A free family gala day will be held on the afternoon of Friday 9 September to celebrate the official opening of the five-star purpose-built Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in Galashiels, the heartland of the Scottish Borders.
Taking place in the visitor centre and the square directly outside it, the Great Tapestry Gala Day will feature entertainment for all ages including: live music, carnival style street entertainment, puppet shows and workshops, bubbleology, craft workshops, textile demonstrations, a solar powered cinema in a converted caravan (through Moving Images) and much more. Entry to the Tapestry’s visitor centre will be free for everyone from 12pm to 5pm and, exclusive to the event, some of the biggest stars from Scotland’s history, as featured on the Tapestry itself, will be brought back to life to tell their stories on the day.
Revellers will also be given the opportunity to add a stitch to a new welcome panel for the Galashiels Transport Interchange, which has been commissioned by the Borders Railway Community Partnership and designed by the Tapestry artist Andrew Crummy, to tell some of the great Borders’ stories.
Support for and from locals
Speaking about the event Ewan Jackson, CEO of the visitor centre’s operators Live Borders said: “Almost a year since its soft launch, it is fantastic to hear how The Great Tapestry of Scotland is already supporting the local business economy and wellbeing of all those who visit.
“From Energise Galashiels Trust’s ‘Tapestry Way’ initiatives and the Borders Railway Community Partnership’s development of a welcome panel for Galashiels’ Transport Interchange to the warmth of welcome our visitors receive, community support is all fundamental to this success – encouraging repeat visits and onward recommendations for people to visit the area. Our Great Tapestry Gala, funded by Scottish Borders Council, is designed to recognise and celebrate this vital support.
“It’s important to us, particularly in these tough times, that the whole community has an opportunity to enjoy the celebrations, so the entertainment and entry to the visitor centre will be free for everyone from 12pm to 5pm on Friday 9 September.”
Centre Director Sandy Maxwell Forbes added: “We are delighted now to be able to officially celebrate the opening of our five-star visitor attraction, where Scotland’s story begins, and to properly thank the local community and all our supporters with our free Great Tapestry Gala.
“We’ve been building up to this moment since our soft launch in 2021. Our team has navigated through a global pandemic, a nation-wide hospitality recruitment shortage and the ongoing cost of living crisis to create one of the nation’s top-rated visitor experiences right here in Galashiels, the Heartland of the Scottish Borders.
“We are all the more resilient for all we’ve been through and thrilled now to begin ramping things up, starting with The Great Tapestry Gala. We hope it will create a fantastic carnival atmosphere for our new hometown.”
Mike Gray, chair of Energise Galashiels Trust, said: “It’s been brilliant to see the hugely positive impact that the Great Tapestry of Scotland and our associated regeneration initiatives, which are funded by South of Scotland Enterprise and Scottish Borders Council, are delivering in our town centre. There really is a renewed buzz about the town with many businesses reporting increased footfall from those who have come to see our town’s new five-star visitor attraction.
“We look forward to celebrating and continuing to build on this momentum at The Great Tapestry Gala Day. We encourage everyone to come out and support this event and to find the time to visit the Great Tapestry of Scotland itself, it lays out our history in a quite unique form.”
Acclaimed community arts project
The Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre opened to great acclaim with glowing reviews from media and visitors in 2021. Outlander star Sam Heughan, who contributed a photo, a quote, a bottle of the Sassenach Whisky and a signed copy of his Clanlands book for display in the centre, even tweeted: “Please check out the wonderful Great Tapestry of Scotland – honoured to feature alongside so many great Scottish personalities that have influenced Scotland. It’s a country and culture I’m proud of and continue to promote in everything I do.”
The centre, located close to Galashiels Transport Interchange, was purpose built to house The Great Tapestry of Scotland, one of the world’s largest community arts projects. Hand-stitched by a team of 1,000 stitchers from across Scotland, The Tapestry charts 420 million years of Scotland’s history, heritage, innovations and culture through 160 compelling panels. It was the brainchild of globally-renowned author Alexander McCall Smith and designed by artist Andrew Crummy based on a narrative written by Scottish Borders-based award-winning writer and historian Alistair Moffat.
As well as permanently displaying The Tapestry itself, the new visitor attraction is home to a workshop space – where visitors can meet the makers, a café showcasing local food and drink, a shop and Gallery 1420, which hosts a series of visiting exhibitions. The acclaimed Magic of Masks and Puppets exhibit will be displayed in Gallery 1420 from 1 September to 31 December 2022. The centre is open to the public 7 days a week from 9.30am to 5pm and The Stitchers Cafe is open 9.30am to 4pm. Prices to view the Great Tapestry of Scotland and visiting exhibits vary , but entry will be free from 12pm to 5pm on 9 September.