A new dance, fitness and wellbeing studio has opened in Stornoway after securing a grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Husband and wife team Kirstie Anderson and Rodney Jamieson opened the new facility under the new name Sandwickhill Studios.

Following six months of offering online classes during the pandemic, Kirstie held her first class for adults at the new studios this month, with limited numbers due to current restrictions.

More classes will gradually be introduced in the studio while online classes are still running.

HIE’s £46,275 investment enabled the second phase of the project covering key infrastructure costs such as an upgrade of the carpark, interior design and branding as well as internal fixtures, equipment and furnishings.

The new studio provides a flexible community hub for all ages in the area and aims to create three new jobs over the next few years.

In 2009, Kirstie began teaching dance and fitness classes in community venues around Stornoway before leasing a small studio at the local golf club. With her background of dance and breadth of fitness qualifications, she is now able to offer a suitable, dedicated space for a range of classes she teaches each week. It can also be used by drama clubs, dance residencies and yoga retreats.

During the summer months, the premises will provide a base for Rodney’s water-based activities such as surfing, snorkelling and stand-up paddle boarding.

SurfLewis has been operated by Rodney for more than 10 years, providing surfing lessons at beaches around the island. As a RNLI Lifeboat crew member for 13 years and with extensive knowledge of the coastline and beaches, he has an additional voluntary role in promoting water safety in schools and communities.

The new building has also been supported by the 2014-2020 Outer Hebrides LEADER programme as well as significant investment by both businesses.

John Macdonald, account manager at HIE’s Innse Gall team, said: “We are delighted to be supporting two ambitious local firms to develop the new studio, which is important for encouraging increased participation in leisure and healthy activities as well as promoting health and wellbeing. As the business develops, it will also create the potential to employ more people, which will further benefit the local economy.”

Kirstie has been busy making changes to the set-up to help make the experience at home as good as it is in the studio. She has worked hard to get kids’ programmes off the ground in the studio and she is enjoying being back. Distancing spaces are marked up in the building, customers bring their own mats and masks are worn on arrival.

Kirstie Anderson said: “We are very pleased to have had investment from HIE. The work we do at Sandwickhill Studios is needed now more than ever following the lockdown. The classes will help people’s mental health, physical health and general wellbeing and support our local fitness and dance sector which is vulnerable at the moment. The support from HIE and LEADER will help us take the work we do forward, and we are thrilled to be getting ready to take the exciting steps forward as we recover from the challenging year.”

Photo shows Kirstie and Rodney with the new studio