Civic Conversation: The people will forge Kirkcaldy's future after lockdown

Rosemary Potter at top of the Old Kirk's  towerRosemary Potter at top of the Old Kirk's  tower
Rosemary Potter at top of the Old Kirk's tower
Church which has survived the plague, fire and wars, will endure coronavirus

The Fife Free Press has launched a Civic Conversation to get a wide range of views on how Kirkcaldy will endure after lockdown. This week, Rosemary Potter, of Kirkcaldy’s Old Kirk, looked at the challenges ahead

Folk entering Kirkcaldy Old Kirk for the first time often exclaim “it’s like a Tardis!”

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Usually this means they are surprised by the bright, airy space inside, unexpected from the grey stone exterior they have passed by.

Old Kirk, KirkcaldyOld Kirk, Kirkcaldy
Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy

But perhaps it is also about recognising the Old Kirk as a part of Kirkcaldy’s timeline, a central point for travelling back and forward in time, for remembrance of the past, enjoyment of the present and hope for the future, always against a backcloth of eternity.

What will the future of Kirkcaldy look like after coronavirus lockdown?

I don’t know the whole answer, but I can say that as Kirkcaldy Old Kirk has survivedChurch which has it will be part of that future. It will adapt to meet the new situation as it has in each generation through its thousand years of Christian worship and community service in the town.

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Over centuries, the Old Kirk’s tower has looked over a busy, working, town from a medieval harbour that sent sailors to trade across Northern Europe and the Baltic, returning with goods for a bustling market place on the High Street.

From the parapet walkway at the top of the tower you can see the growth of Kirkcaldy as industry developed and flourished with the arrival of the railway, till the town disappeared over the inland horizon in the 20th century.

Kirkcaldy has a heritage to be proud of – but it was built on the people who made it happen.

Church which has survivedPeople with ideas, like Adam Smith, who was baptised in the Old Kirk as an infant, people with new products, like Michael Nairn and linoleum, people with vision, like Rev Campbell who supported women’s right to vote in the 1900s, people of hard work like the weavers, sailors and factory workers buried in the graveyard.

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Going forward, we can all appreciate the advantages of digital connections we have experienced over the past few weeks. Inevitably that will play a bigger part than ever in the days ahead.

In the Old Kirk too there are plans to enhance some of the heritage offering to local people and visitors by state-of-the-art interactive digital reconstructions of its history. These are part of the Tower Restoration Project planned for 2021. There will be workshops in some of the digital technology for older students and local interested individuals.

Our AGM this year may have to be a Zoom meeting – even if some of us are all Zoomed out!

One of the other lessons from the coronavirus lockdown has been just how important other people are to us. Relationships and social interaction face-to-face are now being taken seriously and talked about at highest levels as essential components for our welfare and good mental health at individual and community level.

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Love, kindness, compassion and sharing have been demonstrated in this crisis and surely must be built into our future community life if it is to thrive. These are values which are also fundamental to true Christian faith and therefore as church, as community venue and as heritage conservator, the Old Kirk will be looking to engage with people, and serve community needs on personal, group and community levels.

Face-to-face interactions will of course have to follow the phases of the Government guidelines, but we plan to offer some access to the Old Kirk’s heritage in the summer, be it by guided tours of the graveyard outside to restricted groups or by digital recording of our exhibition on “Stories from Stones”.

For “Doors Open Day” in September we will be open to restricted numbers at any one time or if that is not possible, by online tour.Our support groups and our worship groups may have to wait longer to be allowed to meet again as togetherness and companionship is key to their meetings.

This is true also of our orchestra friends and choirs, who need to blend their music in a group – but there is nothing to compare in the best recording with the great experience of live music! So we look forward patiently to the return of these larger musical events in time.

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However we have a big space in the Old Kirk and social distancing is not a problem for some of the smaller events with one or two performers. We envisage these and the return of our interrupted Organ Recital Series as being among the first of our reintroduced musical events, possibly in the autumn in Phase Three.

We hope too, to offer in time a place for people to remember those loved ones they could not gather to share memories of during lockdown. Previous years have seen memorial services for those of faith and of no faith held by individuals and by the NHS in the Old Kirk. Meantime we can hold a memorial record of a loved one for anyone wishing to send it to us.

Further ahead, in Spring 2021 we hope to see the Tower Restoration Project start.

The building project is with the planning department for consents just now, and will see the 15th century tower with its 1553 bell and iconic clock repaired and refurbished. We are currently trying to raise the necessary funding to match a National Lottery Heritage Grant, seeking this investment to bring jobs to town, with training opportunities in building conservation fields.

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A volunteer co-ordinator will be sought as soon as lockdown measures permit and anyone self-employed with the necessary experience is encouraged to contact Kirkcaldy Old Kirk Trust.

This part-time role will be instrumental in providing training to potential volunteers to learn new skills, participate in this community venture and encourage more visitors. We want to connect local people with their heritage and invite more tourists to the town centre to spend a day or a weekend, viewing Kirkcaldy’s rich heritage.

People will be the future of this venture, volunteering as guides to the tower, a volunteer handyman, researchers for our exhibitions, social media communicators, a book-keeper.

Kirkcaldy is a community built on people of enterprise and hard work. It is people that will forge the future shape of the town – and the Old Kirk will play its part in that future.

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Thank you

Allan Crow, Editor, Fife Free Press