The outcomes of the prestigious 25th Anniversary SURF Awards for Best Practice in Community Regeneration were announced tonight (07/12/23) at a celebratory presentation event in Glasgow’s Voco Grand Central Hotel. SURF were delighted to be joined by over 270 guests to celebrate the 25th annual SURF Award programme.

Representatives of the five category winning initiatives for 2023 were personally congratulated on their inspiring work by the Scottish Government’s Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning, Joe Fitzpatrick MSP.

The SURF Awards are delivered each year by SURF, a regeneration forum with over 300 cross-sector member organisations across Scotland, in partnership for 20 years with the Scottish Government. The purpose is to highlight, celebrate and share the achievements of initiatives that address physical, social and economic challenges in communities across Scotland, which is particularly prevalent given the impacts of the pandemic and the current cost for living crisis.

SURF’s panel of 15 independent judges are drawn from national regeneration bodies and community groups. They carefully assessed all of the varied SURF Awards nominations in five thematic categories, visiting 15 different shortlisted initiatives from Dumfries and Galloway to Shetland and Skye, before selecting the following category winners:

  • Removing Barriers to Employability: ABZWorks Employability Support (Aberdeen). Working across Aberdeen, ABZWorks provide an employability support service for care experienced young people.
  • Housing and Regeneration: Goathill Housing and Care Home Project (Stornoway, Isle of Lewis). An ambitious initiative to meet the varying needs of the island’s population, with a 52 bed residential care home, 50 housing with extra care flats, 58 homes for social rent, and 16 Homes for sale through the shared equity scheme.
  • Community Led Regeneration: Govan HELP – The Govan Pantry (Glasgow). The Govan HELP Pantry supports people who are experiencing food poverty in the G51 postcode area of Glasgow, whilst also providing training, volunteering and employability opportunities.
  • Creative Regeneration: Wild Skies Shetland (Unst, Shetland). Wild Skies Shetland encourages locals and visitors to appreciate Shetland’s ever changing, beautiful, dramatic skies, whilst helping to improve the economic outlook for one of Shetland’s poorer island communities.
  • Improving Scotland’s Places: Vibrant Gala Project (Galashiels, Scottish Borders). Energise Galashiels Trust, a community-based organisation, was established in to respond to the continuing decline in the town centre with the aim of creating a more vibrant and welcoming community.

Download a copy of the 2023 SURF Awards Publication to find out more about the 15 shortlisted projects.

The five winning projects all demonstrate the value of a long-term approach to regeneration, with dedicated partners working strategically and inclusively to develop comprehensive plans and deliver real and sustainable benefits for all.

The evening concluded with an after dinner speech from Poet and Performer Kevin P. Gilday, who has just completed a tour of the UK with his highly acclaimed one man show Spam Valley.

Since 2003, the SURF Awards have been delivered by SURF in partnership with the Scottish Government. SURF is also grateful for additional support provided by Architecture & Design Scotland, Creative Scotland, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Institute of Employability Professionals, Scottish Procurement Alliance and Scotland’s Towns Partnership towards the delivery of thematic categories.

Emma Scott, Events, Information and Communications Manager at SURF, said: “The SURF Awards began with the goal of demonstrating that regeneration is making a difference to the people of Scotland, and the places in which they live and work. 25 years on, the core purpose remains unchanged. This year’s nominees once again showcase the commitment from projects and volunteers across Scotland to make a real difference to their communities, demonstrating the power of collaboration and partnership, and bringing people together to deliver change.” 

Brian MacDonald, Chair of SURF, said: “SURF has been proud to host the Awards for 25 years. During that time the world has undergone some significant changes, but against that background of change, one of the constants has been the high standard provided by all of those who entered our Awards. This year’s entries continue to demonstrate that high level of dedication to improving our communities, echoing the same high level we have seen over the past 25 years. Here’s to the next 25.”

Joe Fitzpatrick, Scottish Government Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning said: This year the SURF Awards mark 25 years of recognising good practice and inspiring innovation in community-led regeneration. I am pleased this year also marks the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Government working in partnership with SURF and we are proud to continue this support.

There are exciting stories behind all the projects highlighted by the SURF Awards. They demonstrate the transformations possible when we work collaboratively, building on the expertise and knowledge of our communities to help them shape their futures. Taking this moment to understand what works well and celebrate success is important for future regeneration activity across Scotland.

 I am delighted to be attending my first award ceremony and hearing more about these inspiring projects.”

Karen Dick, Head of Place, Partnerships & Communities at Award Sponsor Creative Scotland, said: “Congratulations to SURF for their 25th SURF Awards, which continue to recognise the hard work taking place in and by communities in ever more challenging circumstances. The winning and shortlisted projects underline how placing creativity at the heart of community-led projects supports sustainable communities, making brilliant things happen.”