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Key handover ceremony at Inverness East Church. Photo courtesy of Cultarlann Inbhir Nis.
Key handover ceremony at Inverness East Church. Photo courtesy of Cultarlann Inbhir Nis.

From Church to Cultarlann: AHF supports creation of Scotland’s first Gaelic Cultural Centre

2 July 2024

In 2023, the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) awarded a Project Viability Grant to Cultarlann Inbhir Nis to help develop the organisation’s plans to purchase the historic East Church in Inverness. Following this support and, with generous contributions from 600 local people, the organisation was able to take ownership of the building earlier this year.

Now, the AHF is thrilled to have awarded a Project Development Grant to Cultarlann Inbhir Nis to progress plans to establish a Gaelic Cultural Centre in the building. This was one of five awards made at the AHF’s June Grants Panel, where projects across England, Scotland and Wales were awarded funding totalling £77,497.


Image: The exterior of Inverness East Church. Photo courtesy of Cultarlann Inbhir Nis.

The oldest part of the historic East Church in Inverness dates back to 1798, but it was almost entirely rebuilt in 1852. Its Gothic style street frontage was added in 1897 by Ross and Macbeth. The Category B-listed building consists of the main church, with a smaller hall and offices to the rear, and was once used for a range of services and community activities, including weddings, funerals, a youth club, and a mother and baby group. However, like many of Scotland’s churches, it was recently closed and put up for sale by the Church of Scotland, leaving its future uncertain.  

The proposed Gaelic Cultural Centre, or Culterlann, will provide a community gathering space for all those with an interest in the language to come together for entertainment and learning, and to participate in Gaelic arts and culture in a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere. This will enable everyday usage of Inverness East Church. The main aim is for the Gaelic Cultural Centre to become a focal point for the language, helping to raise its profile both in Scotland and internationally, and to build a collective Gaelic community.

As part of this project, the former church will be made more accessible and environmentally sustainable. It will also undergo refurbishment to accommodate a café, spaces for language classes, storytelling, music tuition, music events, and a venue for ceilidhs and other events, as well as space to let for community uses.

The Historic Environment Scotland-supported AHF grant will contribute towards the creation of an early-stage design team, including a Project Manager and a Quantity Surveyor, to help develop plans and move the project forwards.

Margaret Mulholland, Chair of Culterlann Inbhir Nis, said:

“All of us at Cultarlann Inbhir Nis are delighted to have the support of the Architectural Heritage Fund, which will enable us to access expert support to begin the process of developing a capital programme of refurbishment. Inverness East Church is a historic building that is in need of some development to bring it up to modern standards, and this generous grant from the AHF sets us on the first step towards achieving our aim of creating a unique and modern Gaelic Cultural Centre.”

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