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Business news

New schools in Tayside boost profits at Robertson

November 15 2017

The construction company behind the refurbishment of Perth Theatre and several major schools projects in Tayside has reported a rise in profits. Robertson Group Ltd saw its turnover increase by 29% to £572 million for the year ending March 31. Pre-tax profits rose from £20.3m to £26.1m. As well as the recently completed restoration of Perth Theatre, the company has also built the new Harris Academy in Dundee, community campuses in Brechin and Forfar, Warddykes Primary School in Arbroath and Sidlaw View Primary School in Dundee. It also carried out a refurbishment of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service hub at Macalpine Road in Dundee. Chairman William Robertson said the company’s order book was in excess of £1 billion, a record level. He said: “As a result of the track record and diversity of Robertson Group, we have now firmly established ourselves as a significant niche infrastructure provider who can deliver major projects in excess of £100m and who is a trusted partner in many public and private sector frameworks. “We have also shaped the business to a place where we are covering a greater geography and will continue this strategy of organic, geographical expansion. “The broader skill set we have created is giving us the opportunity to be more selective on the value of projects we procure. Our major projects team now has the capability to undertake significant projects throughout the UK.” The company runs 22 divisions including Robertson Tayside, which operates from George Buckman Drive in Dundee. The major projects division is currently on site at the new £251m Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre and the new £60m Balfour hospital development in Orkney. The number of people employed by the group rose by 19% during the year to 1,943. A focus on investing in youth has seen the company employ 114 people under the age of 24, including 48 apprentices. Mr Robertson added: “Over the last few years we have positioned Robertson Group to capitalise on what we perceive as a changed but sustainable market offering considerable growth opportunity. “Our group order book is stronger than it ever has been, at a value of £1bn. “This visibility in our order book, in conjunction with the inherent strength of our balance sheet, provides us with confidence for the group in the short, medium and long term.” rmclaren@thecourier.co.uk

Business news

Sound business for Apex Acoustics

September 12 2017

A man who bought a Dundee sound company when he was aged just 22 has grown it to be a major player in the industry supplying equipment to the likes of Bob Dylan and Liam Gallagher. Paul Smith took over Apex Acoustics after former owner, Radio Tay presenter Graeme Adamson, decided to sell. He has since grown its turnover of £68,000 to £600,000, taking it from a one-man band to a company with five staff based at Taygate Trading Estate. He recalled: “My predecessor was going to study medicine, so it was basically he was either going to sell it to me or to someone else. “At that time it was as simple as lose your job or buy the company. “I was still living at home at the time. It was a massive step to take and it was difficult in the first year or so but I’ve never looked back.” The company recently secured two major contracts worth £350,000. Mr Smith said the company’s growth had come naturally as equipment being out on tours for months at a time meant that greater stock was required. “We’re all a bit geeky in the industry and tend to want to buy the latest gear,” he said. “It’s a case of having the right equipment and you end up getting the phone call. In recent years we’ve spent £100,000 on a mixing desk and £150,000 on a speaker system. “We drove down some speakers to London on Saturday that are going to be used on Liam Gallagher’s tour. “An important market for us has been the massive theatre tours, which require a lot of equipment that might be needed for six or seven months. “It means you end up having to buy more equipment. When you have more stock it seems to naturally get busier. “However, we still do a lot of local events, like school shows and am-drams.” Mr Smith says his plan going forward is to keep growing the business organically and he has recently hired a project manager has been hired positioning it to tender for higher profile events and larger tours. “At the moment the entertainment industry is very buoyant,” he added. rmclaren@thecourier.co.uk

