At exactly 2.30pm Jim Cooper (Dumfries and Galloway Council) and Rose Murdoch (Kelloholm and Kelloholm Development Trust) emerged from the unofficial counting room at the side of the stage. The votes were in and carefully counted by the organisers who scrutinised each voting sheets with as much care and respect as any general election ballot. The all-important results were about to be announced by Rose. An expectant hush fell over the Kirkconnel Miners Hall, toddlers who had been chasing balloons on the dance floor fell silent and moved to the side, the young Nith United football club, wearing their strips for their presentation, stopped eating crisps and lowered the packs to their side….at this moment Rose was more important.
There’s something about the PB process which creates a level of silence that I haven’t experienced in a community setting before. It is a silence that immediately happens when an individual walks on to the stage and pitches for their organisation or a project which is important to them. It’s a silence that acknowledges that those presenting are doing something gutsy and vital for the community. It’s a silence which is inter-generational, reaching out to both toddler and pensioner alike and miraculously banishing fits of coughing, toddlers crying and teenagers rasping. All eyes were on Rose as the music was turned off and the Miners Hall fell mute.
For Rose and Jim this PB event represents the culmination of a lot of hard work by Kirkconnel & Kelloholm Community Trust and partners who successfully applied for the Scottish Government's Community Choices fund. Over 3 months the organisers took up training opportunities with PB Partners, they communicated the concept of PB to community groups in the area, branding and marketing materials were developed, applications were assessed, the PB website (Your Priorities) was populated. On the day, everything had to be right from staff and volunteers understanding their job to the PA system and catering. In the end £20,000 was democratically dispersed to community-led projects.
Speaking about the process David Branton from The Heritage Society said, ‘It’s a good thing to see what other sections of the village are doing, to get children involved [and] older people, because when you go about your daily business you don’t know what these other groups are doing until they come together like this.’
Julie Heslop from the Community Council said, 'Today I think has gone very well, we had a lot more people than I thought we would. It's been good for the community, they got together, they voted on each other...The way it's been done is very fair.'
In absolute silence Rose announced the 10 projects that would receive their share of the £20,000. They included Nith United Football Club which will see the young team improve their facilities with new goals and pitch lining equipment and Village Pride which has been doing lots to improve the areas physical environment through improved pathways and green space improvements.
At the end of Rose's announcement the silence was broken with a huge round of applause for the groups who had received funding and an acknowledgement that the PB process had brought the community together in a unique and engaging way.