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Our CEO Jonny Kinross receives honorary doctorate from University of Edinburgh

We are very proud to announce that our CEO Jonny Kinross has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Edinburgh University for his charitable work.

Jonny has devoted his working life to charitable causes and holds the conviction that social enterprise and cross-sector collaboration can successfully transform lives and communities, and bring about positive social change.

Under Jonny’s leadership the Project is current Social Enterprise of the Year Scotland, and was the first charity to receive Best Performing Business of the Year (11-50) from the ECC earlier this year. Jonny is “truly honoured to follow in the footsteps of people like Malala Yousafzai and Justin Trudeau – hugely inspiring people who have challenged the norm and inspired change.”

Jonny and Peter Mathieson, Principal & Vice Chancellor

Laureator Professor Lesley McAra

Jonny was awarded the Degree of Doctor Honoris Causa on Saturday 7 July 2018. His
Laureation Address was given by Professor Lesley McAra, Assistant Principal and she said:

“Mr Vice-Chancellor, in the name and by the authority of the Senatus Academicus, I have the honour to present for the Degree of Doctor Honoris Causa. 

Mr Kinross has devoted the whole of his adult working life to serving and supporting the most vulnerable in society.

Currently he is the Chief Executive of the Grassmarket Community Project in Edinburgh. This project takes an innovative approach to community building, providing sanctuary and support to its members, many of whom have experienced homelessness or have faced deep social exclusion. The project runs a community café, it supports woodwork and tartan social enterprises, and has developed a programme of activities (including cookery, art, drama and photography), which have been designed to enhance the life-skills and self-confidence of participants. Under the leadership of Jonny, the Grassmarket Project was awarded Scottish Social Enterprise of the Year in 2017, and, earlier this year, the Project became the first ever charity to be awarded the prestigious Best Performing Business of the Year, by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

In my capacity as Assistant Principal for Community Relations at the University, I have worked closely with the Grassmarket Project over many years, and have witnessed at first hand its transformational impact on the lives of its members. One said to me that involvement in the project was like ‘moving from a dark place into the light’; another said that the project had given her ‘hope for the first time ever’. Fundamentally, the Project demonstrates that creativity has a key role to play in healing and in promoting self-efficacy and empowerment; and that social entrepreneurship can provide the requisite model to sustain such practices over the longer term.

Jonny is an alumnus of the University of Edinburgh and his curriculum vitae attests to a commitment to life-long learning, gaining postgraduate qualifications in social work from the University of Glasgow in 1998, and in social enterprise from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2012. In the mid-2000s, he retrained as a plumbing and heating engineer with the aim of using such skills to establish a social enterprise employing young people and their families.

Jonny began his career working at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh, before becoming a Director of Braendam Family House, which provides respite and support for families in poverty and crisis. For Jonny, the move to Braendam was life changing. The Directorship was a ‘live-in’ post and so he and his young family came to know the joys and challenges of living in a community with over 100 different families every year. In witnessing the tremendous courage and determination of these families in dealing with stigma and exclusion, he learnt how people, even at their lowest point, had still so much to offer. For him, it reinforced the need for agencies and for employers to see beyond the negative labels that often get attached to those living in the most difficult circumstances, and to recognise the capacity that all people have to contribute positively to their communities. From this point on, Jonny committed himself to seeking innovative ways to tackle major social issues, forging collaborations across the public, private, charity and social enterprise sectors. This included the establishment in 2011 of the ground-breaking MY Adventure – a social enterprise which trains and employs disaffected young people from Muirhouse and Pilton and provides them with long-term work opportunities in the outdoor activities industry.

By reminding us of the transformative power of community, and the capacity of social entrepreneurialism to support and promote individual healing and positive social change, Jonny has been an outstanding role model.

We honour today a man of compassion, a man of vision, and a man of leadership.
Mr Vice Chancellor, I now invite you to confer on Mr Jonathan David Kinross the Degree of Doctor Honoris Causa.”

