Refurbished Kelvingrove "Pure Deid Brilliant"
Nearly 55,000 people visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in the first three days after re-opening on Tuesday, following its £28 million refurbishment. Over the weekend and with a local holiday in Glasgow next Monday, it is expected that over 100,000 people will pass through its doors in the first week. By comparison, the Museum (the most popular outside of London) normally attracts in the region of 120,000 visitors in the month of July and just over a million in a year. It now boasts a third more floor space, a new restaurant, as well as shops and state-of-the-art conference facilities. With so much more to see and presented in a more modern environment, there is no doubt that many of those who called in during the first week will be back again and again - that includes the editor of this newsletter, who was most impressed. Admittedly, the large number of people milling around creates a "buzz" that was missing before, but the whole environment has an excitement and interest - and a lot of fun too. The Battle of Britain Spitfire hanging from the roof of one of the halls seems to be sweeping down over the crowds below - while the multitude of heads floating in another hall grin, scowl and grimace with gay abandon. Oh, and then there's the six additional public galleries, a 35% increase in public space and a 100% increase in the number of objects on display. And if you get footsore going round all that, there is a new restaurant which looks out over the lofty spires of Glasgow University. Many of those who have been fortunate to call in this week will have no doubt used that well-worn Glaswegian term of approval "Pure Deid Brilliant".
New Park for Renfrew
There was a blaze of publicity a year ago about Clyde View Park on the banks of the river at Renfrew, along from the massive Braehead retail park. It was the first new park to be built in the West of Scotland for many years and featured a fountain, play areas, artwork, a waterway to encourage natural wildlife, flora and fauna, including an otter's holt and access to a walkway running from the retail complex to the Renfrew Ferry. But because of the ongoing construction work at the adjacent Xscape entertainment and leisure complex and the housing developments overlooking it, access to the seven acre park was closed to the public. Now it has opened its gates and it is indeed an excellent asset for the area. The artwork includes bronze sculptures illustrating aspects of the history of the area - ranging from Somerled, Lord of the Isles who landed at Renfrew in 1164, through Airship R34 built by Beardmores at nearby Inchinnan in 1919 to 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force which flew from a local airfield before participating in the Battle of Britain in 1940.
Flower of Scotland Wins Poll
More than 10,000 people at home and abroad responded to the online poll to gauge support for a selection of songs to be Scotland's national anthem, organised by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The result was a rafter raising victory for "Flower of Scotland" which took 41% of the votes cast. "Scotland the Brave" came second with 29%, while Highland Cathedral, (First Minister Jack McConnell's favourite), won just 16% of the vote. "A Man's a Man for a' That" and "Scots' Wha Hae!" straggled in at the foot of the scale. The winner was announced at the Last Night of the RSNO Proms at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall last weekend. The recent debate had been prompted by different sports playing different songs at events in which Scotland has been participating. "Flower of Scotland" is regularly sung at football and rugby grounds, while athletes traditionally celebrate medals (at the Commonwealth Games, for example) with "Scotland the Brave". Despite the result of the poll, it is quite likely that the sports bodies involved will continue to make their own independent (and varying) decisions!
Where Can We See a Real Live Haggis?
Staff at tourist information offices across Scotland are gearing up to the peak of the visitor season and the thousands of questions that are thrown at them. The office in central Edinburgh dealt with 560,000 tourists last year and coped with 2,000 a day during the peak months. Most of the questions are routine - but even the experienced staff get floored from time to time. Some visitors have no idea of the size of the country - or Europe for that matter. So they ask if they can organise a day trip to Orkney - or Disneyland Paris. Some are unsure whether the castle overlooking Princes Street is Edinburgh or Stirling. Others wonder if they can book accommodation in Edinburgh's castle - and if the open top tour bus goes to Inverness. Then there are those who wonder if money or postage stamps obtained in England are valid in Scotland. But the marketing of Scottish culture has obviously done its job when visitors ask "Where can we see a real live haggis?"
Half of Scotland's Mothers Over 30 When They Give Birth
Figures released this week show that, for the first time, the number of babies born to women over 30 nearly matches the number in their teens and twenties. This is a huge demographic change - 30 years ago, 80% of mothers were under 30. While the average age for women having children in Scotland is getting lower, due to the very high teenage pregnancy rate (compared with the rest of Europe) more and more women are waiting for longer before having their first child, so that they can concentrate on establishing a career first.
Scots Remain Positive About European Union
Regular readers of this newsletter will have seen on a number of occasions the sometimes onerous or bizarre regulations voted through by the European Parliament or Commissioners and imposed on member countries. Scotland had to fight the bureaucrats to allow kilts to be described as "men's wear" and the ferry service to the Western Isles is having to be put out to tender, as a result of European regulations. European fishery policies also come in for a lot of criticism. Over the years, however, opinion polls have suggested that the Scotland is the most positive part of the United Kingdom about European Union membership. A recent poll reinforces that situation, showing that 80% of Scots agree that being part of the EU increases business opportunities. And of all the areas in the UK surveyed, Scotland is the most positive about the EU's effect on improving working conditions.
