Freefield users enjoy ‘last supper’ before council closes doors of popular centre

It was the final fling at Lerwick’s Freefield Centre on Saturday night for more than 50 members who met to socialise and make presentations to staff in their much-loved venue.

The event was a special chance to thank the council staff, who had become friends of the Freefield regulars at the well-used lunch club and who did so much more for them than merely serving meals.

The council-run centre is to close after the last meal on Wednesday, and under the chatter and laughter of the pensioners and their family members was deep sadness that their lunch club is to cease after 36 years. The regulars are now reluctantly re-locating to Islesburgh but they fear the loss of a dedicated venue will mean the slow demise of the group.

Ivy Cluness addresses the event on Saturday evening.
Ivy Cluness addresses the event on Saturday evening.

Lunch club stalwart Ivy Cluness said: “This place belongs to us. It shouldn’t be taken away. Morally it’s wrong. People don’t realise how much it means to everyone.”

The centre was opened in May 1977 by then pensioners’ association leader Jimmy Paton, whose son Bunty was present on Saturday, and by director of social work Peter Malcolmson, who was also there.

Mr Malcolmson said the centre, which was bought for £35,000 thanks to money gifted by BP, had operated as a wing of the social work department.

He said: “It was very cost-effective over its 36 years, one of the most cost-effective parts of the council. It’s very sad it’s ending this way, the staff are heartbroken.”

Three of the four staff are taking redundancy, although they have yet to be notified of the details. The council, which will be saving £80,000 per year by closing the centre, has not revealed its plans for the venue.


Add Your Comment
  • george williamson

    • May 20th, 2013 17:04

    80000 that can be put towards the wages bill that malcolm and gary are allowing the council to pay for mareel

  • Brian Smith

    • May 20th, 2013 17:56

    Unfortunately, some officials of the SIC and some councillors became obsessed with closing Freefield, as if it was the most important challenge the Council faced. Coincidentally, it wasn’t a facility that they themselves ever thought of using …

  • Beatrice Wishart

    • May 21st, 2013 13:02

    I do hope that Martin Emslie’s mural of Lerwick, which can be seen in the background of the photo accompanying this story, won’t disappear from public view or be left to deteriorate in the unused building. I understand the Shetland Museum is unable to take it but maybe a local hall or school or leisure centre could find a wall for it.

  • william smith

    • May 21st, 2013 17:33

    sic same old same kids disabled and pensioners get it all the time when theres cuts


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