Finally! As we start a fresh year and put 2020 behind us, many people will be hoping to dull the memory of the last 12 months and look forward to a time when we won’t have to ask our friends and family “What tier are you in?” before deciding to meet up. The coronavirus pandemic has been awful, there’s absolutely no denying it, but in the hope of starting the new year on a positive foot, l need to acknowledge the fact that 2020 also saw the start of an exciting adventure – one that I hope will have a long-term impact, both on myself and on my local community.
Dufftown is my home and has been ever since I married local lad, Richard Gallicker. Located in Speyside at the heart of whisky country and bordered by the stunning Cairngorms, Dufftown has sadly been a town in decline for many years, losing its younger generation to larger towns and cities and failing to attract new residents through lack of opportunity. Richard, his friends and family remember a different Dufftown; a thriving hub for business and tourism that, like so many other towns in the north, suffered years of under-investment, creating a vicious cycle of economic decline.
Like many residents in similar circumstances, we’d often talk about how Dufftown might reverse the trend and be restored to its rightful place as the beating heart of Speyside. In 2020, as the country shut down, we finally had time to think about this challenge more seriously and Truerlein was born.
We knew that in order to achieve something as huge as the economic regeneration of an entire area, sheer force of will (whilst important!) may not be enough. By looking at the problem holistically, we started to identify multiple threads of activity, from the creation of new businesses and ongoing commercial support, to the development of affordable accommodation, local amenities to attract both visitors and residents, and the infrastructure that would help future-proof the town and set a benchmark for critical measurements such as sustainability.
Our initial consultation with residents of Dufftown confirmed we weren’t alone in wanting to see a new dawn for Dufftown but with a project so complex and widespread, we knew it would need a commercial entity to manage it all successfully, bringing together experts in their fields and investors who supported the vision.
2020 may have been an outwardly quiet year but it’s given us the time to develop and share our plans, consult Dufftown residents (updating our plans and timeline where necessary) in partnership with the Dufftown & Mortlach Development Trust and start lining up our ducks into neat rows, ready to let them loose in 2021.
So yes, I’ll say good riddance to 2020 and look forward to an exciting, positive 2021, where hopefully we can shut the door on this pandemic once and for all and we can see our friends, family and colleagues without fear or risk. However, I’ll also look back on this past year as the year that will be the start of Dufftown’s regeneration and reinvigoration, allowing us to focus our skills, experience and effort on a project that has a deep, personal significance; that will engage and energise our community and create a brighter future for Dufftown.