Looking after any 150 year old building has its challenges and Victorian architects did rather fail (understandably) to consider what might be required to make a public building safe and accessible in the 21st century.
The first phase of refurbishment of the Corn Exchange in 2010 dealt with many serious structural issues, but problems persist with the somewhat complicated drainage system in the clock tower. Water continues to flood into the stairwell during heavy rainfall and a significant resurgence of dry rot will be a real risk if repairs are not undertaken very soon. The building is owned by South Lanarkshire Council, although Biggar Corn Exchange Ltd. have a full maintenance lease, and we have been working with the Council to draw up specifications for lasting repairs and improvements to the tower and stairwell. Biggar Corn Exchange Ltd. will have to raise £61,000 towards this work. Grant applications are underway and the plan is to complete work over the summer of 2022, if funds can be secured.
The lack of disabled access to the Corn Exchange remains a major problem that, unfortunately, will not be solved without extensive structural re-modelling of the building. We have a stair climber available that allows a wheelchair user to access the building via the front door, with help of a trained volunteer. We do recognise, however, that this is not acceptable in the longer term and we will continue to work with specialists in disabled access to find a solution. The Corn Exchange is a key community facility and everybody should be able to access it without difficulty.
Over the past year, we have refurbished all our fire detection, alarm and emergency lighting systems. In light of he continuing presence of variants of the Covid-19 virus, we have installed hospital grade air purification units in the auditorium and foyer area.
Another improvement that we hope to make in 2022 will be the upgrading of our sound and projection systems in the auditorium. This will greatly improve the Corn Exchange as a cinema venue and will hopefully allow us to offer live links to some national theatre and dance productions, etc.