The new purpose-built Great Tapestry of Scotland gallery, visitor centre, cafe and workshop space has been revealed in its permanent home in Galashiels, the heartland of the Scottish Borders, ahead of its public opening on Thursday 26 August.
The latest addition to Scotland’s national cultural scene was unveiled as world-renowned author Alexander McCall Smith, whose vision it was to create a tapestry telling the history of Scotland, carefully positioned the 160th and final tapestry panel in place with chief stitcher Dorie Wilkie.
Those who would like the opportunity to be among the first to enjoy this compelling new visitor experience, telling the people’s story of Scotland, are now being urged to book ahead at greattapestryofscotland.com and travel responsibly. The Great Tapestry of Scotland is located in the centre of Galashiels, less than an hour by train from Edinburgh on the Borders Railway, and close to Galashiels Transport Interchange.
The brainchild of Alexander McCall Smith and designed by artist Andrew Crummy, the Great Tapestry of Scotland is one of the world’s largest community arts projects. Hand-stitched by a team of 1,000 stitchers from across Scotland led by Dorie Wilkie, over 300 miles of wool was used in creating the 160 linen panels (enough to lay the entire length of Scotland from the border with England to the tip of Shetland). The design of the panels is based on a narrative written by Scottish Borders-based award-winning writer and historian Alistair Moffat.
The visitor centre, designed by architects Page\Park and built by contractors Ogilvie Construction for Scottish Borders Council, is a critical town centre regeneration project which has received investment from the Scottish Government through its Regeneration
Capital Grant Fund, the Borders Railway Blueprint programme and the Council. It will help to regenerate the once thriving textile town of Galashiels and deliver an economic boost across the Scottish Borders and south of Scotland at a vital time following the devastating impact of Covid-19. There is evidence that it is already supporting the local economy and generating significant interest from future visitors from around the globe. It will also provide a range of social and educational benefits.
Speaking on the news of the centre’s opening, Alexander McCall Smith said: “The opening of this wonderful gallery marks the end of a long period of hard work by all of those who have created this astonishing tapestry and its permanent home. But it also marks the beginning of the public life of one of the great artistic creations of our time.”
Councillor Mark Rowley, Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Economic Regeneration and Finance, said: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland truly is a national asset and we are exceptionally proud to be able to open this phenomenal gallery to house it in the Scottish Borders. I have absolutely no doubt that this will draw in visitors from far and wide and will be an incredibly important development for this region.
“The addition of new world class museums and galleries like The Great Tapestry of Scotland, the Trimontium museum and the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum add to our impressive array of visitor attractions across the beautiful Scottish Borders.
“Alongside Scotland’s Year of Stories in 2022 and the Scott 250 celebrations to mark the anniversary of Sir Walter Scott, our region’s incredible visitor assets, including our landscape, will provide a springboard for economic recovery post Covid-19, attracting tens of thousands of visitors and supporting local businesses and the creation of new jobs.
“Having exhibitions and events of such national historical and cultural significance based in the south of Scotland is an extremely positive development and will deliver wider benefits to the local economy and place the area firmly on the map.”
Sandy Maxwell-Forbes, Centre Director for The Great Tapestry of Scotland added: “We are absolutely delighted to be opening the doors of our new purpose built visitor centre, with its stunning architectural ceiling sculptured to reflect the town’s Victorian roofscape, on Thursday 26 August. This presents an exciting opportunity to support the economy, create local jobs and enhance the cultural and educational opportunities in the south of Scotland. And it offers a fantastic day out for locals and visitors alike.
“We have already received significant interest from tour operators around the globe and we’re frequently contacted by some of the 350,000 people who have already seen the Great Tapestry of Scotland, who want to know when they can visit us again. They tell us that just viewing the Tapestry is such a powerfully enriching experience that they want to visit time and time again. We look forward to welcoming them alongside many others who will be seeing it for the first time in our new permanent home in Galashiels, just a short distance from Edinburgh and Newcastle.
