Tapestry Director appointed as visitor attraction’s opening date confirmed

Excitement is building for the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor attraction, with the landmark facility’s opening date confirmed and new Centre Director announced.

Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Committee will be advised at their Tuesday 19 November meeting that the exciting development – which will help kickstart the regeneration of Galashiels - will open to the public in spring 2021.

The project will be led by internationally experienced director, entrepreneur and expert marketer Sandy Maxwell-Forbes, as Centre Director for the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Sandy is part of the Live Borders team, operators of this major addition to the tourism sector in the Scottish Borders, working in partnership with Scottish Borders Council and the Tapestry Trustees. 

While the building works are expected to be completed in September 2020, the decision has been made to wait until spring 2021 in order to capitalise on the peak tourism season.

Councillors on the Executive Committee will also be advised that the £6.7million project – which is transforming a previously derelict town centre site – remains on budget.

Stirling-based contractor Ogilvie Construction is making good progress with the building, with installation of its steel structure nearing completion and colourful hoardings in place around the site which include Tapestry welcome panel ideas from local schoolchildren.

Construction of the roof and external walls is due to follow in the coming months.

The new building which will house the Tapestry has been designed by one of Scotland’s leading architectural practices, Page\Park, while the adjacent former Post Office will be re-purposed to bring the B-listed building back into use. There will also be retail, café, educational and touring exhibition space, as well as an ongoing events and exhibitions programme.

The visitor attraction is seen as a catalyst for the regeneration of Galashiels, which has a proud textile heritage, and the wider Scottish Borders, providing significant economic, social and educational benefits.

Experts predict that the centre - within walking distance of the Borders Railway - will attract over 50,000 visitors to Galashiels each year once opened, as well as create 16 jobs. Almost £900,000 of extra spending per year is predicted for the local economy, providing 12,000 extra visits to complementary attractions, supporting a further 17 jobs.

Scottish Borders Council’s Executive Member for Business and Economic Development, Councillor Mark Rowley said: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland will not only create a national destination visitor attraction and significant community facility in the Borders in 2021, it will also play a key role in the regeneration of Galashiels.

“With the Borders Railway on its doorstep, we also have the prospect of the Tapestry attracting thousands of visitors from Edinburgh to discover the wider Borders.

“The Council and Live Borders worked in partnership on the Jim Clark Motorsport Museum - which has already welcomed over 12,000 visitors since it opened this summer – and we will work together again to make sure the time between building completion and opening of the Tapestry is used to ensure the facility offers a first class experience for local people and visitors.”

Councillor Rowley added: “I am delighted that Sandy Maxwell-Forbes is in place as Tapestry Centre Director, a key and exciting role for the whole of the Borders.

“Sandy’s appointment comes at the same time as the visitor centre is taking shape in Galashiels town centre, with the building becoming a reality as it grows from the ground.

“Sandy is vastly experienced and I look forward to seeing her work alongside the wide range of tourism businesses, the textile industry, manufacturers and organisations right across the Scottish Borders who are all aiming to make a real difference to the town and the region.”

Sandy has a successful background in global technology, oil and gas, business tourism and SME organisations. She has managed diverse teams, has experience in developing and maintaining trusted relationships with shareholders, business partners and internal and external stakeholders, as well as delivering challenging financial and commercial targets.

After a highly successful career in global corporations, Sandy returned to Scotland in 2004 and worked at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on delivering the £85million expansion project.

Ms Maxwell-Forbes said: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a phenomenal achievement and this new visitor experience will celebrate the creative talents of the army of 1,000 stitchers, the story of Scotland and its people; it is a triumph of creativity, skill, community and passion.

“I’m incredibly positive about the exciting task ahead of me. This is not only an amazing opportunity for me, but for Live Borders, all project partners, for Galashiels and the Scottish Borders.

“I see my role as critical to ensuring we get this 100 per cent correct: I will be reaching out to community groups, local businesses, regional organisations, as well as the stitchers, to maximise opportunities for partnership and collaboration.”

Created by renowned writer Alexander McCall Smith, historian Alistair Moffat and artist Andrew Crummy, the Great Tapestry of Scotland tells the country’s story through 160 panels, making one of the largest tapestries in the world.

Mr Moffat, of the Tapestry Trustees, added: “The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a national treasure and it is wonderful that it will be seen so wonderfully well in its new centre in the Borders.

“When visitors come north, they will be persuaded to stop rather than keep going to Edinburgh and the Highlands because the whole history of the country they have come to visit will be on show.

“On a local level, the new centre is a great fillip to the regeneration of central Galashiels.

“Like all of the other Border towns, retail has largely departed and is unlikely to come back except in niche offerings. Cultural attractions will bring people back to the streets and squares of our towns, and Galashiels will once more be an attractive, buzzy place to be.”

The Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor attraction is central to plans to regenerate Galashiels, alongside a number of other projects which will provide a host of benefits for the town and the Scottish Borders.

Mike Gray, Chair of community group Energise Galashiels Trust, said: “This is great news for Galashiels and we are looking forward to working with Sandy Maxwell-Forbes and contributing as much as we can towards making the Great Tapestry of Scotland an outstanding success.

“We are developing and will be delivering a range of initiatives for Tomorrow’s Gala, with regeneration funding support from Scottish Borders Council and the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, all focussed on being as prepared as Galashiels can be for the opening of the Tapestry facility.”