'˜Neglected' St Peter's Seminary to get £10m Lottery boost

A £10 million bid to turn one of Scotland's most neglected buildings into a thriving international arts centre has been given the green light after winning the final backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

St Peter, much of it in ruins but still a stunning example of modern architecture, is currently hosting the Hinterland light exhibition. Picture: John Devlin

Work on the transformation of the run-down St Peter’s Seminary, a former training centre for priests, at Cardross, near Helensburgh, will begin within months after the award of £3.8 million from the HLF.Creative Scotland has also agreed to plough £400,000 into the project, which has been pursued for almost a decade by arts group NVA.

St Peter’s, created in an ancient Argyll woodland half a century ago, is considered one of the finest modernist buildings in Europe. Last used as a seminary in 1980, it is currently playing host to a sell-out sound and light show – Hinterland – which opened the country’s first Festival of Architecture.

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NVA plans to “rescue, restore and reclaim” the building – which it describes as an outstanding example of 20th century architecture – by turning it into a multi-purpose arts complex, with a 600-capacity venue in the former sanctuary as its centrepiece. Visual arts shows, theatrical performances and live music events are all envisaged for the new-look St Peter’s, which will include an exhibition charting the history of the site, an outdoor courtyard for events and a cafe.

The plans will involve partial restoration and conservation of various elements of listed buildings on the site, making safe remaining structures as consolidated ruins, while some “carefully considered” new elements will be added.

Capital funding worth £7m is in place for the project, along with £3m to meet running costs for the first five years. It has taken ten months to remove hazardous materials and unsafe structures to allow 7,000 people to attend the Hinterland event.

Angus Farquhar, creative director of NVA, which plans to reopen St Peter’s fully in 2018, said: “This is a historic moment in the life of St Peter’s. We’re now able to start work on its permanent transformation into an international cultural centre that will speak to the creative life of Europe.”

Lucy Casot, head of the HLF in Scotland, said: “This ground-breaking project has the potential to save an internationally significant building, exploiting its commanding presence to produce an exceptional arts venue. Its appeal will attract audiences from near and far.”