2019: in review!

We’re winding down here at Scottish Civic Trust and all through our (18th century Georgian) townhouse, not a creature is stirring, not even a wood louse.

To finish up the year, we’ve decided to reflect back on our busy year and enjoy sharing just how much we’ve accomplished. Below, we recap some of our greatest hits from 2019: Doors Open Days 30th anniversary celebrations, our first Heritage Hooleys, a national conference on tenement maintenance, the launch of our My Place Mentoring programme, the massive reach of our My Place Awards and our ongoing work to diversify participation in heritage.

Here’s what we’ve been up to in 2019!


The first Doors Open Days took place in Glasgow and Ayr in 1990. In the last 30 years, Doors Open Days has grown to include over 1,000 venues open across all 32 regions of Scotland. Today, Doors Open Days is Scotland’s largest free festival that celebrates culture, heritage and the built environment. To celebrate this exciting milestone, we delivered an additional programme of events, from filling a swimming pool full of flowers to offering refugee-led tours of Scotland’s finest buildings.

Our highly anticipated Doors Open Days 2019 report will be released in the New Year, with many exciting statistics about visitors, volunteers and venues. In the meantime, you can read all about our 30th anniversary projects by heading to the news section on our Doors Open Days website, where we’ve been uploading updates about each project.


In February, we piloted Heritage Hooleys – evening networking receptions that brought together local community groups and organisations with major stakeholders and funding bodies within the cultural and heritage sectors.
We held two Hooleys, one in Linlithgow and one in Inverness. Participants relayed overwhelmingly positive feedback, with those from the Inverness Hooley expressing that they were particularly pleased to have a heritage networking event outwith the Central Belt.

This feedback has been incorporated into future planning – we will host two more Hooleys in February 2020, both in areas far from the madding crowd. As the national body for Scotland’s civic spaces, we think it’s important for us to build the capacity of local built heritage activity nationwide. Scroll down to the upcoming projects section to learn more.


We worked with Built Environment Forum Scotland and Under One Roof to host a national conference in Glasgow’s Lighthouse to discuss issues relating to tenements.

The conference, held on 18th September 2019, attracted 114 attendees who spent the day hearing from a mixture of academics, practitioners and experts in the field. The day’s proceedings provided an engaging balance of theoretical discussions and practical advice, from speaker’s presentations to interactive break-out sessions. In all, 56 representatives of local tenants’ associations from across Scotland attended, along with commercial factors, surveyors, housing association officers, local authority staff and teams from City Heritage Trusts. You can read our full report on the day’s proceedings here.

We were enlivened by how engaged the public was with tenement maintenance, which we consider a pressing issue for Scotland’s built environment. We’re looking for ways to continue including content on tenement maintenance in our future programming.


In January 2019. we launched our My Place Mentoring programme to give communities across Scotland the opportunity to build their skills, knowledge and connections. In the past year, we’ve connected with 30 community groups across Scotland, from Skye to Skelmorlie, and Dundee to Lockerbie. We assisted groups on various aspects of their heritage projects, from fundraising, governance, social media, project development and more.

Some of our Mentoring groups also participated in our Doors Open Days 30th anniversary Back for Good programme and received small grants to make their sites ready for Doors Open Days visitors. Organisations received funds for a wide range of purposes, including increasing their signage to raise awareness of their site; installing ramps to allow disabled access to their site; and offering toilet facilities for visitors. Those toilets – installed at Skelmorlie Secret Bunker – were SCT’s star attraction for #NationalToiletDay, gathering 1.8k impressions on social media and many a stunned reaction that we were able to engage with this trend. You never know what element of heritage will catch the public imagination!

The enabling grant scheme has received overwhelmingly positive feedback and shown us that small funding schemes are incredibly useful to small, volunteer-led organisations. We’re hoping to do a lot more of these in the future.

In the coming year, our My Place Mentoring Senior Project Officer Jamie McNamara will be hard at work developing relationships with our mentoring groups and planning a conference for mentoring groups to connect and share lessons learned during the first year of mentoring. We’ll have details of this through our usual channels – feel free to join in, even if you’re not one of our mentored groups.


In April, Bellsbank won our My Place Awards 2020! Bellsbank is a rural, former coal mining community that has suffered heavily from the loss of the local industry. Despite the wonderful landscape setting of the town, the physical appearance and condition of the housing stock had become dilapidated and forbidding. The idea to bring colour to Bellsbank was conceived of locally and residents were invited to choose from a colour plan. The unique, innovative and collaborative approach at Bellsbank, with residents engaged and empowered from the outset, has seen a transformative effect. The improvements have not only been felt in the dramatic visual enhancement of the village, but also in tackling social isolation and loneliness, fuel poverty, food insecurity and connectedness.

