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Positive talks over saving future of under-threat Ironworks in Inverness

By Val Sweeney

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The Ironworks in Inverness.
The Ironworks in Inverness.

LIVE music fans across the Highlands were celebrating today after fresh moves to save one of Inverness’s most popular venues.

A crunch meeting about the future of the Ironworks in Academy Street was described by the site’s director Caroline Campbell, as “fantastically positive.”

The Courier recently revealed that the 1000-capacity venue could be demolished to make way for a proposed new 162-bedroom Courtyard by Marriott Hotel.

The meeting was organised by Labour MSP David Stewart and involved senior members of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), High Life Highland, Highland Council and Creative Scotland.

Although no specific details are available yet it is understood an alternative site in the city centre for the venue is being investigated.

Mrs Campbell said the commitment shown to support the music business had spurred her on to explore a potential alternative venue for a move she believes could be seamless for her network of musicians and bookings, and her 62 staff.

“I can’t stress this enough when I say this building we are in right now is just a shell,” Mrs Campbell said.

“Everything in it we own and is transferable. I invested heavily in new equipment and that was done deliberately so it could be moveable.

“It’s business as usual for the Ironworks and details will be released as soon as we know where our new space will be.”

She said an online petition launched by Mr Stewart – which has now attracted more than 3000 signatures – had been discussed and everyone had taken on board how important the venue was to the people of Inverness and music-lovers across the wider Highlands and beyond.

Stuart Black, Highland Council’s executive chief officer, told the meeting the local authority was “very keen” to see the Ironworks remain in the city centre.

James Martin, head of development at High Life Highland, agreed to supply Mrs Campbell with costs and crowd-capacity figures for his organisation’s network of buildings which include Inverness Leisure Centre plus community centres.

Mr Stewart, who has secured a meeting with culture secretary Fiona Hyslop on October 29, is convinced a permanent alternative home can be found.

“This venue is vital to the region’s music scene and to its cultural values, not to mention the boost it brings to the city’s night-time economy and, in turn, to Scotland’s culture secretary Fiona Hyslop’s commitment to increase music tourists,” he said.

“People who come from as far as Dundee to see bands play at the Ironworks have signed my online petition. It’s been an institution in Inverness for more than a decade, contributing in so many ways without the backing of any public funds and I think it is time the Scottish Government started to recognise the good work it is doing.

“But for me, one of the most positive things that came out of the meeting is we know there are levers we might be able to pull on to secure it a new home.”

Two senior officials from Highlands and Islands Enterprise – Iain Hamilton and Stephanie Andrew – gave a commitment to investigate the type of support it could give to the venue.

Creative Scotland, the public body which distributes funding from the Scottish Government and the UK National Lottery to support the arts, screen and creative industries, is also involved in the relocation effort.

A follow-up meeting has been scheduled for Friday, November 8.

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