Brewery staff join voulunteers to give Broomhouse Centre a facelift in 24 hours

Volunteers had one day to give the Broomhouse Centre in Edinburgh, a local food bank and St Davids Church a much needed makeover. Picture; Ian Georgeson

Volunteers had one day to give the Broomhouse Centre in Edinburgh, a local food bank and St Davids Church a much needed makeover. Picture; Ian Georgeson

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It’s exactly the kind of challenge that would usually see the DIY SOS team racing against the clock to complete.

The Broomhouse Centre – which helps more than 500 people – became the unlikely setting for a Challenge Anneka-style task as local residents joined forces with workers from the nearby Caledonian Brewery in a bid to give the centre and nearby St David’s Church a much-needed facelift in the space of just 24 hours. The centre provides vital support to young and old in the area through its food bank and social enterprise schemes.

Picture; Ian Georgeson

Picture; Ian Georgeson

Around 100 volunteers painted the outside of the centre, spruced up the railings and vestibule of the church and built and installed bird boxes in the centre’s gardens as part of the Brewing Good Laughs initiative, a partnership between the brewery and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society.

The centre’s chief executive, Bridie Ashrowan, said she was delighted with the results of the day’s work and thanked the brewery for its support.

“Everything is looking great, the sun was shining and the work we’ve accomplished looks fantastic,” she said.

“Caledonian Brewery is a big employer for people in the area so to have them engaging with their community is absolutely fantastic.

Caretaker Grant Taylor. Picture; Ian Georgeson

Caretaker Grant Taylor. Picture; Ian Georgeson

“One of their workers came down around this time last year to donate surplus food to the food bank and saw the impact we were making in the community, which I think attracted them back.

“Caledonian Brewery were extremely helpful in making sure no alcohol branding was anywhere to be found. We work with a lot of vulnerable young people in the area and we didn’t want to expose them to that, so they were great in making sure this was about the community.”

Volunteers were able to kick back at the end of a hard-working day and enjoy entertainment from the likes of comedian Felicity Ward, The Moscow Boys, poet Henry Raby and street performers The Rainbow Show for free thanks to the Fringe Society.

Michael Mair, minister at St David’s, described the day as “heartening” and hopes it will improve the image of the area which, for a long time, has lived under the stigma of deprivation.

“We had a lot of school kids coming past and asking us what we were doing and commenting on how much better the place looked, which was nice to hear,” he said.

“I spoke to people from Colinton and Portobello who came out to lend a hand, which is great because they get to see what Broomhouse is really like.

“When people think of Broomhouse they think of deprivation, and when the residents hear that I think they’re almost conditioned to believe it.

“But the more people that come and engage with the community and experience it for themselves, the more they’ll realise that we’re just like their own communities, which, in turn, helps the people of Broomhouse feel part of the city.”

Broomhouse Centre’s Crescent Cafe and Kitchen provides young people in the area with career prospects by training them as baristas and offering the chance to earn a qualification in food production, while their companionship programme offers a helping hand to older people in the community who run the risk of becoming isolated.

“Every penny we make gets reinvested into the community or the centre itself,” Ms Ashrowan said.

“The cafe is fully functioning and it allows the young people we work with to get actual training as baristas, or in the case of the catering company, they can get training in food preparation and production.

“That way they have actual experience and can go into the world and get jobs which in turn brings money back into Broomhouse. One of our young companions was studying at Heriot-Watt and he’s now doing Italian as part of his course because he learnt it from his older companion.

“I think that speaks volumes about what we’re achieving here.”