Entrepreneur leads the campaign to save iconic Coats Memorial Church

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Alumnus Ian Henderson tells us about his career journey since leaving the university and his current involvement in the campaign to save Coats Memorial Church in Paisley.

An experienced entrepreneur, consultant and manager in transport, humanitarian logistics and property sectors. Ian has worked extensively throughout Europe and Africa for the United Nations, various non-governmental organisations and on his own account. Has owned businesses based in Paisley for more than 40 years and he is a past Chairman of Paisley First BID and a former Director of St Mirren FC. He is currently leading the Coats Memorial Steering Group to save the iconic and historical building from ruin.

It seems a long time ago since I studied Civil Engineering at UWS and 49 years have just flown by.

Born, brought up and educated in Paisley I have had business interests in the town since I left UWS. Also I have been fortunate enough to enjoy mixing work with travel in a range of interesting project management roles while working for United Nations, non-governmental organisations and on my own account. Posts in war zones and humanitarian hotspots like Angola, Bosnia, South Sudan and Zaire lead on to my company developing the largest gated community in East Africa where we are still building out a 160 acre site near Nairobi in Kenya.

Even back in my student days I remember being impressed by the sheer presence of Coats Memorial Church as I headed down to the Bowlers’ Tavern for a pint with my mates instead of going to one lecture or another. I would never have thought that nearly 50 years later I would be at the heart of a campaign to save the building.

Although I knew the building, I had not set foot in it until April 2016 and within five minutes I was completely blown away by the quality of the workmanship and finishes – and I decided that Coats Memorial had to be saved and transformed into a wonderful multi-purpose venue.

It was because of my property background that I was asked to look at Coats Memorial and advise on an alternative use which could ensure the long-term sustainability of the building. First thing to check was the condition of the building. It was found to be in a reasonable condition. Next would there be a demand for a venue? Overwhelmingly yes as evidenced by demand surveys already done by various groups. Then the works required and cost – five key areas of intervention and doors open for a very tight budget of £1.5 million. Now the hard part, where do we get the money?

Our Steering Group comprises existing Trustees of Thomas Coats, Partners in legal and accountancy firms, local business people and representatives from the arts and UWS and we decided on a 100 day fundraising period.

You can find out more about the initiatives we have launched including ‘buy a brick’ where you can have your name inscribed on a Swedish oak plaque made from pews and mounted on a wall of fame within the building on our website at 100daystosavecoatsmemorial.com

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