GCP history

GCP History

A short history of GCP

The Grassmarket Community Project was developed in partnership by Greyfriars Kirk and the Grassmarket Mission.

Greyfriars Kirk first opened its doors in 1620 to serve the south-west parish of Edinburgh and its community continues to thrive today. The Grassmarket Mission was founded in 1890 and has historically provided a variety of services to homeless people in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh where they traditionally gathered. The two partners have been working alongside each other since 1982 and developed the joint Project working out of the building previously used as Greyfriars’ church halls. Grassmarket Community Project was formed as a stand-alone charity in 2010 by the two partners, to take forward the vision, mission and work they had established.

Although the partners’ roots are in working with people who are homeless or destitute, a wider definition of community came to be realised and the Project works with people who are dealing with a wide range of complex issues including mental and physical health problems, learning difficulties, poverty, substance misuse, social isolation and more.

The Grassmarket Centre on Candlemaker Row was officially opened by John Swinney, MSP on 25 April 2013. The centre has won architectural awards for its design and is home to our community, which is supported through a combination of our award-winning social enterprises, charitable grants and donations.

A more detailed timeline from 2010

2010: Work on developing the new charity partnership of Greyfriars Kirk and the Greyfriars Mission is completed and the new Grassmarket Community Project, temporarily based in Building 3, is founded..

2010: A Textiles Group is set up to make products based on the new Greyfriars Tartan. A gift of two weaving looms is received and a weaving studio is set up in Building 3.

2010: Released by Edinburgh Council from the obligation to build flats and with Greyfriars Kirk now in full ownership, demolition begins of the derelict building behind the Kirk House. This space will be used to create the Grassmarket Community Project building – purpose-built for all of its activities.

2010: The Herb Garden develops, filling nine beds in the Kirk Yard. The team of people working on this is led by Jocelyn Lockhart and they begin to manufacture products for sale.

2010: The Gardening Project begins, working together with Edinburgh Cyrenians, at the gardens of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

2010: The woodwork Furniture social enterprise acquires several tonnes of hardwood trees that had been felled by the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for their re-building work.

2011: The Furniture social enterprise is commissioned by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland – an annual gathering of 800 commissioners – to create furniture including a new table for the Moderator of the General Assembly.

2012: Josiah Lockhart leaves his Project Manager role to return to the US and Emma Galloway is appointed as the first CEO of The Grassmarket Community Project.

2013: John Swinney, MSP, opens the new Grassmarket Community Project building. Over time, the building will come to be known, informally, as the Grassmarket Centre.

2013: The Greyfriars Charteris Centre is opened and becomes home to over 30 groups committed to community wellbeing. This is separate from the Grassmarket Community Project but sits in close proximity and much of its work is beneficial to the Grassmarket Community Project.

2014: CEO Emma Galloway leaves The Grassmarket Community Project. Her immense contribution while at the helm has included leading the Project into developing an ability to generate its own income in a realistic way while reducing reliance on grants given by other agencies. This key to a much more autonomous community enables the members of the community to develop a sense of mutual support, honouring the humanity, dignity and talents of all.

2014: The new Grassmarket Community Project building wins the Scottish Civic Trust My Place (Architecture) Award and also wins the RIAS Andrew Dolan Best Building in Scotland Award at the Scottish Design Awards.

2014: The Herb Garden is part of Edinburgh’s success in winning The Entente Florale Gold Award, a Europe-wide competition. The Herb Garden wins the Entente Florale Lucija Cikes Prize for, ‘the integration of disabled people into society through developing green skills’.

2014: Catherine Jones is appointed as Manager of a new catering social enterprise operated by The Grassmarket Community Project. The social enterprise includes a café in the Grassmarket Community Project building.

2015: Parish Meals continues, offering a once-per-week open meal for anyone who would care to come. Students from the Royal Dick Veterinary set up a drop-in surgery for those with dogs as street companions

2015: Jonny Kinross is appointed as CEO of The Grassmarket Community Project, bringing to the role – along with boundless energy and passion – his experience as both a social worker and a social entrepreneur.

2015: International Tour Guiding Company Sandemans forms a partnership with the Grassmarket Café catering team serving their tour attendees as a stop off point. This quadruples the commercial success of the café and secures GCP Edinburgh’s Best Performing Business Award from Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce – the first time a charity has won such an award in the Chamber’s history.

2015: The Grassmarket Community Project Café wins a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence

2016: The catering social enterprise takes over the running of the long-closed canteen for Church of Scotland headquarters staff in Edinburgh. Catering is also supplied to the General Assembly and to functions hosted by the Moderator of the General Assembly.

2016: The Grassmarket Community Project opens a Monday night cinema – a film is shown after the drop-in meal.

2016: The Herb Garden wins the ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood – Thriving Award’.

2016: In Euan’s Guide, the Grassmarket Community Project building is named Edinburgh’s Most Accessible Edinburgh Festival Fringe Venue

2016: The Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland awards a Customer Services MasterClass Scholarship to The Grassmarket Community Project

2016: A partnership is formed with University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy and School of Social Work and Political Science. This supports, each year, 10 Grassmarket Community Project members and 10 students to stay in the Iona Community’s Camas outdoor activity centre on Mull for a week to learn from each other through being in community.

