‘Hunted’ star and government back digital skills academy

Hollywood and Holyrood have come together to support a £2m fundraising bid to establish a digital skills academy in Helensburgh.

Actor Lex Shrapnel, who starred in the recent BBC television series Hunted and whose grandmother the Hollywood legend Deborah Kerr was born in Helensburgh, has become an official ambassador for the campaign to create the Heroes Centre.

Lex Shrapnel has family connections with Helensburgh
Lex Shrapnel has family connections with Helensburgh

And the Scottish Government has welcomed the initiative, saying it would give “the next generation of Scots a creative environment to acquire new media skills and expertise.”

The plan is to create a digital complex and specialised IT educational facility by converting a derelict Victorian warehouse in George Street.

The Heroes Centre would aim to teach people at all stages of their lives the media and production skills they need for the digital workplace, while businesses will be able to access facilities for web promotion and marketing.

It will also have a cinema and a three storey ‘wall of fame’ showcasing memorabilia from the array of inspirational men and women or ‘Heroes’ who have come from the town.

Scottish Government Minister for external affairs and international development Humza Yousaf said: “The creative industries is a growth sector in our economic strategy and contributes £2.7bn to Scotland’s economy.

“A skills academy in Helensburgh would give the next generation of Scots a creative environment to acquire new media skills and expertise.  It is particularly relevant that this centre would be in Helensburgh, the birth place of John Logie Baird.”

Film and TV star Lex Shrapnel has pledged to help the Heroes Centre become a reality because of the love his grandmother the Hollywood legend Deborah Kerr had for the town where she was born.

He said: “My granny talked very fondly about her Helensburgh roots so I’m incredibly proud to be appointed an ambassador for the Heroes Centre.

“As I discovered on a recent trip, Helensburgh’s got an incredibly rich seam of TV and film history so I hope that by supporting this exciting venture, we can build something that not only does justice to its successes from the past but also inspires its creative talent of the future.”

Lex, who starred in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), is the second Hollywood luminary to become an official ambassador for the Heroes Centre campaign after Helensburgh-born movie director Tom Vaughan gave his official support earlier last year.

They are joined as ambassadors by local ‘heroes’ the children’s author Sam Wilding and Britain’s top wheelchair tennis star and London 2012 Paralympian Gordon Reid.

The Heroes Centre is the brainchild of Phil Worms, an IT industry veteran of 25 years and director of Helensburgh Heroes, the charity behind the project.

He said: “As the convergence of internet and TV technologies gathers pace it’s widely recognised that we need a new generation of digital content creators, and yet a major issue facing Scotland is the dramatic decline in the numbers of young people taking IT related subjects in further education.

“We are absolutely delighted to have such high profile ambassadors on board and with the Scottish government also keen to see this happen, what we need now is for Scottish businesses to get behind the idea by pledging their financial support so we can raise the two million pounds we need to turn the Heroes Centre into a reality.”

Planning permission has been granted for the derelict building which would house the centre - but £2m funding has to be found.
Planning permission has been granted for the derelict building which would house the centre – but £2m funding has to be found.

The Heroes Centre idea has been developed as a result of extensive consultations with the local community, education establishments and leading IT companies, all of whom have all expressed strong interest in utilising it when it is built.

Polly Purvis, executive director of software, IT and creative technology industry body ScotlandIS, hopes the fund-raising campaign succeeds.

She said: “ScotlandIS welcomes this really exciting development, offering Scotland’s young people the chance to learn the latest skills in video production. Video is the fastest growing element of social media and is increasingly being adopted in business and education for its high-impact communication capability.

“Whilst some exceptional video is being created on a wide range of mobile phones and cameras, there is increasing demand for the high quality production skills the centre will produce.”