New Arena Helps Commonwealth Games Bid
Full planning permission was granted this week for the planned development of a 12,500-seat arena, costing £62 million, to be built beside the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow. It has been designed by the world famous architects Foster and Partners, who were also responsible for the neighbouring Clyde Auditorium, locally known as the Armadillo because of its shape. The new facility is a further boost for Glasgow's bid to host the Commonwealth games in 2012. The games bid proposes that the entire SECC site on the River Clyde would be used for events including boxing, netball and weightlifting. The new arena would stage the gymnastics and netball finals. The main venue in 2012 would be the new National Indoor Sports Arena in Dalmarnock and the adjacent National Velodrome, both of which have secured Scottish Executive funding. They will be built regardless of whether or not Glasgow wins the games and are scheduled to open in 2010. A decision on which country will host the 2012 Games will not be made until November 2007.
The illustration shows an architect's impression of the new arena, standing beside the "Armadillo".
Edinburgh Says Thanks a Million
For the first time since the mid-1990s, Edinburgh welcomed over a million foreign tourists last year. New figures compiled by the Office of National Statistics have revealed 1,134,000 foreign tourists visited the city in 2005 - a rise of 194,000 since 2004. Edinburgh remains the most popular tourist destination in the UK outside London. Understandably, the national tourism agency VisitScotland was delighted. The organisation has come under pressure from business leaders in the Capital, who believe that not enough is being done to promote tourism there and have been campaigning for Edinburgh to have its own independent tourist organisation. Last year, there was a £1 million marketing campaign, the biggest the city has ever seen, to attract visitors from Western Europe on short city breaks. Industry experts say foreign tourists are worth more to the economy than their domestic counterparts, since they stay longer and spend more money.
Scotland Enjoys Sunshine and Record Temperatures
On Monday of this week, temperatures in Aberdeen reached an all-time record 29.8C (85.6F), surpassing the previous one of 29.6C. As the warm weather continued, forecasters were predicting even more records might be broken. However, although Prestwick in Ayrshire reached over 31.3C (88.3F) the overall Scottish record temperature for July was not broken. Even so, there was plenty of sunshine and Scots, who are not used to such high temperatures began to wilt a bit. Those of you who regularly have daily maxima of over 100F, please don't laugh.... The highest recorded temperature in Scotland was 32.9C (89.6F) at Greycrook (Scottish Borders) on 9 August, 2003. South of the border, the all-time record British temperature for the month was smashed when the mercury hit 36.5C (97.7F) at Wisley in Surrey.
Historic Fountain on Stream Again
The King's Fountain in the courtyard of Linlithgow Palace is believed to be the oldest fountain in Britain. It was commissioned by King James V in 1537 and the ornate design has been impressing visitors ever since. The elegantly carved five-metre-high stone fountain is in the shape of a crown and was created by King James V for his new French wife. But the ravages of time (and a few passing armies, including wine flowing through it to greet Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745) took their toll. so Historic Scotland undertook a lengthy restoration of the fountain and it was re-installed last year. Much of the original stonework was retained and new high-quality stone carvings were made to replace those which were no longer viable. The result is a bit of a patchwork of old and new at the moment, but in time the new stone will mellow. Historic Scotland are so confident about the quality of the repairs, however, that they are planning to have water flowing regularly from the fountain for the first time in 100 years. It will be switched on every Sunday until the end of August.
Art Deco Cafe Saved
Nardini's cafe in Largs was a favourite port of call for generations of holidaymakers in the Ayrshire coastal town. In its heyday, it sold over 1,000 gallons of icecream in a summer weekend and employed 60 staff. But the number of people spending time in Scottish resorts on the "Costa Clyde" declined as package holidays to the sunshine of Costa del Sol in Spain and other continental destinations, meant that even Nardini's, with its famous Italian ice cream, struggled to survive. The 1930s cafe also suffered from a dispute amongst the members of the family and was closed in October 2004. A rescue plan was dependent on obtaining planning permission which involved the building of a retirement home on land next door to the cafe. After a long negotiation with the local planning authorities, the development has been approved and the refurbishment work can begin. It is hoped to re-open Nardini's in February next year.
Record Attendance at Royal Highland Show
The attendance at the four days of the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston near Edinburgh last week was a new record of 161,409, around 6,000 more than the previous year. The decent weather was no doubt a contributory factor, but there is also a growing interest in the countryside by those living in towns and cities. 70% of those turning up at the biggest annual agricultural event in Scotland are reckoned to be urban dwellers. But there is still a cloud hanging over the venue, with the neighbouring Edinburgh Airport wanting to swallow it up as part of its expansion plans. Should the show organisers lose that battle, they are looking at the feasibility of other sites in the Edinburgh area - the most favoured option is on the other side of the A8 road. This site would have a capacity to cope with crowds of 70,000 a day, 50% more than the present record levels.
Orkney Launches New Music Event
A new two-day music event was launched on Friday in Orkney. The Scottish singing duo The Proclaimers and the Saw Doctors opened the new MagFest and on Saturday the headline act will be Embrace - who recorded England's official World Cup song, but we won't hold that against them. Banffshire singer Sandi Thom, who was signed by a major label thanks to a huge following on the internet, will also be on stage. Fans are said to be travelling to the event from all over Scotland, and as far afield as the US and the Netherlands. MagFest aims to be an extension of the long-established St Magnus Festival on Orkney, with high quality visiting acts sharing a stage with creative and talented Orcadians.
Scotland's Biggest Pop Music Festival
69,000 people will be turning up at Balado near Kinross this weekend to see 170 acts including Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Who, Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes, Paul Weller and Richard Ashcroft. There are eleven different stages at the two-day T in the Park event, which is now in its 13th year.