“As we encourage people to book ahead and travel responsibility to enjoy our exciting new visitor experience, we are also recommending they visit some of the other amazing local experiences, events and businesses in the area. This wonderful new building really does provide a fantastic opportunity to highlight all that is great about Galashiels, the Scottish Borders and the south of Scotland.”
Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said: “It is fantastic that the new world-class Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor experience, which has been designed to support regeneration and wellbeing, is opening in Galashiels.
“The Scottish Government has been a strong supporter of The Great Tapestry of Scotland from its inception, and the creation of the new visitor centre is part of a wider economic and social regeneration across the south of Scotland.
“Just three miles from Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, it is incredibly fitting that this is where Scotland’s story will begin for many people visiting the area, and its opening is an inspiring moment as we look forward to the celebration of the Year of Stories in 2022.”
VisitScotland Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said: “The opening of The Great Tapestry of Scotland later this month is a fantastic addition to the region’s tourism offering. This unique and exciting new story-telling attraction will celebrate the history of our country and, as we look towards the Year of Stories 2022, will play a significant role in supporting Scotland’s economic recovery, helping to grow the region’s tourism offering, creating new jobs and attracting visitors to the south of Scotland.
“Tourism is a force for good – creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it. With the right support, tourism and events can lead the economic recovery and boost inward investment where it is needed most. We will continue to work with, and support, businesses to ensure we rebuild this vital part of Scotland’s economy.”
In addition to the funding to develop The Great Tapestry of Scotland in Galashiels, a further £1.18m of connected funding from the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund was secured for the town. This has enabled Scottish Borders Council and community groups such as Energise Galashiels and Galashiels Community Council to take forward a number of regeneration projects, such as the new Galashiels town trail which includes a sculpture dedicated to local sweet seller Robert Coltart who wrote the world-famous children’s lullaby Coulter’s Candy (Ali Bali Bee).
As well as permanently displaying the Great Tapestry of Scotland itself, the facility will be home to a workshop space – where visitors can meet the makers, a café showcasing Scotland’s larder, a shop and Gallery 1420, which will host a series of visiting exhibitions.
Gallery 1420’s opening exhibit is Iconic Scotland, which features written and photographic contributions from 40 iconic, inspiring and pioneering individuals including rugby legend Doddie Weir, Outlander stars Sam Heughan and Grant O’Rourke, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, human rights champion and academic Sir Geoff Palmer, actress Joanna Lumley,
the first British and Scottish champion in WWE history Drew McIntyre and Sir Walter Scott. In 2021/22, the attraction is also partnering in Abbotsford’s Scott 250 celebrations.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland is operated by the charity Live Borders, which manages many of the cultural and leisure facilities in the Scottish Borders, including the five-star Jim Clark Motorsport Museum and the Heart of Hawick entertainment venue.
To help deliver a safe visitor experience, those planning on visiting are advised to book ahead through the website, where full opening times can be found along with details of Covid-19 measures in place. If spaces are still available on the day, tickets can also be purchased at the door.
To book tickets, or for more information visit greattapestryofscotland.com or follow @GreatTapestrySc on Facebook or Twitter, and @GreatTapestryScotland on Instagram.
For more media information or free to use images contact Kirsty Innes, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel +44(0)7790 910 646.
Notes to Editors
· 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. And with so many panels telling the stories other great visitor attractions in the south of Scotland, it is also perfectly suited to connect these sites in one itinerary. Our recommended itinerary also takes in Thirlestane Castle, Abbotsford House, Rosslyn Chapel and the colourful Dawyck Botanical Gardens.
“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.”
