Celebrating 21 years of pride in a super county

Launching Supercounty at New Lanark are (l-r) tv presenter Jackie Bird, rally driver Jimmy McRae, singer Bill McCue, footballers Colin Miller, Chris McCart and Mark McNally and politician Dr John Reid.
Launching Supercounty at New Lanark are (l-r) tv presenter Jackie Bird, rally driver Jimmy McRae, singer Bill McCue, footballers Colin Miller, Chris McCart and Mark McNally and politician Dr John Reid.

We are used to the age of 21 signifying the start of fully-fledged adulthood, with all of life’s possibilities stretching ahead, but for all connected with Supercounty, it is the end of an era.

However, rather than sadness at the loss of a force for good, this shares one major attribute with a 21st birthday: a sense of pride and optimism.

The Lanarkshire Civic Pride Campaign has been wound up, another victim of the harsh economic climate we are all enduring, but everyone who has been involved with it since it was founded more than two decades ago can look back on a host of achievements and successes.

During that time, an ever-present has been the then chairman of Lanarkshire Development Agency (LDA), Ian Livingstone, who has been Supercounty’s only chairman from start to finish.

Ian said: “The closure of Ravenscraig steelworks in 1992 was catastrophic for the county, and LDA was charged by the Scottish Office with the task of regenerating business, jobs and the local economy in general.

“However, a vital part of this task involved the morale of the people in the area, and so Supercounty was founded that year to remind them that they had much to be proud of, even in ... especially in ... those dark times.

“They had every right to feel a sense of worth in themselves and in their area.

“It has never been a slick branding or marketing exercise shouting to the rest of the world, but has rather been inward-looking, highlighting the communities, companies and individuals; in other words, the people of the county.

“Lanarkshire is a wonderful area, but it is the people that make it so, and it was always our job to remind them of that.”

Ian was assisted initially by Terry Currie, a senior director at the time with LDA, who led Supercounty from 1992 to 1997 during its formative years, establishing the concept, creating the blueprint and setting the foundations for the array of successes that were achieved over the coming years.

Ian explained: “The task of leading the campaign then fell to John Scott, who as chief executive has filled the position ever since, bringing new projects and innovative thinking to a proven and successful approach.

“Backing was provided to Terry and then John by three invaluable ladies: Margaret Thompson until 1997, Joan Boyd for the next five years and, until the present day, Karen Lambie.”

The overall running of Supercounty has been overseen by its board, which has over the years been filled by a succession of 21 local business regeneration leaders and top-level and respected councillors of all political persuasions from North and South Lanarkshire.

The board members have given of their time, experience and expertise on a voluntary basis, guiding the campaign through changing times but with a level of continuity provided among their number not only by chairman Livingstone, but also by Terry Currie, Ronnie Smith (at the time, chief executive of Hamilton Enterprise Development Company) and former union leader Tommy Brennan.

John Scott said: “The level of support from the board has been unwavering and has enabled Supercounty to run with unimagined success for every one of its 21 years.

“However, for Ian, Terry, Ronnie and Tommy to be there for the entire period is nothing short of incredible and to have people who are so immersed in our ethos is a Godsend to those of us who have been lucky enough to run the campaign on a daily basis.”

That daily routine, however, has hardly been routine.

Few organisations can surely have been able to lay claim to creating such a wide and varied array of events, many of which have become embedded in Lanarkshire life and all of which have left a host of local people with indelible memories.

The Primary School Choir Festival involved thousands of pupils each year, with 10 to 12 choirs progressing to a concert compèred by local celebrities such as the singing duo Alexander Brothers, columnist and broadcaster Tam Cowan, opera singer Linda Ormiston and TV journalist and presenter Angus Simpson.

For high school pupils, the Supercounty Supershow was started 17 years ago and was the X-Factor of its time, showcasing the best of the county’s talent.

Dozens of children who took part have gone on to find success in the musical world, including soprano Monica McGhee, who sings with opera group Amore, and recent X-Factor runner up Nicky McDonald.

Pupils were also able to take part in the Supercounty Triathlon, for the upper-school, and the Sports Festival for S1 and S2, while a Perfect Attendance scheme recognised every primary pupil who didn’t miss a single day in a full school year.

Campaigns were backed to help the environment, such as Eco-schools, clean-up initiatives such as ‘Chuck It in the Bucket’ and ‘Just Bin It’, and Beautiful Scotland.

Supercounty also supported a host of community-run projects including Lanarkshire Association of Male Voice Choirs, Shotts Highland Games, Pen Pals creative writing group, the first-ever Lanarkshire junior bowling competition, myriad fun days and gala days and the recent resurrection of football’s Lanarkshire Cup, now involving clubs’ under-17s teams to help promote youth development.

Community recognition has seen Supercounty acknowledge the contribution of individuals ranging from long-serving members of the WRVS (now the Royal Voluntary Service) to athletes participating in the Special Olympics and the Commonwealth Games.

Staying with sport, Supercounty originated the winning bid to bring the 2011 International Children’s Games (acknowledged by participating cities as being ‘the most successful games ever’) to Lanarkshire.

One of the longest-running and most acclaimed initiatives has been the 
Supercounty Champions Awards, which turns the spotlight on the county’s unsung heroes.

During the Awards’ 20-year history, recognition has been given to a roll call of worthy organisations and individuals, including Talking Newspapers, Poppy Selling, Guide Dogs for the Blind, senior citizens’ organisations, the Lanarkshire Association of Burns Clubs and a young girl who ran a concert to raise funds for children’s cancer charities.

The Lanarkshire Business Awards has become a mainstay of the annual calendar, and locally-grown produce has been promoted through Lanarkshire’s Larder, while Supercounty has continually worked closely to support the invaluable grass-roots work of the sports councils in South Lanarkshire and ClubNL in the North.

Most recently, Supercounty has created and, along with North and South Lanarkshire Councils, has run Celebrating Lanarkshire 2013, an initiative that marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the county’s most famous sons, David Livingstone, by highlighting the region’s achievements and milestones over the past two centuries.

Ian Livingstone added: “Celebrating Lanarkshire was a perfect way to sum up what Supercounty was all about.

“The campaign has been blessed with, and I have been honoured to work with, an inspiring collection of people on its board and in its staff, but most important was the contribution of the local people of this wonderful county where we live.

“When we looked at those who have helped make Lanarkshire great over the past 200 years, we were not only filled with pride at their achievements but we were also reminded of the continuing contributions of people throughout this area today, and continuing into the future.

“People from all walks of life, of all ages, with an uncountable array of talents and attributes, have made, and will always make, Lanarkshire what it is.

“Good people are at the heart of this county, and for all of us who have been involved in Supercounty for the past 21 years, that single fact is what has left us humbled, proud and excited about what is still to come.”