Television weatherman Sean Batty was treated to a rendition of Singing in the Rain as he championed the power of community and choosing local.
Members of the Aspire Choir at CentreStage in Kilmarnock sang out for the STV presenter as he visited to shine a spotlight on trailblazing work taking place across East Ayrshire.
He heard about some of what they enjoy as part of the wide range of activities and events at the busy community hub.
And the popular personality learned how CentreStage, along with 240 other enterprises locally and some of the neediest in the region have also benefited from the groundbreaking East Ayrshire Gift Card.
Sean was there filming a special video in his role as an ambassador for Scotland Loves Local, the campaign encouraging people to build stronger communities by choosing local and getting behind people and organisations in their area.
It’s a message of which the venue is a living example – first through the vision and determination to transform the historic former home of Kilmarnock Academy and now through its new life as the modern, vibrant Ayrshire Arts Academy, which has created jobs and life-improving opportunities.
CentreStage co-founder Fiona McKenzie told Sean: “We’ve been supported by our funders over the years and by our community. This would not have happened if it were not for them.
“Community is everything to us – providing opportunities for people to come together, often leaving labels behind.
“We’re all people, we’ve all got a story to tell – and we’ve all got a story ahead of us. It’s not about what’s been before, it’s about where we can go and I think Kilmarnock is the most incredible place.”
CentreStage is one of the places across East Ayrshire which has used the gift card to open opportunities for people to access its services, as well as boosting business.
The initiative is one which has been spearheaded by the local authority – used by them to channel financial support to lower income households as well as being available for all to buy, including local businesses who have used them as staff rewards.
Councillor Iain Linton is East Ayrshire Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for Resources and Economy.
He said: “It’s important we give whatever support we can to keep our local economy going. One of the great things has been the gift card.
“During the coronavirus pandemic we gave gift cards to some of the neediest families in our communities. It worked well in terms of supporting the economy – because that money was spent locally – but it also gave dignity to those receiving the cards because there was no way of knowing where that had come from.
“We’ve gone from 80-odd local businesses registered to accept the card when we started in 2020 to more than 240. It’s proven to be very successful and the money is staying in East Ayrshire.”
Councillor Linton explained that every £1 spent with the gift card translated to £6 into the local economy because of the knock-on effect of people supporting local businesses.
Sean said: “It’s been great being at CentreStage to meet some amazing people and see a little of the brilliant work that’s being done here – and hearing about some of the wider things happening across East Ayrshire.
“It all highlights the tremendous difference that choosing local – and getting behind projects in our communities – can make to people and businesses.”
Filming at CentreStage took place as polling commissioned by Scotland’s Towns Partnership – the organisation behind Scotland Loves Local – revealed a desire among people living in the region for businesses to use gift cards to better support each other.
Nine-in-10 (90%) of people in the South Scotland Scottish Parliament region, which covers East Ayrshire, agreed that when rewarding and incentivising staff, employers should use local gift card schemes to support local town centres and small businesses rather than national alternatives.
A similar number agreed that employers should do more to support local businesses in their area.