· 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:
“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 Great Tapestry of Scotland has also already resulted in the opening of businesses in the Scottish Borders, including Susie Finlayson Embroidery in Hawick. Susie was not an embroider and did not intend to stitch the Tapestry when she got involved in the creation of the original Tapestry, but she quickly realised thanks to the Tapestry, that it was something she really enjoyed, and was very good at. So she decided to set up her own business delivering workshops across the country, and has since been leading a group of stitchers to create five welcome panels for the centre. Speaking of her involvement Susie said: “I learned so much about embroidery and myself working on The Great Tapestry of Scotland. It really is a national treasure and is going to be so good for the Borders’ economy, particularly shining a spotlight on the Borders being at the heart of the luxury textile industry.”
Great Tapestry of Scotland
• One of the world’s longest tapestries, hand stitched by a team of 1,000 stitchers led by Dorie Wilkie, The Great Tapestry of Scotland tells the visual story of Scotland’s history, heritage and culture from its formation to present day.
• It was the vision of one of the world’s most prolific and best loved authors Alexander McCall-Smith.
• It was designed by artist Andrew Crummy and teams of stitchers around Scotland from a narrative written by the award-winning writer and historian Alistair Moffat.
• One of the biggest community arts projects ever to take place in Scotland, it was hand stitched by over 1000 people in communities across Scotland and transported by land, sea and air to come together.
• It is a unique project to stitch the entire story of Scotland from pre-history to modern times.
• Through its wonderful artistry and visual storytelling, it makes Scotland’s history, heritage and culture accessible to all.
• The project took over two years to complete and the finished tapestry toured Scotland in 2013 and 2014.
• Galashiels was then selected as the permanent home for the visitor attraction and the new build has been made possible thanks to support from the Scottish Government, Scottish Borders Council and Live Borders.
• The new Great Tapestry of Scotland building, constructed by Scottish contractor Ogilvie Construction, has been designed by one of Scotland’s leading architectural practices, Page\Park. The contractors have repurposed the adjacent former Post Office, a B-listed building with exterior carvings by the once world-renowned 19th century sculptor George Paterson Sutherland, who hailed from the town and later emigrated to Toronto. There will also be retail, café, educational and touring exhibition space, as well as an ongoing events and exhibitions programme.
• The new attraction will be managed by Live Borders, a charity employing over 250+ people across the cultural, sports and leisure sectors, and welcoming well over a million people to its sites per year. They operate many of the cultural and heritage highlights in the Scottish Borders, such as Jim Clark Motorsport Museum, Heart of Hawick, Harestanes Countryside Visitor Centre, Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre and Jedburgh Castle and Jail.
• The Great Tapestry of Scotland and the regeneration programme in Galashiels is just one of many interventions and investments in the Scottish Borders supported and funded by Scottish Borders Council. Through the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal the area has unprecedented opportunities to drive inclusive growth through a wide variety of projects and programmes.
• South of Scotland Enterprise in conjunction with Scottish Borders Council and the four other Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal partner local authorities have submitted an ambitious bid for the Borderlands area to become the 2025 UK City of Culture.
The bid is aligned to the theme of Just Transition to Net Zero, using culture to create new stories for the exciting journey ahead. By exploring the region’s heritage, culture and creativity, the bid will aim to create opportunities for future development and ultimately bring investment into the region.
• The regeneration of Galashiels has the support of the Scottish Government through the Borders Railway Blueprint programme, as well as community groups such as Energise Galashiels Trust and Galashiels Community Council.
• ‘Borders Railway Maximising the Impact: A Blueprint for the Future’ is a strategy to maximise the potential of the railway. It was launched in November 2014 and aims to capitalise on the transformational impact of the rail line in creating new places to ‘live, work, visit, learn, play and grow’. It supports the Scottish Government’s strategy of ensuring transport connections are strengthened and made more reliable to maximise opportunities for employment, business, tourism and leisure. The partners in creating and delivering the blueprint are: Scottish Enterprise, Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, Scottish Government, Scottish Borders Council, Midlothian Council, the City of Edinburgh Council, ScotRail and Network Rail.