Bridgend Farmhouse is a community centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh, whose management aim to tackle health inequalities through better "learning, exercise and eating".
The idea started in around 2010, when members of the nearby allotments came together to form Bridgend Inspiring Growth (BIG) and investigate options to restore the derelict farmhouse.
Funding from organisations including Historic Environment Scotland, the Big Lottery Fund and City of Edinburgh Council helped to employ a development officer and to undertake a feasibility study into possible uses for the site.
The building had been owned by City of Edinburgh Council, who met opposition from community campaigners when they opted to put it up for sale in 2014. BIG were granted a license to use the building for a year and a significant volunteer effort began to transform the site. BIG were then able to take on full ownership of the building in 2015, after months of lobbying helped them to secure a community asset transfer - believed to be Scotland's first in an urban setting - for a nominal fee of £1.
Further grants from the Big Lottery Fund, Historic Environment Scotland and the Robertson Trust helped the group to undertake major renovations, developing the farmhouse to include a community cafe, training kitchen, office and meeting space. Land around the building was also developed with multiple workshop spaces to host BIG's packed schedule of classes and activities.
Planning for a community share offer had been ongoing alongside all the renovation work. While the money raised would be important to help the farmhouse be sustainable, BIG volunteers were particularly keen on using shares to give their community a sense of ownership. Will Golding, former chair of Bridgend Inspiring Growth and a key figure in developing the share offer, said after its success:
“Through our community share issue this has been a chance to be a shared owner of this amazing site and resource, and to be involved in bringing it back to life as a place where people can meet, eat, learn, get experience, be inspired and act for positive change together”.
Community Shares Scotland worked closely with BIG to help them prepare for their share offer, helping with business planning, community engagement and governance. One particular area where CSS expertise came in helpful to the group was in converting BIG from its existing Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) model to a Community Benefit Society with charitable status - another first for Scotland, providing a clear path for other groups who may wish to make such a change. BIG were also able to call on the support of Co-operative Development Scotland for advice on the governance and legal aspects of the project.
The share offer launched in early September 2018 with a Family Fun Day drawing in visitors from across Edinburgh. The group continued to host events at the farmhouse throughout the campaign - including ceilidhs, themed cooking nights and more - creating a local buzz and helping to spread word of BIG's plans. As a result the group were able to surpass their £50,000 minimum target, reaching a final sum of £70,750.