In 2013 Huntly Writers were granted funds from the Huntly Cultural Fund to conduct a feasibility study to determine the viability of transforming independent bookstore Orb’s Bookshop into a not-for-profit community bookstore. We’ve been busy putting those findings into action, and are pleased to announce our community organisation Huntly Heritage and Bookshop Community is actively working towards the creation of a Huntly heritage visitor centre incorporating the bookshop and a café that will become an important community asset.
Our aims are:
1. To retain the existing bookstore in Huntly as a community asset to benefit Huntly residents, the business community and tourists.
2. To create a database of volunteers, including those looking for experience to re-enter the workforce.
3. To consolidate revenue streams to support the further goals of the community organisation, for example, securing new premises that can incorporate the bookshop, café and George MacDonald and local heritage exhibitions. We want the Huntly community to have access to a cultural “hub” of local history.
4. To revise as appropriate our fully-costed business plan in order to seek further grants/funding/donations for the next phases of the project.
The first phase of our project is to secure the short-term future of the bookshop in its current premises. To this end, we are seeking to raise £5000 for on-going running costs for 12 months, plus a staff of volunteers to run the shop on a day-to-day basis.
Longer term, this project will focus on the heritage of the Huntly area, particularly of the renowned local author George MacDonald who invented two fiction genres. The best known today is that of fantasy fiction. Not only did C. S. Lewis (author of the Narnia books) openly acknowledge that he had been inspired by the work of MacDonald, J. R. R. Tolkien and Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) were also influenced by him.
The second genre he contributed to was kaleyard fiction, which describes life in rural North-East Scotland. Importantly, he wrote much of the dialogue in these stories in Doric, the local dialect of this area. A secondary objective of the project is to promote the writing, reading and performance of Doric literature so that local people can learn about and take pride in their linguistic heritage.
MacDonald is a figure of national and international literary importance, regularly studied by academics and the subject of an international society.
The project aims eventually to set up a visitor centre in a new, custom-designed location where we will be able to display George MacDonald manuscripts and memorabilia currently in storage with Aberdeenshire Council. The centre will also contain a re-booted community bookshop with an emphasis on local authors past and present, writing in both English and Doric. A general selection of new and second-hand fiction and non-fiction will also be offered. It will also act as a repository of information on local clans such as the Gordons and Forbeses.
The centre will also provide café facilities.
The project aims to contribute to the reinvigoration of Huntly town centre where shops currently suffer a low occupancy rate, and will provide tourists who come to Huntly in search of George MacDonald and/or their personal histories with a focus for information that is currently lacking. It will complement the historic experience currently provided at Huntly Castle by Historic Scotland, and offer tourists an indoor activity when the weather is inclement.
If you’re interested in finding out more or contributing to our project, we’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch via email: [email protected].