2017: The University of Edinburgh’s School of Social Work and Political Science embeds time spent with The Grassmarket Community Project members into the curriculum of their Community Social Work module programme – with all Masters and Undergraduate students spending a day at The Grassmarket Community Project. This is followed by guided reflection, learning best practice from people with lived experience.

2017: Members of The Grassmarket Community Project form a drama group and, together, they write and perform, to great acclaim, a play for the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe. The play is performed in The Grassmarket Community Project building. Full of humour and unsettling truths, it is about the damaging effects of society’s tendency to institutionalise people.

2017: Social Enterprise Awards Scotland recognises the achievements of The Grassmarket Community Project and announces that it has won the Social Enterprise of the Year (Scotland) Award. The award is presented at the Scottish Parliament. Jonny Kinross thanks the team, the volunteers, the staff and above all, the members who inspire and motivate all at The Grassmarket Community Project.

2017: The Tartan Social Enterprise is Highly Commended by the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce International Trade Business Awards

2018: The Catering social enterprise opens a canteen at the building site for the St James Quarter. in central Edinburgh. The social enterprise provides canteen facilities for the Laing O’Rourke builder workforce of 600-1000 people from 6am every morning. The canteen’s success is a major step – for the first time, a Grassmarket Community Project social enterprise works under daily prolonged pressure to serve the needs of a business that is not a charity.

2018: The growing number of creative groups developing ways of making their voices heard includes The  Grassmarket Community Project Choir. In 2018, the choir performs at the Edinburgh Festival of Spirituality.

2018: The Grassmarket Community Project is named as the Best Performing Business of the Year in the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

2018: The Grassmarket Community Project’s most isolated and vulnerable members enjoy a Christmas break thanks to local family business and tour guides, Mercat Tours, who donate the use of a large house in Birnam, Perthshire – now offered three times a year, every year.

2019: At the Cinema For All UK Film Society & Community Cinema of The Year Awards, The Grassmarket Community Project is announced as the winner.

2019: The Grassmarket Community Project café is announced as the winner in the Scottish Café Awards for ‘Best not-for-Profit Café’.

2019: The Grassmarket Community Project is announced as the winner of the Most Inspiring Partnership Award in the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

2019: In the Social Enterprise Champion Awards Scotland, the Grassmarket Community Project is Highly Commended.

2020: The Covid-19 Pandemic begins. Just at the time when the general population is grappling with fear, isolation and anxiety, the Grassmarket Community Project is faced with unprecedented challenges in finding income and supporting the most vulnerable. But many of those thought of as ‘vulnerable’ lead the way in adopting a resilient and creative response to the crisis.

2020 : in the midst of the first Covid-19 national lockdown, a candle-making social enterprise is set up, restoring candle-making to the street in which The Grassmarket Community Project sits – Candlemaker Row.

2020: Meal deliveries begin and online classes, groups and social gatherings sustain The Grassmarket Community Project. The Textiles Group makes tartan face masks and the First Minister of Scotland is seen wearing one of the tartan masks at her daily Covid-19 national briefing. Strenuous efforts are made to keep those suffering from ‘digital exclusion’ included.

2020: Tommy Steel retires and, in 2021, the role of Furniture Enterprise Manager is taken up by Jon Slight

2021: In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, a further social enterprise is launched. With the completion of the St James Quarter, the Catering social enterprise canteen that served the builders is transformed into a café for the public, called Coffee Saints

2021: A new Greyfriars Charteris Centre building is opened by Greyfriars Kirk, enabling its contribution to community wellbeing to grow further and providing a home to Edinburgh’s Social Enterprise Network and to the Scottish hub of the Heart Edge movement (a network of churches initiated by St Martin-in-the-Fields in London for those who work at the heart of culture, community and commerce). The movement walks with those on the edge of society .

2021: In the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, the Grassmarket Community Project wins the Employer of the Year Award.

2021: The Grassmarket Community Project wins Build Magazine’s Home & Garden Awards for ‘Most Ethical Home Furniture Makers in Scotland.’

2021: In the UK Film Society & Community Cinema of the Year Awards, The Grassmarket Community Project wins the Digital Engagement Award as well as the Peter Carlin Award for Outstanding Contribution and is Highly Commended in the UK Community Cinema of the Year category.

2021: Catherine Jones becomes Social Enterprise Manager, covering all of the growing social enterprises emerging from the Greyfriars Community Project

2022:There is a growing recognition that the thriving social enterprises of the Grassmarket Community Project can offer a rapidly changing society an alternative model that equips people facing the fall-out from the pandemic and the enormity of tackling climate change.

2022: A new café pavilion is opened in June by Ricky Ross, lead singer of Deacon Blue in the courtyard of the Grassmarket Centre. The pavilion café will relieve congestion in the foyer of the centre following the success of the café enterprise.