The 2020 Project

This journey began a little over a year ago, whether Kirk Session set out an Action Plan to address four areas of concern:

We brainstormed and consulted. Some things were perfectly obvious: no one who has been in St Machar’s in the winter can be unaware of the pressing need for repairs to the roof and the towers, if only to keep out the rain, and no one who has worshipped in St Machar’s or even simply attended a concert needs telling of the need to improve the seating and toilet accommodation.

But it became clear, as we developed our vision, that the existing footprint of the building could not accommodate all we needed to do. We would have to build some form of extension. We had by this time appointed Mark Hopton, Architect, a partner in the Law Dunbar Nasmith Partnership in Edinburgh and a very experienced Conservation Architect. Mark worked with us to look at various options, and as was previously reported, we settled on looking east. Mark has drawn plans incorporating all we indicated we would need - more circulation and meeting space, rehearsal and storage facilities, and a café. Using the outline of the former transepts, the proposals show a two storey extension, with the ground floor entrance from the east incorporating the existing tombstones in a setting which will both preserve them and enhance our interpretation facilities. There will also be a new shop.

The first floor shows a series of rooms for such uses as meeting places for Sunday School and crèche, a ‘Green room’ and storage facilities for choir and outside performers, toilets and a café.

The overall effect is, we believe an attractive and comprehensive response to our vision and its construction, along with the essential repairs and refurbishment of the church area, will ensure that St Machar’s will be able to continue its mission to its congregation and its communities for years to come.

But that was the easy bit. Now comes the detail. There is much to do. We need to consult with,  apply for permission to and persuade and enthuse a host of individuals and organisations if we are to achieve our aspirations. Clearly there will be the need for Planning Permission and Listed Building consent for any works we propose. It is one of the special glories of St Machar’s that it is a category A Listed Building set in an Outstanding Conservation Area. Any works proposed will, quite rightly, have to meet very high standards of design. As part of that process we are aware of the various voluntary and community bodies who love this area and have a keen interest in maintaining its amenity. We will work with them in the hope that they can see and perhaps share our vision. And there are various church bodies, at both local and national level, who have to be kept in the loop and whose support is vital.

And then there is funding! The works proposed are currently estimated at around £6 million. It is with a little hesitation that I mention this figure. It is very much a draft estimate, and the only certainty about it is that it will change. Nonetheless, the congregation and other friends need to be aware of the scale of the project we are contemplating.

Finding the funding will be challenging and will take much effort from a great many people. We shall very shortly be making an initial application to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and we would hope and expect to get a grant from them for a very substantial part of the cost, and there are a number of other funding bodies to whom we will make submissions. But the fact remains that we will have to raise a significant seven figure sum through our own efforts and with the support of private and corporate donations. We are therefore setting up a Fundraising Committee whose task it will be to identify and approach likely donors and generally to follow best practice in fundraising of this type. Although grants and corporate donations will have to be the route we follow for most of our funds, it is important for several reasons that the congregation feels involved in this aspect as well as being consulted on the content. There will therefore be a place in our fundraising strategy for smaller donations and individual initiatives. But more, much more of that later!

Timescale is always difficult to pin down exactly at this stage. We are planning our initial grant application before the end of the year. If successful with that, and with the various planning submissions, we could follow up with a detailed application next ear and be ready to start work by early 2018. It is possible that we could be finished by mid to late 2020.

And as it happens, late 2020 is a very significant date. I have not so far, in this article, mentioned the heraldic ceiling. Although we believe it has not suffered any damage through water penetration (it seems just to need a clean up to get rid of five centuries of candle grease!), its preservation is vital to us and our concern for its future was one of the drivers in motivating us to plan this project. And of course in 2020, the ceiling will be 500 years old. We very much want to complete this project by celebrating this date and giving thanks for the survival, through Reformation, Civil War and everything the north east weather could throw at it, of a unique and beautiful feature. It is therefore proposed that a commemorative service be held in November 2020, with as many representatives or descendants of those whose Coats of Arms are represented on the ceiling as is possible. Now that will be some celebration!

We have set ourselves a series of challenges over the next year or two. The funding and completion of the work we have in mind will not be easy. But we feel strongly that as temporary stewards of this wonderful place, we have a duty to do what we can to see that it continues to fulfil its role as a historic and beautiful building, a major tourist attraction for the area, a performance venue of high quality, but above all, a place of worship where God’s word is preached and where Christ’s presence is felt by all who come seeking it.

We hope that you share our vision and we hope that you come with us on this journey.

Alan Grant

Session Clerk

Ground Floor Plan

Artist impression Ground Floor

First Floor Plan

Artist impression First Floor