The Great Tapestry of Scotland has revealed that its new national gallery and visitor centre, in Galashiels the heartland of the Scottish Borders, is already supporting the local economy and generating significant interest from tour operators around the globe ahead of its opening on 26 August 2021.
It is hoped the new visitor attraction, where the people’s story of Scotland will begin, will help to regenerate the once thriving textile town of Galashiels and give a much-needed economic boost to the area following the devastating impact of Covid 19.
Sandy Maxwell-Forbes, Centre Director for The Great Tapestry of Scotland, believes there is great reason for the town to hope: “Our new national gallery and visitor centre presents an exciting opportunity to boost the economy in Galashiels and the south of Scotland.
“We have already received significant interest from tour operators around the globe in bringing visitors to Scotland, and we’re frequently contacted by people who have already seen the Tapestry, who want to know when they can visit again. Just viewing the Tapestry is such a powerfully enriching experience that people want to visit time and time again. Over 350,000 people viewed the Tapestry when it toured previously, and we can’t wait to welcome them again to our new centre in Galashiels when we open.
“As we promote our exciting new visitor experience, we are also recommending other relevant local experiences, events and businesses. It is providing a wonderful opportunity to truly shine a spotlight on all that is great about Galashiels and the south of Scotland.”
The Tapestry development has been welcomed by a number of town businesses. Craig Murray, owner of the Artisan Bakery Alex Dalgetty & Sons, home to the famous original Selkirk Bannock, said: “Businesses like ours are already beginning to see the great benefits The Great Tapestry of Scotland will bring to the town, as we’ve supplied lunches to construction workers throughout the construction period. Our Scotch Pies and homemade soups have sold particularly well since they’ve been working on site.”
“When it opens, we will offer visitors a wide range of delicious artisan bakery goods – from our Famous Original Selkirk Bannocks and handmade Oatcakes to freshly baked scones and melt in the mouth shortbread. We have recently introduced a new product, our Gala Biscuits, in anticipation of the Tapestry’s opening. The biscuits are based on the flavours used to make Coulters Candy, and they have already become one of my top sellers!”
Adam Elder is Director of Why Not?, two mini shopping centres, meeting places and cafés in North Berwick and Galashiels. In each of their locations, people can browse 25 shops selling a wide range of quality products from local food producers, crafters, artists, artisans and designers. Speaking about what the Tapestry will mean for Galashiels he said: “We opened Why Not? in Galashiels in 2019, as we knew the town’s high street had great potential. I lived in the area some years ago and remembered it as a once bustling market town. Like so many high streets these days, it had seen some decline, but it just needed some investment. Supporting regeneration of the high street and providing meeting spaces for the community is at the heart of our business, so we thought it was the perfect place for a new Why Not?
“The high street truly is part of the fabric of every town and vital to the health and wellbeing of every community, so we were absolutely delighted when we heard The Great Tapestry of Scotland, a new national gallery, would be located right here on Gala’s high street. As one of the world’s largest community arts projects, housed in a new creative hub telling the rich stories of Scotland and the Borders, it really does speak to the great community traditions of the town. It’s going to be fantastic for the area and further supporting regeneration. We look forward to its opening and welcoming all those who visit.”
Naomi Harrod, owner of Unwind Yarns, a yarn store that stocks a wide range of craft supplies and yarn as well as offering workshops and helpful advice said: “Having the tapestry here is something every business owner I’ve spoken to is looking forward to! It looks amazing, and really will breathe more life into the town.”
“Unwind Yarns was born in Galashiels, but the majority of my sales come from tourists and visitors to the town, so I am incredibly excited about the visitors the Tapestry will bring. It will be great for the amazing independent shops we already have here in the town and for further regeneration of our high street.”
“I regularly have customers in who are visiting Galashiels for the first time on a day out that walk around, looking for something more to do. I can’t wait to tell them they can visit The Great Tapestry of Scotland, right here on our high street…and I’m really looking forward to visiting myself!”
The team at The Great Tapestry of Scotland has been working closely with the South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA) and VisitScotland to ensure Galashiels and the Borders are must visit destinations. This has included virtual meetings with almost 60 tour operators from across the globe.
Robert Ramsay, Contract Manager at Albatross Travel, a leading wholesaler for coach tour operators in the UK, said: “We’ve already included The Great Tapestry of Scotland as a recommended itinerary in our 2022 brochure for tour operators. Through its wonderful visual account of Scotland’s history, heritage and culture, the new national gallery and visitor centre fits perfectly with the Year of Scotland’s Stories.
“This is the first time that we have included a stop in the centre of Galashiels in any of our itineraries. It is an exciting addition to the south of Scotland cultural scene and is definitely going to be great for putting the town on the Scottish tourism map.”
Sandy Maxwell-Forbes added: “Overseas visitors are now booking for 2022, 2023 and some even for 2024. It is clear from all our conversations that our new visitor attraction presents a number of opportunities for businesses in Galashiels and surrounding area, including makers, gift shops, textile experiences, accommodation providers, cafes, restaurants and more.”
One of the world’s largest tapestries, The Great Tapestry of Scotland was hand stitched by a team of 1,000 stitchers led by Dorie Wilkie, the Great Tapestry of Scotland tells the people’s story of Scotland’s history, heritage and culture from its formation to present day. It was the vision of one of the world’s best loved writers Alexander McCall-Smith, designed by artist Andrew Crummy and teams of stitchers around Scotland from a narrative written by the award-winning writer and historian Alistair Moffat. It is made up of 300 miles of wool (enough to lay the entire length of Scotland from the border with England to the tip of the Shetland in the North Atlantic). It was visited by over 350,000 people when it previously toured Scotland to great acclaim.
The new national gallery and exhibition space, purpose built to house the Tapestry, has received over £6.7 million funding from the Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, the Borders Railway Blueprint programme and Scottish Borders Council. The cultural venture is operated by the charity Live Borders, which also manages many of the cultural and leisure facilities in the Borders, including the five-star Jim Clark Motorsport Museum.
In addition to housing the Tapestry itself, the building will host a range of visiting exhibits, tours and workshops. The first exhibit in the centre’s Gallery 1420 will be Iconic Scotland, which will feature written and photographic contributions from 40 iconic, inspiring and pioneering individuals including some of Gala’s own icons including Grant O’Rourke, Chris Paterson, John Collins, Debbie Paterson and Craig Murray from Alex Dalgetty and Sons.