Ex-Buzzcocks drummer to give keynote speech at Scottish empty homes conference

John Maher's image of a TV room in an abandoned crofting home on the Western Isles
John Maher’s image of a TV room in an abandoned crofting home on the Western Isles

The ex-Buzzcocks drummer John Maher is to take to the stage at a conference on returning empty homes to use.

Once used to playing in front of thousands of roaring fans, the punk-era legend has turned professional photographer specialising in scenes of the peace and serenity of his adopted Outer Hebrides home.

Earlier this year he exhibited haunting and poignant images of abandoned crofting homes on the Western Isles to critical acclaim.

Now John Maher is poised to speak alongside housing minister Kevin Stewart MSP at the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership 2016 conference alongside housing professionals, local authority housing and empty homes officers whose day job is to bring empty homes back into use.

John Maher said: “When I first started photographing abandoned homes around Harris and Lewis I had no idea it would result in an invite to appear at a Shelter Scotland conference! The fact some of these buildings may be renovated as a knock-on effect of exhibiting my images is a brilliant, but entirely unexpected consequence.”

He added: “While the media have been quick to coin headlines such as ‘Punk drummer shines light on crumbling crofts’, the reality is a little different; behind the scenes the real hard work is being carried out by organisations like Tighean Innse Gall and the Carnegie Trust. Ultimately, if my involvement in some way, however small, assists in enabling the restoration of abandoned houses and making them ‘Somebody’s Home’ once again, I’m totally up for it.”

An empty crofting home on Harris - pic by John Maher
An empty crofting home on Harris - pic by John Maher

The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership is funded by the Scottish Government and hosted by Shelter Scotland. It works alongside councils and others to speed up the process of bringing Scotland’s 34,000 empty privately owned properties back into use as much-needed housing.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “This year’s conference will help motivate and inspire empty homes officers and others involved in the partnership who have already built an impressive track record, helping to bring 1700 homes back into use in six years. Scotland needs to build 12,000 new affordable homes every year over the next five years to meet demand. Renovating existing residential property which has fallen out of use is a cost effective way of helping to meet that target.”

Kevin Stewart MSP, Scottish Government housing minister, said: “When you look at John’s striking images of abandoned crofting homes on Harris, I feel sad that there are homes not being used. All across the country there are thousands of empty properties which with determined work could be opened up to families who need them. That’s why the Scottish Government is pleased to fund the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership to guide owners and councils through the process of doing just that.”

This year is the sixth annual conference and speakers will talk on the theme Sharing Successes and Filling the Gaps. Since 2010 the Partnership has brought almost 1700 homes back into use and helped 17 local authorities to appoint dedicated empty homes officers. It is estimated 34,000 properties are empty in Scotland and bringing them back into use could help ease Scotland’s housing crisis. The conference includes the Annual Howden’s Scottish Empty Homes Champion of the Year Awards which recognises groups and individuals working to revitalise empty properties.

Earlier this year the Partnership released figures from a YouGov poll that found 60 per cent of Scottish adults thought empty homes led to reduction in the amount of available housing.

Spaces are still available for the conference at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel, Edinburgh on the 15 November.

Anyone concerned about a long-term empty private property in their area should call our free national helpline on 0344 515 1941 to report it. Owners too can call for advice on the help available to them to bring their empty property back into use.

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