Volunteers look back on a decade of running Penicuik facility

Centre manager Iain Ramage and volunteer Anne Ronaldson
Centre manager Iain Ramage and volunteer Anne Ronaldson

Ladywood Leisure Centre in Penicuik is celebrating ten years of community ownership.

With revenue costs covered by customers, the centre has had no increase to prices for three years, despite public sector services seeing a rise in this time. The facility hosts big events such as horticultural shows, election counts and dog shows, along with regular clubs using the centre including cheer-leading groups, sports clubs, OAP groups, mother and toddlers groups and Active Schools activities, while kids parties are held there every weekend.

Centre manager Iain (Pud) Ramage has been involved since the very beginning. Formerly a duty officer at Midlothian Council, he was also in the transition team to move the facility from local authority to community ownership.

He said: “There is quite a lot going on here at Ladywood, it’s busy. There is a huge mix.

“I don’t really like blowing our own trumpet too much but this shows community ownership can be done and be done successfully.

“There are lots of plans for the future. Do we buy it? The council still leases it to us at the moment, but we have told them that we would like to take it on.

“The only way we can get major funding from the lottery is if we own the building. So that’s the key thing to me, that’s the next step. We have declared our interest and we will see what happens.

“We also want to increase our membership and do a survey on what the public wants.”

The centre, which has around 2000 visitors a week, has made improvements to heating, lighting, the main hall floor and the kitchen in the last decade since taking it over from the council. As well as this, the centre has seen some changes to the way it works in that time.

“We have kind of moved from maybe 70 per cent sporting groups and 30 per cent community groups using the centre to a 50/50 split”, said Iain.

“We have got some funding available but other things have to be funded from within.

“Even if we had the money to pay all staff this would still be a volunteer-led facility, the money would be put into improving the centre rather than paying staff. Currently only myself, the cleaner and an admin worker are paid. It’s about giving something back to the community.”

Iain added that the centre plans to celebrates its milestone birthday in the summer.