agreement stating that the community was responsible only to return the building in the condition they found it; a matter on which the Council has since tried to move the goal posts.
A rolling one-month lease at a peppercorn rent was agreed between the Council and an existing local voluntary association (Scotland in Europe) on behalf of the community. The community group became responsible for the management and running costs with a provision that they could rent out space to raise income.
That was in ’96. From then till 2008 a huge range of community activities were hosted at the centre. Arts projects, music nights, sports clubs, public meetings, social events. Everything from belly dancing and juggling classes to drumming workshops; from sewing clubs and an after school care club to theatre projects. The centre hosted people from all over Glasgow, indeed from all over Scotland and beyond.
From 1996 to 2008 whilst a wide range of individuals contributed to the management committee and the running of the centre, the job of managing the space fell to local woman and committed community activist Helen Kyle, coordinator of Scotland in Europe, which held the lease on behalf of the community.
In 2008 Helen decided it was time to hand over the baton and pass the responsibility to a second generation of community management. That prompted a period of reflection during which many meetings were held with individuals and groups who had used the centre to decide how to go forward.
Subsequently Helen was present in April 2009 when the lease with the Council was transferred from Scotland in Europe to the newly formed Kinning Park Complex Community Interest Company. It was great to have that continuity and indeed the senior Council official who we dealt with to transfer the lease was the same guy who had dealt with the initial lease back in ‘96.
He candidly admitted that no-one in the Council thought the community would manage to run the building for more than a few months, but said that he and the Council were pleasantly surprised to have been proved wrong. At that point he also said that the Council had effectively written the building off its books many years before and that a 25 year or 99 year lease or community ownership of the building were all possible options for the future. In the meantime an initial one-year rolling lease was agreed.
The condition of the building had predictably deteriorated further. Helen had somehow managed to win a £150,000 grant and gotten new windows fitted; something that should have been almost impossible to do when they had only a one-month lease. However the issue of the major repairs never did get resolved and when a building isn’t wind and watertight the damage just gets worse.
It should be well noted that the community, starting with nothing, was now raising thousands of pounds each year to pay all of the running costs and maintenance costs. There was never a penny to spare and there was only a few hundred pounds in the bank when the new Community Interest Company took over the reins.
Since April 2009 we are registered as a Community Interest Company, a not-for profit business model, which means that any profits or assets are used for the benefit of the community.
Many of the challenges are the same as those faced in 1996: of how to manage the centre without any grant funding for staff, how to pay the ongoing heating and lighting costs, and how to find the significant funding for the major repairs required to make the building wind and water tight.
The new management team focused first on ensuring that urgent repairs were carried out and that we met all health and safety, fire safety and other relevant legislation. That took a lot of fundraising and a lot of voluntary work by many members of the community during the years 2009, 2010 and 2011.
In 2011, with the building again meeting these basic standards, though still in a rather dilapidated condition overall, the new management team asked themselves a simple question; does anyone want or need to use this building as a community centre?
With no budget for advertising we simply started talking to people; asking them if they wanted to use the space; asking the community once again if they wanted the building kept open; if they would use it and if they were willing to muck in and help. The answer has been and continues to be a resounding YES.
The complex has two large halls, one with a kitchen area attached and also 14 studio / office spaces. In the year from April 2013 to March 2014 approximately 5000 individuals visited KPC, recording around 15,000 attendances over the year, roughly 300 people each week. We hosted 250 sports classes, 140 dance classes, 12 film screenings, 25 theatre and dance rehearsals, 12 conferences, 8 public meetings, 30 music workshops, 12 music gigs, 49 private parties, a weekly BME women’s group and a kids summer play scheme. In addition around 60 volunteers helped to paint, plaster and repair what they could inside, and they helped build a community garden in the old playground.
From the rental income we now self-fund a number of part-time staff to manage the complex, equivalent to 1.5 fulltime jobs. Its not a sufficient level of staffing but its better than nothing and something to build upon. We continue to provide the space at affordable prices to those who need it. We also manage a number of grant funded community development projects.
Currently all of the studio spaces are occupied. We use one space as a management office, one as a hire-able meeting room, another as a community organisation incubator/start-up office, while the remaining 11 spaces host a mix of artists and musicians. The halls are in use approx 60 hours each week and the building is in use 7 days a week from 9am till 9pm most days and until midnight when we host weekend events.
The complex is well used by the local community and by people from all over Glasgow. We also continue to regularly host many visitors from all round Scotland and internationally.
Serving areas of Glasgow that are ranked in the top 5% of the Scottish Multiple Deprivation Index KPC provides essential and ever more important space and opportunity for many people.
The Kinning Park Complex building is also part of Glasgow’s history and architectural heritage. Over the last hundred years tens of thousands of people have utilized it for education, sports, the arts, for fun and as a centre of individual and community development. KPC remains an asset to be used for the benefit of the people of Glasgow, Scotland and our friends from around the world.
Yet the fundamental issues that threaten the long-term future of the complex remain; the short term lease, the lack of core funding and the need for major repairs.
A recent Architects report priced the required repairs at between £1.5 and £1.9 million plus vat, though we believe it can be done well for closer to £1 million by focusing on the main works and retaining some of the shady-chic. Anyway its lot of money for sure, but with it we would have the opportunity to continue providing this space and the opportunities to the community for another hundred years.
In the meantime we struggle on, with a network of tarpaulins and buckets throughout the top floor to catch and channel the water from the leaky roof; an antiquated, expensive to run and inefficient heating system; and a host of other smaller repair needs.
It is our hope that in due course the efforts of so many people will be recognized by the Council and by funding bodies and that we will, in the relatively near future eventually secure a long lease or community ownership of the building and the funding required to conduct the major repairs. Thereby securing the future of the Kinning Park Complex for generations to come.