Visit Scotland has designated 2022 as the Year of Stories because ‘The love of stories is hardwired into us all; it is one of the strongest ways we connect with one another and share our experiences’ (VisitScotland.com). Stories help us express who we are, explore who we might become, and reflect upon where we came from. As the world begins to tentatively open up, it is hoped that a focus on stories will draw international tourism back to Scotland.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre is a site of storytelling; it is where a history of Scotland’s people and its landscapes come vividly to life. From the outset there was a drive for Galashiels to be the permanent home for the Tapestry due to its long and rich history in textiles. The history of weaving in the Borders dates back to the Middle Ages and the Borders hills have long been famed for their sheep, while the fast-flowing Gala water gave the mills the power they needed to drive the industry forward. From humble beginnings, the Scottish Borders built a global reputation for quality fabric and design. The textile industry was the major employer in the region, shaping townscapes, social and economic history, and culture of the Borders. Therefore, although the Tapestry’s content, form and curation positions the tapestry as a key site for Scottish history, heritage and storytelling on a national scale, the centre strives to do more than tell a story about a nation. Importantly it is a space to explore the story of textiles in shaping the identity of the Scottish Borders, and the iconic place of the Scottish Borders in the history of textiles and fashion.
The connection between the town and the tapestry formed the very architecture and design of the space. The centre is a hybrid of the traditional and the contemporary, the new central space connects to the old post office. The dramatic roof of the Tapestry Gallery reflects the townscape that is viewed throughout the space, connecting inside with the outside. The Welcome Panel in the entrance, the first thing to greet visitors is a Borders project connecting the local community to the tapestry and introducing visitors to the region’s heritage. The café is committed to products from the ‘Scottish Larder’, and our shop has products from local crafts and textiles suppliers. A sense of place and belonging is fostered throughout the centre.
This is a key aspect that we aim to develop through hosting events and exhibitions, and working with local businesses, groups and venues. Connecting with diverse communities in the borders we hope to facilitate space to tell innovative and engaging stories about Galashiels and the wider region. There are rich stories of commerce and culture, fashion and imperialism, industry and embodiment, nature and technology, the everyday and the couture to be told. The Great Tapestry of Scotland wants to be the place for spinning yarns and sharing stories of Scotland, our communities and the town.