Upon receiving the award in the impressive McEwan Hall on Saturday 13th July Jonny gave the following speech to thousands of students and their families – students graduating in Literature and from the Business school at undergraduate, postgraduate, Masters and Doctorate level:

“Thank you Vice-Chancellor and thankyou to the University of Edinburgh for bestowing upon me this great honour.
I must especially thank you on behalf of my mother, here today, as I have a tiny confession to make.
Despite completing studies in no fewer than four of Scotland’s Universities. I have never attended my graduation event before. I did have the excuse in 1991 that my son Jack was born in the middle of the graduations. Not literally in the ceremony, don’t worry, and I am very pleased that he is also here today. I am proud of him being a graduate from this very University two years ago. So, finally, my mother gets to see me graduate. Thank you from both of us.

To everyone graduating today may I be the first to congratulate you on your tremendous achievement.
Your family and friends must all be very proud of you.
I would like to pass on special congratulations to people who may have overcome additional barriers like myself when I was an undergraduate. Who may have been the first in their family to go to university and, like me, at the time thought they were undeserving and university wasn’t for them. Who didn’t at first feel quite at home in the academic world yet persevered and took every opportunity they could to broaden their horizons.

This is your day. This is a fantastic achievement. But behind this day, is a journey, and let’s also celebrate that. Not just the parchment or the degree. But all the wonderful, beautiful, inspirational and challenging aspects of the last few years and months of your life. Please celebrate and recognise all the steps you took.All the little achievements, all the debates, discussions, collaborations and ideas. All the people you met and friendships you made. All the authors, tutors and fellow students that inspired you, the societies you connected with, the fun you had. All the tears you cried, dilemmas you resolved and obstacles you have overcome brought you to this point. In celebrating it all. Let’s remember the richness of the process, the lessons learnt and skills developed. Not just the journeys end.

When I hold this award. I am truly grateful for the people I have met on my journey. I think of the many conversations I have had with incredible people who struggled in circumstances I hope you never have to face. Homelessness, abuse, fleeing violence or persecution, mental health, people with disabilities, people ignored and disconnected from society. I have met these people and they are the story behind my degree today. This degree is a testament to people who despite being at their lowest have reached out to me and others with humanity.

This degree is also a testament to my best friend, also known as my wife, my peers and colleagues, tutors, business coaches and those who inspired and supported my development – always believing in me.

Your degree will open doors for you. But in the words of Uncle Ben speaking to spider man, not a high brow cultural reference I appreciate, “with great power comes great responsibility”, well “with great degrees from great universities comes great responsibility”, And I urge you, whenever you can and wherever you can, please, when you find a door now open to you, take someone with you.
It doesn’t have to be giving them a job, it could simply be just talking to, or better still, listening to someone or reaching out to someone in distress and removing barriers.

I can assure you that the world will be a much better, richer, more diverse and safer place if you take someone with you through a door that you now find open to you.
Thank you for this honour.





Our amazing FREE film programme and member activities continues right through the summer

Our dynamic range of weekly activities, group work and volunteering or training opportunities continues right through the summer and the Edinburgh Festival. We look forward to seeing you.

Click on the link below. Get involved in our stimulating, safe and welcoming community

Grassmarket Activities & Film Programme July – August 2018

Outstanding FREE Film Screenings for your delight

We have so many incredible films coming to the project – all free – every Monday 7pm

The Constant Gardener – Monday 26th March | 7:30pm

(Fernando Meirelles, 2005) Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston

When his activist wife is murdered in what appears to be a crime of passion, a British diplomat in Kenya embarks on a quest to reveal the truth behind her death and uncovers a farreaching conspiracy. Based on the classic novel by John Le Carré and featuring great performances from leads Ralph Feinnes and Rachel Weisz, this absorbing and complex mystery is well worth solving.

Harvey – Monday 26th March | 7pm

Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is a wealthy drinker who starts having visions of a giant rabbit named Harvey. Elwood lives with his sister Veta (Josephine Hull) and her daughter (Victoria Horne), and Veta worries that Elwood has gone insane. In the process of trying to have him committed, Veta admits that she occasionally sees Harvey herself. The director of the home, Dr. Chumley (Cecil Kellaway), tries to reconcile his duty to help Elwood with his own growing experiences with Harvey.

