AILSA Mackenzie, chief officer at The Pyramid at Anderston, is the first to admit this unusual community venue on the edge of the city centre is in need of some serious TLC.

When she looks around the quirky building, with its distinctive shape and blue-green roof, she does not see peeling paint and cracked windows, however.

Ailsa sees a mini-cinema, yoga sessions and a theatre bursting with local talent. She sees community meals, holiday clubs for children, studios for local artists and makers…

“There is a massive community here, around 9000 people in the immediate area, and there is very little to do,” she explains.

“Yes, we’re close to the city centre, and the West End, but lots of people are cut off from those opportunities, for a whole variety of reasons.”

She adds: “And this is a huge building. So we want to bring the opportunities here.”

Glasgow Times: Inside The Pyramid at AnderstonInside The Pyramid at Anderston (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

On a whistlestop tour, which takes in the draughty halls and packed storage spaces in the corridors – “it’s been 60 years of ‘I’ll just leave that there’,” she says with a laugh – Ailsa, whose background is in heritage arts and education projects, explains the history of the building.

Designed by Glasgow architects Honeyman, Jack and Robertson for The Church of Scotland, it was completed in 1968, as part of the redevelopment of the Anderston area.

It has 22 rooms and three larger community halls, including one with a magnificent stage, complete with original rust velvet curtain. The hall seats 180 people easily and recently, the RSNO has used it as a community venue, something Ailsa is keen to develop with other arts organisations and local schools.

From 1968 to 2019 the building operated as the Anderston Kelvingrove Parish Church. When the congregation numbers fell dramatically, the church merged with nearby Renfield St Stephen and, faced with losing the building altogether, the community stepped in.

In 2019, The Pyramid at Anderston Trust, with the help of a grant from the Scottish Land Fund, bought the building. Since then, the team has steadily introduced a raft of activities and demand has been high.

Glasgow Times: Jim Parkyn, from Aardman Animations with some of the young model-makersJim Parkyn, from Aardman Animations with some of the young model-makers (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

Its October holiday food programme attracts 200 families; the Thursday ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes are oversubscribed.

The Zero Waste Shop, which provides baby products and fresh fruit and veg as well as frozen food and ready meals created in its own kitchen, has around 400 members. During the pandemic, the team distributed food out of the window.

Glasgow Times: Volunteers Shalina and Vera at the Zero Waste ShopVolunteers Shalina and Vera at the Zero Waste Shop (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

This summer, professional coaches provided sessions on everything from fencing to pickleball, and Aardman Animation’s head modelmaker Jim Parkyn helped local schoolchildren make versions of the building’s cheerful new mascot, Perry the Pyramid.

Glasgow Times: Model-making at The PyramidModel-making at The Pyramid (Image: Colin Mearns/Newsquest)

Anderston Primary pupil Aiva Ferguson, who is nine, won a recent competition to come up with the name.

Her mum, Aimee, said: “She thought it should be something catchy, beginning with P, and she came up with Perry.

“She was delighted to win. She absolutely loves going to any events at the Pyramid.”

Glasgow Times: Aiva Ferguson, who came up with name for the new mascotAiva Ferguson, who came up with name for the new mascot (Image: Gordon Terris/Newsquest)

The Pyramid has also been used as a filming location for recent TV series, including the David Tennant thriller Deadwater Fell, and the Channel 4 prison drama Screw.

In June 2020, the Trust was awarded £1.1 million from the National Lottery Community Fund to undertake a phased programme of building improvements and renovation. The first phase of work began on site in late 2021, with the installation of a platform lift into the main foyer space.

Glasgow Times: The new mascot, Perry the PyramidThe new mascot, Perry the Pyramid (Image: The Pyramid)

“That meant the building was fully accessible for the first time,” says Ailsa. “That was one of the big wins. It was an emotional moment.”

In the pyramid itself, at the top of the building, most of the original lights and windows remain. The roof is not original, incidentally, but steel treated to look like copper, and the bell tower has never had a bell.

“We’re thinking of putting some bee hives up there,” says Ailsa.

Glasgow Times: The Pyramid with its distinctive shape and unusual blue-green roofThe Pyramid with its distinctive shape and unusual blue-green roof (Image: Newsquest)

Former pew chairs are being reupholstered, and there is talk of weddings, and exhibitions, and it would make a spectacular space for both.

The next phase, however is “retrofit engineering”, says Ailsa.

“The big bit is the pyramid itself – how do we retrofit a 1960s building to make it net zero?” she explains. “There is a long road ahead, to return this building to a standard it deserves.”

She adds: “This community deserves nice things. And a building this huge, with this potential, should be used by the community.”

What Ailsa and her team at The Pyramid have achieved in four years is already impressive.

“Now we keep going, and get more things in the building in 2024, and more people through the doors,” she says, firmly.

“We have big plans, and we always aim high at The Pyramid.”