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Royal visit helps bolster social enterprise

By Kyle Ritchie

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A royal seal of approval has provided a massive boost to a community enterprise which was supported by the Banff regeneration scheme.

Since opening in September last year, Vanilla Ink’s silversmithing workshop in the town has welcomed many visitors through its doors.

However, a visit from the Duke of Rothesay has created a flurry of activity on social media, as well as in traditional media, elevating its profile beyond their dreams, according to Alison Arrowsmith, The Smiddy workshop co-ordinator.

Banff Vanilla Ink’s Alison Arrowsmith.
Banff Vanilla Ink’s Alison Arrowsmith.

She said: “We’ve been flabbergasted at how Prince Charles’ visit has upped our profile, raising awareness of our objectives for young people, and our desire to make Banff a centre of excellence in the art of making in metal once again.

“We have had a big surge in our social media following after Prince Charles’ visit, and we have received more emails from people asking about the classes we offer.

“It has broadened our audience to a far wider area and we hope that this translates to bookings.

“We haven’t been going for even a year so to be noticed like this is exciting and reaffirming in terms of what we are trying to achieve.

“It has been really fantastic to generate so much interest in what we are doing and to tell the world about what’s going on here in Banff by reviving old traditions and offering up new opportunities.

“We are proud to be part of Banff’s regeneration and Prince Charles took a real interest in what we’re doing. It wasn’t just the fact that the Prince spent time with us, but we expect to raise the profile of our social enterprise work from his visit, as it has magnified awareness of what we’re doing.”

Prince Charles has a keen interest in traditional arts and initiatives to support young people and dropped by to find out at first-hand how the studio is playing a key part in Banff’s regeneration by reviving the art of silverwork in the Banffshire town.

The bright and modern workshop that houses Vanilla Ink’s second studio outside of Glasgow was created from a former blacksmith’s premises which until three years ago was in a neglected and dilapidated state.

As part of the town’s regeneration, there was a vision to bring it back into use and revive links with Banff’s historic silver trade.

Banff Preservation Trust commissioned a feasibility study and the building was renovated with the support of the Banff Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme, which has seen £500,000 of grants from Historic Environment Scotland for the restoration of traditional buildings in the hub of the former burgh town.

The total investment has been more than £1 million, with additional funding coming from Aberdeenshire Council, Scottish Government and private owners.

Vanilla Ink is a Community Interest Company with the hopes of educating, inspiring and empowering people through making.

Vanilla Ink The Smiddy passes on skills and knowledge in silver making in a range of classes for beginners through to intermediate and advanced.

As a social enterprise, it has a firm focus on developing opportunities, particularly for young people, offering up skills and experiences that they might not otherwise be able to access.

Prince Charles’ visit to Banff at the end of April also included a trip to Banff Museum which is run by the Banff Preservation and Heritage Society, where he viewed examples of work by many of the known Banff silversmiths.

Banff CARS was led by Aberdeenshire Council and has resulted in the restoration of properties in Bridge Street, Carmelite Street and Low Street, and is part of the council’s wider regeneration strategy.

It builds on the work of “Banff Renaissance” multi-partner project which ran from 2008-2013 and saw £1.45 million invested in property restoration in the burgh.

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