The Island and the Whales Cosmic Cat – plus Q & A with Mike Day (Director) –Monday 9th April – 7pm


In their remote home in the North Atlantic the Faroe Islanders have always eaten what nature could provide, proud to put local food on the table. The land yields little, so they have always relied on harvesting their seas.

Hunting whales and seabirds kept them alive for generations, and gave them the way of life they love; a life they would pass on to their children. But today they face a grave threat to this tradition.

It is not the controversy surrounding whaling that threatens the Faroese way of life; the danger is coming from the whales themselves.

The Faroese are among the first to feel the affects of our ever more polluted oceans. They have discovered that their beloved whales are toxic, contaminated by the outside world. What once secured their survival now endangers their children and the Faroe Islanders must make a choice between health and tradition.

Loving Vincent – Monday 16th April – 7pm

The life and death of famous Dutch post-impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, becomes the focus of this innovative film.

First shot as a live action film with actors, then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in 65,000 oil-paintings, in the style of the artist himself, this extraordinary mix of performance, animation and painting questions what the medium of cinema can become in the 21st century.

River Blue Plus Discussions & stalls – Monday 23rd April – 7pm

As the first day of Fashion Revolution Week we will be hosting a special FREE screening of RiverBlue, which chronicles an unprecedented around-the-world river adventure, led by renowned paddler and conservationist, Mark Angelo. Angelo ends up uncovering and documenting the dark side of the global fashion industry.

The film will kickstart a programme of Fashion Revolution Week events in Edinburgh and Glasgow the next day.

LIVE THEATRE: Key Change – An illuminating portrayal of life in prison Monday 30th April – 7pm

Devised with women in HMP Low Newton, UK and originally toured to male prisons, Key Change is a raw and illuminating theatrical portrayal of women in prison. It was performed at the Houses of Parliament in 2016 to help policy makers further understand the complex journey women who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System face, and the impact of gender violence on their lives. Key Change is being performed and filmed in partnership with The Space, a digital commissioning agency supported by the BBC and Arts Council to share with a global audience.

“Key Change is notable for being neither sentimental nor in your face, yet refusing to duck the issues. In so doing it becomes a potent lesson in theatremaking for its total fusion of message with audience.”- The Stage.

13+ – Key Change has adult themes and language, including domestic violence, abuse, drug use.

Director: Laura Lindow  Writer: Catrina McHugh MBE


Grassmarket Community Project wins Best Performing Business (11-50)

We’re very pleased to announce that we won Best Performing Business in the 11-50 employee category at the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Business Awards.

We were up against some very stiff competition and in great company on the night.

It was a fantastic achievement for our members, volunteers, staff, customers, donors, sponsors and our amazing partners SANDEMANs NEW Edinburgh Tours. 

We could not have achieved this without everyone working together!

Business Awards Ceremony 2018

Thanks to Ewan Barry of Fototours Edinburgh for the fabulous photo, and for volunteering every week to teach photography to our members!

Grassmarket Nominated for 3 Edinburgh Business Awards

They say ‘Good things come in threes’. Well nothing could be further from the truth for our members, volunteers, staff, Board, customers and partners as we are delighted to announce we have been shortlisted for not one, not two but three prestigious Edinburgh of Chamber of Commerce Awards  – with the winners for each category being announced at a fabulous Awards Dinner on the 8th February.

We have been shortlisted for the following Categories – being pitched against these great Edinburgh businesses and Third Sector Organisations:

Best Performing Business (11-50 Employees) – Sponsored by DJ Alexander

Grassmarket Community Project


The Yard

Workflo Solutions

Specialized Signs

Diversity in Business – Sponsored by Edinburgh Trams


The Yard


Grassmarket Community Project

Inspiring Partnership – Sponsored by Essential Edinburgh

Citadel Youth Centre

Grassmarket Community Project

Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home

Cre8te Opportunities Ltd

Hibernian F.C.


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