The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Friday, 23 January 2009

Burns 250th anniversary year celebrations start this weekend

SCOTLAND’S Homecoming year will officially start this weekend with a series of high-profile celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of our national poet Robert Burns.

Events are planned in Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and people around the world are invited to help kick off the celebrations with their own Burns Supper and be part of the World Famous Burns Supper Celebration, a partnership with The Famous Grouse. Many of the events are already sold out, with event organisers reporting great interest from Scots as well as visitors from the rest of the UK, Europe, North America and further afield.

Over the weekend of 23-25 January events are planned throughout Scotland kicking off a 10-month long national programme featuring more than 300 inspirational events that connect with the year’s themes of Burns, golf, whisky, great Scottish minds and innovations and ancestry. Spanning the length and breadth of the country the programme of events has been created to encourage Scots, people with Scots ancestry and those who simply love Scotland to ‘come home’ and celebrate in 2009.

Key events will take place in Alloway, the birthplace of Robert Burns. Iconic Burns, will see the village becoming a focal point for the Burns celebration on Saturday 24 January. Village locations, including Burns Birthplace Cottage and the Brig O’ Doon (pictured above), both owned by the National Trust for Scotland, will be brought to life in a one-off extravaganza to mark the start of this unique year of celebration. Interest in the event has been huge, with over 3,000 people from the UK and around the world entering the ballot for 1,000 tickets.

Alloway will also host the Homecoming Burns Supper which will pay tribute to some of those who keep the legacy of Burns alive today. The event, overlooking the Brig O’ Doon, will be a centrepiece for the World Famous Burns Supper Celebration, created in partnership with The Famous Grouse. Burns suppers around the world will link up for the first time ever on

Over 2,700 Burns suppers around the world have already been registered on the site, from the top of Canada’s CN Tower to the top of Ben Nevis.

In Dumfries up to 10,000 people are also expected to take to the streets, where Burns spent the latter part of his life, for Burns Light on Sunday 25 January. The entire region has been mobilised in support of the event with more than 3000 lanterns featuring in four processions on Burns Night. Preparing for the event, 92 community workshops have been held throughout Dumfries and Galloway, involving youth groups, church groups and after school clubs. Forty-two schools are taking part in this free, non-ticketed event and whole villages have chartered buses to bring families and school children to Dumfries for this unique celebration. This Is Who We Are launches in Mid Steeple in Dumfries on Sunday 25 January.  This exhibition celebrates the cultural and historic links between Scotland and Canada through digital photography. Photographs taken by affinity Scots in Canada will tell the story of their communities and demonstrate the strong influence of Scots when they travelled and named 1000 Canadian towns after their homeland.

In Glasgow, Celtic Connections, Europe’s most popular winter music festival, offers its biggest ever celebration of Burns with a specially extended Homecoming programme. The festival boasts its most international programme to date, and so far there has been an increase in bookings from Australia, Africa and Asia and many of the events have sold out. Both dates of Transatlantic Sessions have sold out, and to meet demand another performance of Eddi Reader Sings the Songs of Burns took place after her first show sold out. Auld Lang Syne at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall has standing tickets only left and all ‘dancing’ tickets for the Homecoming Scotland All-Star Ceilidh have been sold. Those who have missed out on tickets for some of the sold out events will still be able to join the celebrations by attending the Jamaican Burns Night featuring Sly and Robbie at the Old Fruitmarket or by dropping in to the free 12 Hour Burns Concert on 24 January at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Elsewhere in Glasgow, Burns Illuminated, the Bard’s story told in sound and light will be projected onto Glasgow City Chambers between 23-25 and on Sunday all the family can join a free musical celebration featuring the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the premiere of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society’s Homecoming Dance in Glasgow’s George Square.

In Edinburgh there’s a final chance to see Zig Zag: The Paths of Robert Burns at the National Library of Scotland before it goes on tour across Scotland. This major exhibition, which has received record visitor numbers, combines pictures, sound and the poet’s own words to show how Burns consciously created his own myth.  On Saturday 24 January visitors to the exhibition will also be able to mingle with the witches and warlocks of ‘Tam O’Shanter’.  On Sunday 25 January the National Museums of Scotland mark the start of their programme of Homecoming events with an exciting line up of poetry, performers, art and music to celebrate Scotland's most famous bard, Robert Burns. From 22 January The Scottish Parliament hosts As Others See Us – a photographic exhibition showcasing unique and engaging contemporary portraits of twenty of Scotland's best-known figures alongside their favourite pieces of poetry and songs by Robert Burns, whose work continues to inspire today.  The Scottish Storytelling Centre hosts events for all ages to celebrate the language and legacy of Robert Burns, from nursery songs to poetic epics.

Marie Christie, Director of Homecoming Scotland 2009 said: “We have been delighted with the response to the launch weekend events. Homecoming is about creating a real sense of celebration in Scotland and inviting the world to share it with us. The fantastic community response to the events in Alloway and Dumfries, sold out events at Celtic Connections, increasing visitor numbers at the Burns exhibition in Edinburgh and thousands of Burns suppers linking up around the world for the World Famous Burns Supper are all testament to the interest and enthusiasm for Burns and this unique celebration.

