A Fond Farewell to Arts in Merkinch

Sadly, our local arts and crafts organisation, Arts in Merkinch, will no longer be able to support arts projects and events in the area due to lack of funding and will be forced to fold.

Arts in Merkinch was setup around 15 years ago and has ran many arts events and activities over the years. The annual arts festival and craft workshops were very popular and were accessible to everyone who wished to participate.

Catherine MacNeil, part-time development manager for the organisation, expressed her disappointment, "It is sad but at the same time some of the groups we set up still exist and the Bike Shed is still there as a resource, so there may be an opportunity for individuals to pick up the mantle and run with projects. I think some groups will manage to continue such as Merkinch Men's Shed and the Blazing Needles knitting group, but I don’t think there will be new developments in the same way."

The Bike Shed is now being run by David Saunders of the Methodist Church. It is hoped that local community arts and performance events will continue to thrive at this venue in the future. Bookings for the Bike Shed are still being taken. Please make enquiries through their 'Bike Shed - Coffee House' Facebook page.

About Arts in Merkinch

Arts In Merkinch was a voluntary not-for-profit organisation operating in the Merkinch area of Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland. Their mission was to promote social, physical, emotional and economic health by developing skills and providing access to arts and cultural activity for local residents. They also promoted Merkinch as a positive and vibrant cultural location in order to enhance the areas profile and increase the confidence of those living within it.

Most of their activities took place in The Bike Shed. Activities within those venues or in partner and site specific locations were all directed to the following aims:

  • To enable equal participation in arts and cultural activity for all.
  • To promote attendance at high quality arts and cultural events.
  • To support established and emerging artists.
  • To endeavour to overcome barriers to participation and attendance.

Arts in Merkinch 2003 - 2018

The embers of Arts in Merkinch began in June 2003 when Bette McArdle and Brian MacLeod proposed the idea of a local arts exhibition. By the summer of 2004 there was not only an exhibition but a workshop programme and a Development Worker employed part time.

Catherine MacNeil led on the first couple of festivals with 11 events in addition to the 2005 exhibition which was attended by over 120 people with 250 visitors coming along to the 2006 events.

Annie Marrs (pictured right) was appointed in the Autumn of 2006 and she spend the next 6 years building the organisation up and growing the activities to the year round weekly programme of varied arts it delivered.

Bette McArdle and Brian Macleod officially opening the Bike Shed back in February 2010.

Highlights over the period include:

  • The first Merkinch Panto, "Cinderella", was performed at Merkinch community Centre in 2007 (with a starring role by Peter Corbett!).
  • In 2009 Merkinch Partnership took over supporting the community organisation which had previously been supported by Merkinch Enterprise.
  • Started a monthly arts page in "The Merkinch News and Views" in early 2009.
  • By 2009, Arts in Merkinch was supporting two theatre groups, an art group and workshop provision for Merkinch Primary School, MP33, The Corbett Centre, Merkinch Community Centre, The Jannie's Hoose and Action for Children as well as participating in national projects such as The Big Draw and The Puppet and Animation Festival.
  • Arts in Merkinch found a permanent home at The Bike Shed on Grant Street due to the kind support of the Pieraccini family.
  • In 2010, AiM began its relationship with SMHAFF with an exhibition, 4 theatre performances and a workshop programme. This was also the year of the first Christmas Arts and Craft Fair with work on display having been made by attendees of AiM's regular arts and crafts classes.
  • The Bike Shed had its first birthday bash with a day of ceramics delivered by Merkinch regular Lorraine Cran and an artist who was eventually going to have a more permanent relationship with AiM, Allison Weightman. Between them they helped over 100 people to throw or hand build individual pieces of work in less than 4 hours.
  • 2010/11 also saw the creation of a regular photography group as well as the first student intern.
  • The 2011 festival ran over 16 days with 48 exhibitors showing 120 pieces of art. The exhibition was seen by 369 visitors.
  • Pol UK became a regular user led group following a period of being led and tutored by Caroline Snow.
  • Despite the success in the organisation's output, funding difficulties meant that the Partnership were unable to support the group in the same way and so it was agreed to look at setting AiM up as a Company Limited by Guarantee with its own board and the ability to apply to a broader range of funders. At the AGM on 6 September 2011 approval was given for the Formation of Arts in Merkinch as a Company Limited by Guarantee and board members were appointed.
  • Annie Marrs (pictured left) left Arts in Merkinch in May 2012 to take up an exciting new post in Fife and Catherine MacNeil (pictured right) was appointed.
Annie Marrs
Catherine MacNeil
  • The 2012 Summer Festival ran over 18 days with 59 artists exhibiting and 18 workshops running.
  • 2012 also saw the opening of The Clay Studio, under the coordination of Allison Weightman, in no 33 Grant Street (former home of MP33) with an ambitious programme of 13 classes a week.
  • The 2013 festival ran over 14 days and worked with 38 artists and delivered a whopping 30 workshops.
  • In 2014, 36 artists exhibited and 23 workshops were run. Attendance at the festival topped 473 people with over 100 attending a celebratory street party.
  • In April 2014, Arts in Merkinch was successful in gaining Charity Status. Between 2014 and 2017 Arts in Merkinch focused its energies into trying to find a way to ensure both The Clay Studio and The Bike Shed could become more sustainable.
  • In 2015, The Bike Shed Steering Group was set up to support the future community use of the space and those involved were supported with training and development opportunities. Over this period Blazing Needles and The Men's Shed project developed their own constitutions and bank facilities.
  • In April 2017, the Arts in Merkinch board had to make Allison Weightman redundant and passed the business element of The Clay Studio on to a User Group of artists led by Johanne Kemp.
  • In Summer 2017, the board of AiM agreed to work with Dave Saunders to open a coffee shop facility in The Bike shed in order to find a way to financially secure the space for future community activity.
  • On the 19th April 2018 the board unanimously agreed to wind up the charity due to the precarious nature of the funding. The Development Manager post was also made redundant. Although Arts in Merkinch as an organisation will no longer exist it is hoped that the arts activity in Grant Street will continue through the Bike Shed Users Group and the great work going on in The Clay Studio.
  • In May 2018, Arts in Merkinch hosted the SMHAF Highland opening with yet another fabulous range of art and performances from writers and musicians.
  • Giving it Verbal, held on 12th and 13th May was another huge quality evening of home grown talent with theatre, stories, music and much more.
Bette McArdle

There are so many people to remember who have had a positive impact on the organisation over its 15 year history, not least Bette McArdle and Brian MacLeod who lit that flame. To all those who have been board members, steering group members and the huge number of volunteers who have been involved in all aspects of the work, we say a huge thank you.

AiM has been lucky enough to have worked with a huge range of incredibly skilled artists and arts organisations along the way as well as to have been supported and collaborated with by many community organisations and we hope sincerely that these past partners and friends will be the users and creators of future activities in the space.

We would especially like to take the chance to remember those who have passed away but who remain in our memories as staunch supporters of Arts in Merkinch: Helen Slater, Margaret MacKechnie, Kathleen Adams and our very special Bette.

The Bike Shed The Clay Studio