Alexander McCall Smith, Andrew Crummy, Alistair Moffat and Jan Rutherford travelled down to Galashiels in the Scottish Borders yesterday for the great unveiling of the new, purpose built centre which now houses The Great Tapestry of Scotland. It was a joyous day for all involved in this eleven year project.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland Centre will open its doors to the public on 26 August 2021.
The latest addition to Scotland’s national cultural scene was unveiled by Alexander McCall Smith, whose vision it was to create a tapestry telling the history of Scotland. He carefully positioned the 160th and final tapestry panel in place with chief stitcher Dorie Wilkie.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland is now 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. And the project was led for the first eleven years and toured throughout the UK by our own Jan Rutherford.
The visitor centre, designed by architects Page\Park, 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.
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.”
The new build has been made possible thanks to support from the Scottish Government, Scottish Borders Council and Live Borders.
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.
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.
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.”
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.