Hope for camera obscura

The camera obscura was faced with being closed all summer after funding was withdrawn. It was gifted to the town in 1930 by J.M Barrie.
The camera obscura was faced with being closed all summer after funding was withdrawn. It was gifted to the town in 1930 by J.M Barrie.

Kirriemuir’s camera obscura has been thrown a lifeline by a group of volunteers who have come forward with the aim of keeping it operating.

The volunteers, who are going by The Kirriemuir Regeneration Group as working title, are hoping to take on the running of the facility to keep it open at least during the school summer holidays.

One of only four in Scotland, the camera obscura was facing an uncertain future after Angus Council announced it was withdrawing annual funding of £10,000, paid to the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to manage the attraction on the authority’s behalf.

The National Trust for Scotland took over the management of the camera obscura, which was gifted to the town by ‘Peter Pan’ author Sir James Barrie and housed in the town’s cricket pavilion, in 1999 and its volunteers intended to continue to provide access for prearranged tours.

But at their last meeting, Kirriemuir community councillors heard that the Kirriemuir Regeneration Group, which so far has five members, hopes to work with other organisations in the town to secure its long-term future.

Irena Krasinska-Lobban, representing the group, said: “We’ve already had our first meeting and met with an officer of Angus Council to discuss what we would want to do. We want to keep the camera obscura open but also want to use the pavilion.

“Our first job is to draw up a proposal and, with the help of the area partnership, take it forward and that includes an interim service level agreement with the council.

“The council is responsible for keeping the building wind and watertight and we want to agree with them that they will continue to be responsible for that in the interim with a view to a community asset transfer so it would be back in the hands of the people of Kirriemuir.

“We hope to get the camera obscura open for at least part of the summer, the school holidays at least.”

She added that ultimately the group is keen to draw together different aspects of Kirriemuir’s heritage to form a cohesive package that would make it even more attractive to tourists and visitors.

“We’re also looking at setting up a proper heritage trail, working with the Gateway to the Glens Museum and Barrie’s Birthplace and I’d like to think that we’ll have the backing of everyone in Kirrie, the community council and our councillors.

“We want to regenerate and put life back into Kirriemuir and there are a lot of other people we hope will join us.”

Local councillor Ronnie Proctor congratulated the group’s actions which he said showed “great initiative”.

He continued: “The partnership’s there and you should make use of it. A lot of the things you’ve talked about have already been done and I’d suggest that you liaise with the Kirriemuir Heritage Trust.”

Councillors Iain and Jeanette Gaul also supported the proposals and suggested a meeting with all three elected members to discuss them further and establish what support will be required. Mrs Gaul added that the council would be “very keen” to talk to anyone who would take on the facility as a community asset transfer.

Heidi Findlay, Kirriemuir Heritage Trust chairwoman, also said she will be happy to put forward the suggestion as an agenda item for the trust’s next meeting. She also said she would be keen for local retailers to be involved.

Mrs Findlay continued: “Everything you’ve said comes under our remit too and maybe we can do something together. There’s also a real need to get some of the businesses in on it, as it’ll bring more visitor into Kirrie and these are the people who will benefit.”