“Hundreds of individuals and organisations across the country and beyond are working hard to create an enjoyable and successful year of Homecoming celebrations.  Everyone can play their part in making 2009 a special year by extending the Homecoming invitation to friends and family and by taking part in events and activities.”

National Trust for Scotland Chairman Shonaig Macpherson said: “The Trust is pleased to be playing a full part in the Burns and Homecoming Scotland 2009 festivities in Alloway this weekend. We are fortunate to care for the iconic properties linked to Burns in Alloway. Throughout this year of Homecoming, we will be working on our latest project – creating the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which will provide a fitting tribute to Burns, his life and his works. We look forward to celebrating Scotland throughout this year of Homecoming, in Alloway and at our properties across Scotland.”

The full programme of events is available at

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Thursday, 22 January 2009

Ayr Town Centre Renaissance - new directors appointed

PLANS to regenerate the town centre of Ayr made further progress this week with the appointment of five new directors to the board of Ayr Renaissance, the company formed to help focus investment and development in the town.

[Pictured: Ayr Renaissance board members (left to right) back row: Councillor Hugh Hunter, Kirk Murdoch, Councillor Mike Peddie, Stuart Cresswell, David Anderson. Front row: Pat Kennedy, Councillor Elaine Little, Alan Macdonald and Evelyn McCann.]

Interim board chairman and South Ayrshire Council Leader, Councillor Hugh Hunter said: “We are delighted to be able to appoint people of such high calibre as our five new directors. They bring a wealth of national and international experience and skills to the task, and each has a strong commitment to Ayr and South Ayrshire.”

The five new directors are Patricia Kennedy, Alan Macdonald, Kirk Murdoch, Evelyn McCann and Stuart Cresswell and they will join current board members, Councillor Hugh Hunter, Councillor Elaine Little, Councillor Mike Peddie and South Ayrshire Council chief executive David Anderson.

Councillor Hunter continued: “We now have a very strong board in place, and we will focus our efforts on our long-term objective of bringing new jobs, new investment and more facilities into Ayr. All our activities will be geared to boosting our local economy and making Ayr a vibrant town for people to live, work and enjoy their leisure time.”

Established in July last year, Ayr Renaissance is due to publish its strategy and is about to appoint its project director.

The Board has identified some areas for early consideration including:

* Proposed future long term business development and investment.
* Pedestrian access and public transport links.
* Utilising the river frontage to create businesses and facilities.
* Future property demands and uses in the town centre.
* Working with property owners and as part of the Town Heritage Initiative.

Ayr Renaissance is a Limited Liability Partnership.

Biographies of the five new board directors

Patricia Kennedy is a native New Yorker and moved to Ayr in the early 1980’s to work with Digital Equipment Corporation. She now has her own company providing organisation development support to companies and governments in the UK, Europe and the USA. She has held various voluntary appointments including director of Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry, vice-chair of Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire and a member of Ayrshire Economic Forum. She is currently chair of the not-for-profit social enterprise company Space Unlimited.

Alan Macdonald founded Dawn Construction Ltd., in 1972 and is managing director and chairman of Dawn Group, one of Scotland’s largest privately owned construction and property companies which employs some 200 people. He is past chairman of Young Presidents Organisation, Scotland Chapter, director of the Gorbals Initiative, director of Glasgow South East Regeneration Agency and chairman of Ayr Racecourse.

Kirk Murdoch is joint senior partner with McGrigors legal practice and is a member of their board. He has been involved in some of the UK’s largest property transactions and leads many large scale real estate deals for clients across the UK.

Evelyn McCann is the former chief executive of Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire, a post she held for eight years. Previously she has held many senior public sector appointments working in economic development, learning and training. She has been a member of the Boards of Learning and Training Scotland, Investors in People Scotland and Strathclyde European Partnership. She is currently a member of the Court of the University of the West of Scotland, a board member of Skills Development Scotland, Irvine Bay Regeneration Company and CEiS Ayrshire.

Stuart Cresswell has been Port Manager of Associated British Port’s only Scottish ports at Ayr and Troon since 2006, having held previous senior positions with the company. Educated at Prestwick Academy and Glasgow Caledonian University, he is also a director of Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce.

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The Princess Royal visits Prestwick

HER Royal Highness, The Princess Royal has visited two very special boys at their home in Prestwick in her capacity as the Patron of the College of Occupational Therapists.

[Pictured: Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal is greeted on arrival by South Ayrshire Council chief executive David Anderson and Provost Winifred Sloan.]

Raymond and Claire Taylor welcomed The Princess Royal to their home so that she could see the specially designed house that was built to help them care for their sons, Daniel and Callum aged 4, who are both severely affected by cerebral palsy.

[Pictured: Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal is pictured in Claire and Raymond’s home along with their sons, family members and representatives from the agencies who made the project possible.]

At the time their sons were born Raymond and Claire lived in a small 2- bedroom flat. Kerry McEwan, Occupational Therapist and Roberta Simpson, Occupational Therapy Team Leader for South Ayrshire Council carried out a needs assessment of the flat and found that it was unsuitable for their special needs and could not be adapted.

