‘Hunted’ star and Scottish Government support £2 million fundraising campaign

Hollywood and Holyrood have come together to support a £2 million fundraising bid to establish a digital skills academy to be known as the ‘Heroes Centre’ in Helensburgh, the birthplace of John Logie Baird the founder of television.

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, while 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, Helensburgh. The Heroes Centre will teach people at all stages of their lives the media and production skills they need to contribute and thrive in 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 and Glasgow MSP Humza Yousaf said: “The Creative Industries is a growth sector in our Economic Strategy and contributes £2.7bn to Scotland’s economy. The Scottish Government is committed to developing the sector and welcomes initiatives that support the development of creative practitioners, and opportunities for improving digital skills.”

“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 & 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 Helensburgh, the town where she was born.

Lex says: “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.

“There is no doubt that the television, film and the digital industries are moving ever closer together and it’s vital that we provide facilities such as the Heroes Centre to help equip people with the skills that will be needed for generations to come.”

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 this year.

Lex and Tom are joined as ambassadors by local ‘Heroes’ the children’s author Sam Wilding and Britain’s number 1 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 believes Scotland needs to encourage more people to learn skills that are relevant to working in an online world.

Phil Worms 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.”

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 ScotlandIS – Scotland’s software, IT and creative technology industry body – hopes the fund-raising campaign succeeds. She said: “ScotlandIS welcomes The Heroes Centre – a 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.”