Angus & The Mearns

LISTEN: Pupils’ help means Arbroath smokie song is a sure-fire hit

February 11 2017

It’s been adored by generations, it’s famous the world over and now the humble Arbroath smokie has been immortalised in a song. Fit o' the Toon (The Smokie Song) describes someone who is feeling hungry and chooses a “juicy big smokie” that’s “a' golden broon and smokey” over a plate of mince. The person purchases the smokie “a' wrappit in a paper hankie” from John Swankie at the fit o’ the toon and then cooks it “richt through ower reed hot chips”. Local band Slipway have recorded the track as part of a series of songs about Arbroath, which they are planning to release on a CD to raise funds for local causes. The song was first performed around three years ago at an Arbroath Rotary concert at the town’s Webster Theatre with primary three pupils from Timmergreens Primary School adding their voices to the song’s chorus. At that time Slipway’s guitarist Ian Lamb, who composed the song, said that if it was ever recorded he would ask the pupils to perform their parts again. The youngsters, who are now in primary six, were recorded by Graeme Watt from Seagate Studios in Dundee at the school. “I wrote a song about the Bell Rock Lighthouse in Arbroath which got me back into the way of song writing and I thought it would be a good idea to do a few songs about Arbroath,” said retired journalist Mr Lamb. “Fit o’ the Toon was performed a few years ago with pupils from Timmergreens at a concert at the Webster Theatre. It got the biggest cheer of the night. “Now that we have decided to record all the Arbroath songs for a CD we invited the children to sing on the track. “What really delighted me was we went back into the school last week to rehearse them on the song for the first time in three years and they were word perfect.” Slipway consists of Mr Lamb on guitar, Alan Mowatt on vocals and Tony Simpson on keyboards and accordion. There will be 10 songs on the charity CD which cover a variety of subjects including the reduction of the Arbroath shipping fleet, the Elliot train disaster of 1906, the town’s cliffs and the Arbroath lifeboat disaster in 1953. Another song details the theft of trawler Girl Jean from Arbroath by 13-year-old John Guthrie in 1950, who was eventually found four days later off the coast of Norway. Funding for the recording was provided by the Arbroath Improvement Trust and the Arbroath Guildry. Mr Lamb added: “Fit o’ the Toon is a bit of fun that’s a bit different from the rest of the songs on the album, which are quite serious. It’s got a melody that gets right into your head. “There is still some final mixing to be done on the CD, but we are hoping to get it finished in a few weeks’ time and 100% of the proceeds from it will be going to charity.” Fit o’ the Toon (The Smokie Song) What'll I hae fur mah tea the necht I'm feelin' affa hungry Ah could eat a muckle great plate o' mince But ah'd raither hae a juicy big smokie Chorus: Ah'm gaein' doon tae the Fit o' The Toon Tae see mah pal John Swankie He'll gie me a smokie fur mah tea A' wrappit in a paper hankie Oh a smokie is an affa fine fish A' golden broon and smokey Cookit richt through ower reed hot chips But no' the kind ye buy in a pokie (Chorus) No these hot chips cam frae a tree A' big an' tall an' oakie It's fine fur shadin' ye frae the sun But better for smoking smokies (Chorus) Smokies are kent the hale warld o'er Tae the south, west, east and no-arth Ask fowks whit's their favourite fish "A SMOKIE FRAE ARBRO-ATH" (Chorus)