Due to the special requirements of Daniel and Callum, adapting an existing property would not achieve the optimum home environment for the children now and in later years. The Occupational Therapists explored rehousing options but there was no suitable property available.

Roberta Simpson approached Ayrshire Housing and asked them to consider creating a purpose built home for the family.

[Pictured: South Ayrshire Council Provost Winifred Sloan (centre) presenting a quaich to Robert Taylor (left) and Claire Taylor (right) and their sons to mark the occasion of the visit by The Princess Royal to their home.]

Collaboration between the Council’s Occupational Therapy Service, Ayrshire Housing and their architect presented an opportunity to create a bespoke form of house design that would meet the family’s needs now and in the future. The main requirement was for each boy to have his own bedroom with an en suite shower/bathroom with the ability to have hoist transfer from their bed to the bathroom.

Funding for this very specific house design was provided by the Scottish Government. Construction of the house began in the summer of 2007 and the family moved into their new home in May 2008.

South Ayrshire Council Provost Winifred Sloan who was presented to The Princes Royal during her visit, said: “Raymond, Claire, Daniel and Callum are a very special family who now have a home that has been specifically designed to meet their needs.

“It was clear that The Princess Royal, as Patron of the College of Occupational Therapists, had an excellent understanding of the services that Occupational Therapists can offer, which make such a difference to the lives of people who have additional support needs.

“This project clearly demonstrates what can be achieved when the Council works in partnership with other agencies to provide housing that has been designed and planned for those with complex needs.”

During her visit The Princess Royal spent time with Raymond, Claire and their sons and found out just what a difference the specially designed home has made to them. Representatives from the Council, Ayrshire Housing, and others involved in the project were also present.

The new home, although specially designed to meet the needs of Daniel and Callum, blends in to the surrounding homes and from the outside looks similar to the other houses in the development.

Speaking about their very special visitor, Raymond Taylor said: “My wife and I felt very honoured that The Princess Royal visited our home and listened to us as we explained the difference this house has made to our lives. It was a wonderful experience, and one that we will never forget.

“Claire and I have excellent support from our families, who help us to care for Daniel and Callum. However, this specially designed house means that we can care for the boys now and as they grow up, and we know that we will not have to move. This is more than a house to us, it is our home.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supports us, our family, Occupational Therapists, the staff at Craigpark School in Ayr and many others.”

The College of Occupational Therapists is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Association of Occupational Therapists, and operates as a registered charity. It represents the profession nationally, and contributes widely to policy consultations throughout the UK.

The College sets the professional and educational standards for occupational therapy. It provides leadership, guidance and information relating to Research and Development, Education, Practice and Lifelong Learning. In addition, 11 accredited Specialist Sections support expert clinical practice.


The College of Occupational Therapists

South Ayrshire Council

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Glasgow Prestwick Airport undertakes
strategic review of business operations

By: Murdoch MacDonald

GLASGOW PRESTWICK AIRPORT has announced a business review in the light of the current economic climate.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport chief executive Mark Rodwell (pictured above) said: “As economic conditions continue to worsen, like most other businesses we are reviewing our operation in an effort to maximise profitability and respond to changing business needs.

“We have entered into a review process to look for ways to deliver efficiencies, cost savings and revenue improvements.

“Our Business Development Team is working hard to offset the recent loss of freight and charter traffic by exploring a number of opportunities with potential new airlines.

“While these are difficult times we are optimistic about the long-term future of the airport and the aviation industry as a whole, which has always recovered well in the past.

“The strong performance of our scheduled passenger services during 2008 shows that low cost air travel remains popular, although we believe 2009 will be a difficult year with many challenges.

“It is too early to determine what the impact will be on employees as we work through the review process, however our aim will be to avoid job losses where possible.”

Scottish Conservative MSP for Ayr, John Scott (pictured above) said he was concerned about the possibility of job losses at Prestwick.

He said: "I have been in touch with the airport to discuss the current situation and to offer my support and assistance.

"There is no doubt that Prestwick Airport is suffering the effects of the economic downturn and that this has hit passenger numbers and therefore the airport's overall operations.

"Nevertheless, I am reassured by my discussions with the airport that there is a determination to explore all possible avenues in an effort to minimise any job losses and to secure the long term-future of the airport and its workforce."

Elite Ayrshire Business Circle executive chairman Norman Geddes (pictured above) commented: “The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle was delighted when last October Glasgow Prestwick Airport unveiled its Master Plan, indicating the doubling of passenger numbers over the next decade, with freight volume growing at an annual rate of 4%.

“Although we are disappointed at the news of the current review of operations, we understand that in the present economic downturn this is a prudent commercial decision not unlike that which many companies and businesses are having to make.

“However, the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle remains confident in the long-term prospects both of Glasgow Prestwick Airport and of the Ayrshire economy as a whole.

“We have a wide range of successful businesses in Ayrshire, a resourceful workforce, and a deep well of managerial and entrepreneurial talent, which combined together will undoubtedly pull us through the present difficulties. We are confident that Glasgow Prestwick Airport will remain a dominant force in that recovery.”

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