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Million pound 21st century makeover for Forfar’s Big Kirk

The Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin inside East and Old's transformed main sanctuary. Pic: Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media
The Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin inside East and Old's transformed main sanctuary. Pic: Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media

Forfar’s Big Kirk is fit for 21st century mission after a stunning £1 million makeover.

A six-year transformation of the East and Old Parish Church in the centre of the town is now complete.

Later this month, locals will have a chance to see for themselves the new look for the historic building and the kirk’s minister hopes it will bring more Forfar groups across the door to maximise the use of newly-created community spaces.

The Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin in one of the new upstairs halls. Pic: Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media

The church dates back to 1760 and its steeple is one of the townscape’s most prominent features.

East and Old minister, the Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin is only the eighth to serve the congregation in 261 years, and the first woman.

She said: “The building is looking fabulous, the congregation are delighted and members of the local community will be extremely surprised by what they see.”

Refurbishment work started six years ago and was carried out in two phases, largely funded by money raised by members and generous donations from local businesses.

Free-standing chairs have replaced the pews in the ground floor sanctuary, opening up the space for a wide variety of activities.

Pews which were removed have been recycled by congregation members. Pic: Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media

The old kirk organ has also gone and the space it occupied converted into a reception area.

A new upstairs activities hall with a sprung floor, ideal for dancing and gymnastics, has been created along with another large room that can be subdivided into two.

The new rooms will be available for hire to community groups and for exhibitions, concerts and other events.

Modern technology

The church has been completely re-decorated, fitted with new roof tiles, new carpets, a state-of-the-art heating system, audio-visual equipment and wi-fi.

Members of the congregation put thousands of hours of work into the project alongside the professional firms contracted for the extensive redevelopment.

Skilled parishioners recycled the old kirk pews to create everything from clocks and flower planters to a stair in the new-look upstairs area.

Big Kirk minister, the Rev. Barbara Ann Sweetin. Pic: Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media

Mrs Sweetin is now looking forward to a grand re-opening event on July 24.

She said: “Members have known for many years that going forward in the future the building must be used for lots of different things that would benefit the community, not just worship on a Sunday morning.”

“We wanted to create a building that is fit for purpose in the 21st century because before the renovations we had a very old, cold, dark church building.

“It was so rigid, you could not do anything with it because of the pews and we only had one room downstairs, a room upstairs and two toilets for ladies and gents.

“We wanted to create a bright, warm, open and welcoming space that is a blend of traditional church with contemporary design.

Pic: Mhairi Edwards/DCT Media

“I am confident that we have achieved that and we are all excited to hear what the local community think on the open day.”

Mrs Sweetin said many groups have already expressed significant interest in hiring space in the building.

A jazzercise class will run there three nights a week.

“If people in the Forfar area are looking for state-of-the-art facilities to hold concerts, events and parties, they should look no further than East and Old Parish Church,” she added.

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