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'It must be kept alive, active and welcoming' – Charity in race against deadline to keep Inverness church in community

By Niall Harkiss

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A GROUP fighting to save the Old High Church in Inverness from commercial sale face a race to the finish line after a final date for bids was announced.

The Church of Scotland (CoS) announced a closing date for the sale of the historic building last week, leaving prospective buyers with a matter of weeks to prepare a bid.

Friends of the Old High steering group members Thomas Prag, Jean Slater (chairperson) and Chris Lewkcock
Friends of the Old High steering group members Thomas Prag, Jean Slater (chairperson) and Chris Lewkcock

But the steering group for Inverness-based charity, Friends of the Old High, say they are determined to meet this latest challenge in their efforts to keep the church in the community.

The A-listed church, which occupies a prominent position overlooking the River Ness, was put on the market at £150,000 in July last year after the CoS said it was no longer financially viable to run.

With funds now in place, the steering group hope to have a bid approved by the charity's committee next week.

The Friends of the Old High, which has been in existence since 2014, believe the city church has potential as a multi-use space for community events, as well as a hub for multi-cultural entertainment, educational, social and tourism activity.

The group had originally been set up to look after the 250-year-old building and to welcome visitors, but have since found themselves at the centre of a bid to "rescue" it from commercial sale.\

It says it has consulted widely and broadened its steering group to bring in the skills needed to take the church on, and that they have many ideas for how the Old High could play a new role in the community – while paying its way.

The group's ideas for the building range from creating a 'unique' visitor experience, to developing a venue for events, weddings, classes and concerts.

Jean Slater, chairperson of the Friends of the Old High steering group, believes the church has a legacy and a historical importance worth preserving.

She said: “ We are a diverse group of individuals with all kinds of skills but with one common aim – we love the building and its place in the history of our town. It must be kept alive, active and welcoming.

"For centuries it has been at the centre of so many lives and events. It’s not just the fabric, it’s the peoples legacy it represents.”

The "Friends" have been raising funds to underpin the bid they plan to make to take ownership and are welcoming donations via Crowdfunder at crowdfunder.co.uk/p/friends-of-the-old-high-church-inverness or by emailing oldhighfriends@gmail.com.

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