Business news

Gin Bothy moves into European marketplace

April 19 2018

An Angus spirit maker has doubled its staff as it starts to export to Europe for the first time. Kirriemuir-based The Gin Bothy sent a “significant” order to Denmark this month and is also eyeing the German market. Owner Kim Cameron said the firm had taken on four additional members of staff and increased its number of bottling days to complete their first international sale. She said: “At a show in Glasgow we met agents from Denmark and Germany and sent samples expecting a small order. “The Denmark order was a significant order, far more than expected and across the range. “I’ve taken on four new part-time members of staff in the past week, bringing our staff number to eight, to have more hands on deck. It means I can concentrate on the production.” At the end of last year, The Gin Bothy was awarded a £70,000 Scottish EDGE business growth award which will be used to increase production capacity. “I hadn’t planned to export until 2020 but, prior to Brexit, I think we have to start establishing links ahead of the unknown,” Kim added. “We are meeting with a distributor in Germany at the start of May. He has over 200 sites there. “Although we are starting to export, we are still very focused on Scotland and still enjoy doing farmer’s markets and other events here.” Meanwhile The Gin Bothy is one of several Tayside and Fife firms that have attended the Food and Drink Expo at the NEC in Birmingham. More than 550 companies exhibited at the three day trade exhibition – the largest of its kind in the UK – which concluded yesterday. Among the local firms at the show were Cairn o’Mohr, Lindores Abbey Distillery, St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese, Strathearn Distillery, McIntosh of Strathmore, Summer Harvest Oils, Tay Spirits, The Buffalo Farm. Sandy Gray, who runs the family businesses Aberfeldy Oatmeal and Sarah Gray’s Preserves, said: “We’ve picked up some good contacts at the show. “We would like to increase our sales south of the border so the show has been useful. “We’ve also just started exporting to Germany. We are looking to invest in the business to have more production capabilities.”

Business news

Dundee Rep costs review due to subsidy concerns

September 15 2017

A detailed review of operational costs will take place at Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre in a bid to boost their financial reserves. Uncertainty remains about future levels of public subsidy, with the current arrangement with major donor Creative Scotland due to run out in March. In 2015 the national arts development agency agreed to provide The Rep with £3.25 million over three years as well as a further £2.68m allocated to the dance company over the period. Last year director Peter Inglis raised concerns that Creative Scotland may not be able to fulfil this deal. However, in the annual accounts for the year ending March 31, he confirmed the promised level of funding had been maintained though added that “future levels of funding remain a concern”. He said: “Uncertainty about future levels of public subsidy and the timing of funding decisions continue to be a cause for concern. “Efforts are being made to grow fundraising and earned income.” Last year Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre received a total of £2.6m in grants. It recorded an operating profit of £252,000 compared to £88,000 in 2015/16. Staffing levels in the group reduced from 117 to 104. The number of actors employed went from 12 to 10. Theatre service staff reduced from 34 to 26. With uncertainty over the level of future subsidies, the board initiated a programme to increasing its unrestricted reserves. This rose from £9,155 to £380,000 over the course of the 2016/17 financial year. Mr Inglis, who resigned as a director last month, continued: “The board of directors consider the ideal level of unrestricted reserves that should be available at any given time to be £500,000. “The reserve level has been quantified by ascertaining the key operating and overhead costs of the charity for a period of three months that would be required if primary funding was withdrawn. “Directors also believe it would be prudent for the charity to retain a cash reserve equal to this level for use when cash flow is restricted or funding withdrawn.” During the year the group allocated theatre tax credit income to unrestricted reserves and also formed two charities to increase fundraising income. Going forward, the company intends to promote the trading company to increase profits which would then be donated to the charity as well as undertaking a detailed review of operational costs. rmclaren@thecourier.co.uk

Business news

TIGA unveils vision to rapidly grow games sector

February 20 2018

A leading games industry figure based in Dundee has welcomed ambitious goals to rapidly grow the sector in the next five years. TIGA, the trade association representing the UK video games industry, wants the number of games studios to rise from 768 to 1,100 by 2022. It is targeting an increase in games development employment from 13,277 in 2017 to nearly 20,500 in 2022 and the annual investment by games development companies to increase from £670 million to over £1 billion over the same period. The aims have been backed by Paul Durrant, who heads the UK Games Fund, which supports young games companies create working prototypes of their games from its base in Dundee. Mr Durrant said: “TIGA is correct in highlighting the growth potential for the UK’s video games industry. “Our fourth funding round for the UK Games Fund recently attracted over 180 applications from games developers the length and breadth of the UK. “Over 40% of those applications were from start-up companies reflecting the increased studio numbers highlighted in TIGA’s report. “We also believe that skills and talent development is crucial for the sector and our Studiotel proposal for the Tay Cities Deal is intended to put Dundee at the centre of initiatives to grow the UK games development talent base.” TIGA looks to ensure the UK becomes a globally recognised centre for games education and continuous professional development in the sector’s workforce. The body has called on the Government to support their vision by retaining and improving Video Games Tax Relief, the Research and Development Tax Credits and tax incentives for start-ups and small firms. It is also seeking the introducing of a Video Games Investment Fund to provide grants and pound for pound match funding for original IP game projects. Among its other ideas is accrediting UK video games courses, delivering TIGA games industry awards, publishing business guides for best practice and providing data on the industry. TIGA CEO, Dr Richard Wilson said: “Our vision is to make the UK the best place in the world for games development, games education and games service providers.”

