Community spirit at the centre of St Abbs

Helen Crowe celebrating a year of St Abbs community centre being open
Helen Crowe celebrating a year of St Abbs community centre being open

St Abbs may only have 129 residents but it’s a community with an astonishing level of energy and entrepreneurship.

The proof of that is its hugely successful community centre that is celebrating its first anniversary this weekend. In the past year there have been 13,500 people through the door; the cafe is a success; four part-time jobs have been created; and £2,400 has been raised for the harbour trust from the sale of second hand books.

In 2009 St Abbs Community Trust leased the old primary school building for £1 a year from Scottish Borders Council and with chairman Helen Crowe in the driving seat there was only ever going to be one outcome - a roaring success.

Getting the community centre up and running involved almost the whole village, and in the year that it has been open people have voted with their feet and visited the hall - again, again and again.

The market, which started in June last year with three or four stall holders, now has its own St Abbs Market Traders organisation, and a rota of over 20 food and craft stall holders, and it is proving quite a pull for people from far and wide.

“The reason it’s been so successful is the community,” said Helen. “Not just St Abbs, people from Kelso, Earlston, Edinburgh etc are coming here week on week.

“My vision was to have a community hub, plus somewhere that could create employment and offer work experience for the kids,” Helen explained.

And in this she has succeeded. As well as Helen herself being employed on a part time bases as manager, the cafe provides employment for three staff, and five under 16 year olds have work permits to work there at weekends and during the holidays.

In the ten months it has been open the cafe is breaking even, producing home-made, high quality cakes, sandwiches, soups etc and even has its own loyalty card. And around 27 pensioners from St Abbs and Coldingham are flocking there each Tuesday for the pensioners’ lunch.

One lady who travels down from Coldingham every week for the market, a coffee, a scone and a natter with her friends said: “ It’s marvellous. I love it.”

Community events, social gatherings, conferences, church services - you name it, its happening at St Abbs community Centre.