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The Langholm Initiative

Facts & Figures

Organisation Name

The Langholm Initiative

People Benefiting

The whole community

Area Served

Langholm, with Canonbie and Eskdalemuir, in Dumfries and Galloway




Born out of the decline of the textile industry in the area, which by the 1990s had left many unemployed and morale low, the Initiative has worked with local business, the community and regional partners to support economic and community regeneration. The results are impressive: a thriving local High St; extensive business support; sustainable tourism; and environmental and cultural developments. The Initiative is now working to develop, both, its asset-base and a stronger social enterprise approach.

Legal Form

Company Limited by guarantee





Earned Income

Moving to a model of ‘75% earned income: 25% grant-funding’


Presently the ‘anchor tenant’ at Buccleuch Mill – see also ‘Biggest Challenge’ below

Roots & Links


The 1990s saw the area in economic decline with very significant job losses in the local textile industry, and shops closing on Langholm High St. A local councillor and businessman, amongst others, formed the Initiative to support economic and community regeneration.


The Board meets monthly: its Executive Committee includes Community Council representatives, sub-group members and regional partners.

Community Links

95 member organisations, mostly local businesses, and strong links with the Community Council and across the community – also see ‘Builds Local Capacity’ below.

External Links

Locally/regionally: • Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk Community Council • Annan and Moffat Initiatives • Annandale and Eskdale CVS • Dumfries and Galloway Council – elected members and Economic Regeneration services • Buccleuch Estates Limited and Ashley Bank Investments. Nationally: • Scottish Government – discussion with Ministers • Business Gateway • Scottish Rural Development Programme • Scottish Enterprise D&G • Visit Scotland. National Community Networks: • Development Trust Association Scotland – on DTAS Board • Local People Leading – supporter organisation.


Physical Hub

Buccleuch Mill: the Initiative’s offices, and sub-leases to other organisations – see ‘Biggest Challenge’ below.

Builds Local Capacity

The Initiative uses a ‘spider model’ to support local business development and community capacity-building. A core team/office provides the following services to projects, sub-groups, businesses and the community: • information and advice • support with applications • networking opportunities • volunteer-support • ‘hosting’ new initiatives. Key areas of such work include: Business support: • provides support to Business Gateway; • works with the Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust; • has administered Broadband grants; and • offers one-to-one assistance with business planning. Cultural activities: • The Langholm and Eskdale Music & Arts Festival and the Buccleuch Centre – assists the Festival committee and its cultural centre; includes work with young people from Europe on a feasibility study. Improving the High Street: • Shop Local Initiative – a voucher scheme to encourage use of local shops; and • other Town Regeneration work – supporting Bonnie Langholm’s work on floral displays and the Christmas Lights Committee. Sustainable tourism: • Trails and events – assisting the Cultural & Heritage Group to develop a Town Trail leaflet; events to commemorate local engineer, Thomas Telford; and a Moorland Project and Prehistoric Trail, promoting access to local moorlands and an SSSI. • Walking Festival – supporting the Langholm Walking Group in creating 14 way-marked walks and organising the annual Walking Festival. Environmental: • The Recycling Project – assisting this recycling and garden composting project; • River Esk Liaison Committee – assisting them with advising on a water treatment works and silting/ flooding; • Galaside Wood – supporting the development of a community woodland; and • Consortium Energy Project – developing an energy-saving programme.

Delivers Services

Capacity-building services: see ‘Builds Local Capacity’ above. Tourist Information service: manages this volunteer-run service which handles1500+ enquiries a year, and produces the local accommodation leaflet. Community website: includes a local directory.

Develops/Manages Services

See ‘Physical Hub’ above, and the ‘Biggest Challenge’ below.

Main Achievements

Successfully establishing a ‘Spider Model’ of capacity-building: our core team provides support to a diversity of groups working on, for instance, local festivals, High St regeneration, sustainable tourism and community development. Outcomes from this include working with the whole town to win the Scottish Community of the Year in 2000 – and to put in a strong bid in 2006. We think BIG: our Music Festival has included Catherine Jenkins, the world-famous opera singer, and our Food festival, chefs Nick Nairn and Paul Rankin.

What Next

Biggest Challenge

Building our asset-base: We have embarked on a three-year project to buy Buccleuch Mill and develop it as an Enterprise Centre: our aim is to address the problem of job losses in the textile and other local industries, and improve the employment prospects for those whose jobs are threatened. The Centre would generate income from rental of business units; create greater opportunities for business development; and support local business, social enterprises and community development. This would also give the Initiative itself financial security and sustainability. We are currently working to secure the majority of the project funding through the BLF Growing Community Assets, with appropriate match-funding from other sources: the project will take two years to complete once the funding is confirmed.

Lesson Learned

Taking the time to build trust – Nothing happens overnight, so build relationships based on respect and trust, and don’t be afraid to try anything or talk to anyone. The value of business-thinking – Our Business Development Officer has been crucial in sharpening up our act, adding business-thinking such as cashflow and covering costs, and allowing us to maintain our existing capacity. Working with a social enterprise model – We’re moving from grant-funding through the Council and Scottish Rural Challenge Fund to income-generation. We need to earn more income to support our work, but we’re also remaining committed to sustaining a confident, active community. We’ve built the Board’s confidence in owning assets, and the groups we work with are learning to understand this approach: now, for instance, we are asking some of them for a small fee, whereas when we had a larger grant it was seemingly for nothing. Talking with and listening to our community – We want to know more about what local people think. This range of activity doesn’t happen in every town, but local people don’t necessarily realise the extent of what we do: much is ‘hidden’ and involves supporting other projects. We’re in the local paper most weeks. We also find that by bringing volunteers into steering groups, such as the Community Woodland group, that they then use their networks to share news. Using the spider model – We can take an overview of what’s good for the whole town, while supporting groups and volunteers in being passionate about what they want to focus on and achieve.


Becoming a more sustainable organisation and community – We need major projects to earn the income to maintain our staff and services: the alternative would be to cut right back. We need to own assets to generate income, but we are also committed to our community. We want to be able to get on with our creative work here without worrying about how to pay the wages.



Judith Johnson


Project Manager

Address Line 1

Langholm Initiative, Buccluech Mill

Address Line 2

Glenesk Road, DG13 0ES




Dumfries and Galloway


Dumfries and Galloway


013873 81899