Angus & The Mearns

Tree that marked the founding of Carnoustie celebrated by community group

July 27 2017

A Carnoustie community group has carried out work at the site of one of the most important trees in Angus. Colourful Carnoustie has been working at improving the area around the Dibble Tree in the town. The 220-year-old tree in Ferrier Street is said to mark the founding of the town in 1797 and was granted a tree preservation order two years ago. The tree is said to have grown from a garden planting stake, or dibble, left in the ground by local man Tammas Louson, who had started farming in the area. The Dibble Tree became a symbol of the newly founded town which grew rapidly. Coulourful Carnoustie carried out a variety of improvement works thanks to a grant from Carnoustie Golf Links Management Committee. A spokesman for the community group said: “Recently the area round the tree has looked rather neglected, so the Colourful Carnoustie group, with funding from Carnoustie Golf Links Management Committee, has spent the last few months making the area more attractive. “Ideas were provided by Carnoustie High School pupils. This has included flower and shrub areas, a line of new willows along the fence and an easily seen information board.” The cricket-bat willow stands at around 30ft tall and stretches nearly 20ft across. Willows are not normally expected to live for more than 150 years but Carnoustie's Dibble Tree survived a 19th Century lightning strike that split its trunk almost to the roots. The Angus Council motion for the tree preservation order was suggested by town councillor and Angus provost, the late Helen Oswald, who at the time said she was surprised no such protection existed. Two clones of the tree are at present growing in nearby Lousen Park. Carnoustie’s name is said to derive from the Scottish phrase craw's noustie, or crow's nest, after the birds which nest in Dibble Tree once a year. A theatre in the town is also named after the tree. Colourful Carnoustie also looks after the hanging baskets and planters in the High St, Dundee St, Station Rd and the train station and the wild-flower borders along the Links Parade.

Angus & The Mearns

Former Kirriemuir GP Fin McKenzie

March 22 2017

Former Kirriemuir GP Donald Finlay McKenzie has died peacefully at home, aged 76, following a battle with prostate cancer. Known as Fin, he was born and raised in Perth and attended Perth Junior and Senior Academies. He studied medicine at St Andrews and Dundee Universities where he played rugby, hockey and met his first wife Sue. After house jobs in Newry and Dundee he moved to Kirriemuir with his wife and daughter Shona to join Dr Bill Dodd as a GP in the town in 1967. The couple had three more children - Neil, Morag and Robert. Dr McKenzie was well known, liked and respected throughout the community where he worked all his life, becoming senior partner at Kirriemuir Health Centre before retiring early in 1991. He was the inspiration behind the Kirrie Day Care Centre which opened in 1984. After retiring he and his wife worked with the charity Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) for three years in Papua New Guinea and two years in Namibia. He also developed his interest in obstetrics by pioneering a new approach to maternity care. Always an active community member, Mr McKenzie participated in the Round Table and Probus clubs. Before retirement, he had been an elder of St Andrew’s Church in Kirriemuir and after his work with the VSO he became chairperson of the Clova Kirk Trust, re-opening it for public use having been closed for several years by the Church of Scotland. He enjoyed hillwalking, skiing, running, golfing, fishing and cooking. He also regularly attended Scottish Opera, Pitlochry Theatre and Perth Theatre. He founded Kirriemuir Photographic Society, which has more than 40 members. His first wife Sue sadly passed away in 2007. A few years later he was reintroduced to a school friend, Eileen, whom he married in Clova Kirk in 2014. Fin is survived by his four children and nine grandchildren.

