The new community centre in Gorebridge – The Beacon – came into its own during lockdown. While central and local governments struggled to respond quickly to the pandemic, The Beacon and its committed staff rose to the challenge, helping locals cope to the crisis within a couple of weeks. It was the only place you could get a coffee or meet friends inside in Gorebridge.
Along with almost all facilities, The Beacon closed its doors for the first time since it had opened in 2018, for the first week of lockdown only to open again in the second week. By the Friday of the second week it was preparing and distributing 150 healthy home-made meals. By the end of the fourth week it was distributing 350 meals to people shielding in their homes. It became the control and command centre for coordinating the response in Gorebridge.
This is not only due to the resilience of the staff and other volunteers (including furloughed chefs and staff from Gorebridge restaurants and pubs) but also due to the flexibility and adaptability of the building itself. The brief for The Beacon was for maximum flexibility as we, the client – Gorebridge Community Development Trust – could not predict exactly what activities would flourish in the new building and what its changing needs would be, let alone a pandemic of the scale we have seen. As a result the entrance, café and hall changed seamlessly between food preparation, packing areas and an expanding and contracting socially distanced café. At times the whole 180m2 hall was open, at others it was divided into two or three to suit the quickly changing situation. The central circulation spine with multiple access points to rooms made safe use of the building possible, including the office spaces on the first floor, now in high demand with people no longer wanting to commute into Edinburgh.
As Dawn Barclay, Trust Manager, says
“Well, Gorebridge, we (you and us) can respond to an emergency. Of that, be in no doubt”.