Bellsbank’s successes received much deserved attention and were broadcast far and wide. A short film we commissioned about the project garnered a staggering 16,000 engagements on Facebook; over 12,000 people visited the My Place exhibition we put on at The Lighthouse; and a further 17,000 people engaged with the Awards on Twitter. Most important to us though, has been the feedback we received from Bellsbank about the impact of winning the My Place Awards: “Winning the My Place Awards gave us a sense of pride and it felt good to be noticed, like all our hard work was paying off. We have been inspired to keep blazing a trail for community empowerment projects. In addition to our existing work to beautify Bellsbank, provide food to neighbours in need and host a youth club, we now are discussing the establishment of a community hub and swap shop.”

Apply now to our 2020 My Place Awards!


Our Diverse Heritage Officer Jennifer Novotny has spent the year developing relationships with people of underrepresented backgrounds to encourage their participation in heritage.

In February, we piloted a Queering the Map of Edinburgh project, with the aim of creating a community map of Edinburgh to highlight spaces of significance to LGBTQI+ people. This event was overwhelmingly popular, leading us to offer additional Queering the Map events in Ayrshire and Glasgow. Another Queering the Map event is already planned for Dundee in 2020.

In March, we held a symposium exploring the engagement of young people with heritage. Young people in attendance were amazed at the ‘fantastic things the sector is doing’ and emphasised the need for experiences ‘to be created with rather than for young people’. We will continue working with young people in 2020 through our Braw Buildings Hostelling Scotland partnership and our Doors Open Days Young Advisory Panel.

In July, we conducted our first Digital Doors Open project. A Member of Smart History took 360-degree photographs of the view from the top of Paisley Abbey Tower, which is accessed by 190 steps and usually inaccessible to the public. Head to our website to see the virtual tour of Paisley Abbey and other sites around Scotland.

September saw the delivery of many diverse heritage initiatives for Doors Open Days, including multilingual-tours of Glasgow City Chambers, British Sign Language interpreted events in Glasgow and Perth, and the continuation of the Digital Doors Open and Queering the Map projects.

The end of 2019 has been characterised by touching base with the 25+ partner organisations that we’ve connected with this year to diversify heritage engagement. Ongoing partnerships include the British Deaf Association, Glasgow Disability Alliance, Intercultural Youth Scotland, LGBT Health & Wellbeing, the Refugee Survival Trust and more. We’re looking forward to deepening these relationships as we continue to engage more people with heritage.


Erin Burke took up post as our Communications and Events Officer after an impressive performance as our 2019 Doors Open Days intern and her recent graduation from University of Glasgow with an MSc in Museum Education. Erin has previously worked as a Volunteer Organiser at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and the Audience Development and Outreach Assistant at Glasgow Building Preservation Trust. She has a passion for inclusive and engaging communications and we’re delighted to have persuaded her to join us on a permanent basis.

Jamie McNamara took up post in October as our My Place Mentoring Senior Project Officer. Jamie holds a Post Grad Diploma in Applied Building Repair plus an MA in Conservation, and is Chair of SPAB Scotland. He has worked with the conservation of canals, churches and within the traditional skills area. If you have an interest in community-based heritage projects, drop Jamie a line!

Looking forward to 2020

After such a packed year, it’s onwards and upwards! Upon our return from the holiday break, we’ll be hard at work on some exciting projects.

We’ll continue spreading the word about our My Place Awards and My Place Photography Competition, both of which close for entries for in February. These two competitions seek to encourage and celebrate the involvement of more people in the local built environment.

The My Place Awards celebrate community-led built environment initiatives that have transformed their locality. The My Place Awards are nominated by community members, so we’d love for you to tell us about a built environment project that has made a difference in your neighbourhood. It’s a really simple process to nominate – we’ll do all the work! Alternatively, community groups can also directly apply through our My Place website. Read here for more information on the guidelines and judging criteria.

The My Place Photography Competition is a Scotland-wide heritage photographic project that encourages school age young people (4-18) to explore the buildings, architecture and archaeology in the places they live. Entries should be made by a group leader or teacher on behalf of their young people. Participation is free! You must register as a member via myplacescotland.org.uk, and then upload entries on behalf of your young people.

Entries for both competitions should be made by 11:59pm, 16 February 2020. 

We’ll also be hosting the next instalment of our Heritage Hooleys – evening networking receptions that bring together local community and heritage groups with some of the sector’s major stakeholders. In February 2020, we will be holding Hooleys in Shetland and Dumfries and Galloway! The Shetland Hooley will be held at Lerwick Town Hall on 10th February, and our Dumfries & Galloway venue will be confirmed early in the New Year.

Much to be proud of and such exciting things ahead! For now though, we hope you enjoy a peaceful Christmas and New Year.

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