New location draws more visitors to Park Gallery

An exhibition featuring illustrations from books by Julia Donaldson proved popular
An exhibition featuring illustrations from books by Julia Donaldson proved popular

An art gallery has doubled the number of people through its doors since a controversial relocation.

The Park Gallery was moved from a stable block in Callendar Park to a space inside historic Callendar House in June 2010.

The decision sparked furious debates with many people up in arms over the plans.

Labour backed the proposal to give the gallery a new space in Callendar House but the SNP claimed it could lose its identity, arguing the move was purely a money-saving exercise.

Local artists and art-lovers started petitions and protests to save the gallery but they ultimately lost the battle.

However, the move seems to have been a positive one and, in 2010, the Park Gallery welcomed 15,315 visitors – up from 6728 the previous year .

The number of visitors at Falkirk tourists attractions fell in general, with only the art space and Falkirk Tourist Information Centre receiving more than in 2009.

A tourism progress report was given to members of the leisure, tourism and community committee on Tuesday.

Commenting on the findings, Councillor John McLuckie said: “I am happy with the figures at the Park Gallery. Before only one in 10 visitors to Callendar House went on to visit the gallery, but, now it is in the house, over half are seeing the great exhibitions on offer.”

The figures take into account only six months of the relocation and next year’s results – helped by popular exhibitions by local artists – are expected to be even higher.

When it was suggested at the meeting that the SNP should apologise for trying to block the move, Councillor Tom Coleman said: “There were concerns over the moving of the gallery and we rightfully took them up.

“I will never apologise for looking at the concerns of the public.”

Since moving to the attraction the gallery has welcomed exhibitions from Grangemouth artist Alan Davie and illustrations from children’s author Julia Donaldson’s books.

The latter proved to be exceptionally popular with 7000 people going through the doors during the seven-week display which ran from March.

Convenor of the committee, Adrian Mahoney, added that the overall tourism figures were disappointing but said steps were being taken to boost visitor numbers.

“With the extremely poor weather at the start and end of 2010– plus an ash cloud disrupting foreign travel – it is not surprising tourism figures are down. The findings are similar all over the country.

“We have launched a new Visit Falkirk leaflet and new pedestrian road signs which should encourage people to travel around in the Falkirk area and not just visit The Falkirk Wheel.

“Also with Stirling Castle’s palace reopening we should hopefully see more visitors heading to the Forth Valley area in general.”