Angus & The Mearns

Santa helps Montrose line up a spectacular Christmas

December 12 2016

Santa helped spread some festive cheer at Montrose Christmas Spectacular at the weekend. Thousands of people attended the annual event which features stalls and fairground rides. Santa was fully booked on both days as hundreds of children took up the chance to give him final Christmas requests. Last year £2,000 was raised which was split between Montrose Daycare Centre and Down Right Fun, a group set up to benefit those with down syndrome. Organiser Tommy Stewart said that the proceeds from this year’s fundraising would be split between two or three local groups, one of which will be Montrose Youth Football Club. Mr Stewart said: “It’s a fantastic community event for Montrose. A lot of people come together and give their time to raise money for good causes. “It’s great to see people getting into the festive spirit and having fun.” This year’s event also included a performance from interactive theatre group Michief La-Bas who are touring a production called The Spirits Of Christmas. Fundraising continues in Montrose on Saturday when a coffee morning is held in the Old Church Hall between 10am and noon which will feature Santa. There will then be a Christmas party in the hall featuring Santa from 3pm to 5pm. Tickets priced £10 can be booked by calling 01674 678080.

Angus & The Mearns

VIDEO: World record holding freestyle footballer shows his skills in Dundee and Angus

May 24 2017

A freestyle footballer who holds seven Guinness World Records showed off his skills and gave an inspirational message to youngsters at primary schools in Dundee and Angus. John Farnworth hosts CBBC show MOTD Kickabout and has demonstrated his tricks to footballers across the world including Neymar and Peter Crouch. One of his world records, for controlling a ball dropped from a high altitude, was recently narrowly broken by Arsenal star Theo Walcott, who controlled a ball dropped from 111 feet. https://youtu.be/esZhHQDaHSg John also completed the London Marathon doing keepie uppies for the entire 26.2 miles, not allowing the ball to drop once. He was brought to Tayside by the Showcase The Street charity, which is adding football to its range of classes for youngsters. John visited three primary schools in Dundee on Tuesday – Dens Road, Clepington and Rosebank – and another three in Angus on Wednesday – Warddykes and Hayshead in Arbroath and Strathmore in Forfar. He performed a series of tricks and took questions from the children before undertaking a header keepie-up competition with the children. He also performed a sold out show at the Gardyne Theatre in Dundee on Tuesday night. John said: “I saw a freestyle competition in 2003 and I was blown away with what people were doing. I love the freedom and being creative. “It’s been hours and hours of practice and I still train every day. It’s a constant evolution. “Theo Walcott broke one of my altitude records recently so I’m going to have to get that one back. I did 100ft, then 105ft, but he did 111ft. That’s one of the hardest ones I’ve done. https://youtu.be/Jm3DUNS2s-c “I’ve met a lot of footballers and characters as I’ve filed the TV show around the world – I even taught Bill Gates how to play football. “The aim of the visit is to meet as many youngsters as possible and show them that hard work pays off. “I want to inspire them to work hard, be active and be creative.” Fergus Storrier, a trustee of Showcase the Street, said: “The charity started with dance classes but more recently we’ve been looking at football as well as a real way to change young people’s lives. “We’ve recently developed partnerships with some schools to provide a football coach on a regular basis. “John is a well known freestyler and we wanted the chance for him to inspire the young people.” Brechin City Football Club’s first team coach Stevie Campbell, who also runs the Skilz Football Academy based at Manhattan Works in Dundee, is teaming up with Showcase The Street for the new initiative. Stevie said: “The guy’s amazing and a real inspiration to the youngsters.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5WHdw5pNx8