An exciting plan to create a cultural hub in Swindon could soon take a significant step forward.
Next Wednesday (11 Dec) Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve that a site off Princes Street, which would include the soon to be demolished Wyvern Theatre car park, be used to house the town’s museum and art collections in a new purpose-built facility.
The site, which is next to the Wyvern Theatre, was chosen following an options appraisal by heritage specialists Barker Langham as it fits in with the Town Centre Masterplan and the Council’s Economic Strategy, which notes that a new Museum and Art Gallery would help to improve Swindon’s external image and act as a draw to businesses considering an investment in the Borough.
Owned by the Council, the identified location could also be used for a range of uses such as performance spaces, public realm or offices and housing.
The Cabinet will also be asked to commission further detailed feasibility work for the proposed museum and art gallery within the context of a ‘cultural quarter’ that would also include a new theatre in the same vicinity. The feasibility work would also be required to identify the most appropriate business model to generate on-going revenue and capital funding to support the facility into the future.
A new home for the Borough’s museum and art collections is an aspiration of Swindon Heritage Board, while a visit by HRH the Duchess of Cornwall to the town’s art gallery last year resulted in significant interest from local potential benefactors who are extremely supportive and keen to help the project. This group is being led by Robert Hiscox, Honorary President of Hiscox Insurance, who is himself a substantial art collector.
Swindon has one of the best collections of 20th Century art outside of London, but, due to the size of the current Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in Bath Road, only a limited amount of the artwork can be displayed at any one time.
A new art gallery and museum would meet a number of objectives set by an advisory group which has been overseeing the development and delivery of the work by Barker Langham.
These include maximising the regeneration and economic benefits for Swindon, enabling the current collections to grow and become world class, to generate cultural tourism and to ensure a positive and sustainable future for the collections.
If the Cabinet support the recommendations the Council will also apply for financial support for the project from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Cllr David Renard, Leader of Swindon Borough Council and chairman of Swindon Heritage Board, said: “I am really excited that our long-held ambition to find a new home for our superb art and museum collections is starting to take shape.
“If these plans are supported by Cabinet it will act as the catalyst for us to really move forward with this project to provide a real cultural legacy for the Borough.”
Cllr Garry Perkins, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Economy, Regeneration and Culture, said: “The site identified in the cabinet report ticks a number of boxes but the fact that it ties in with our Town Centre Masterplan is very important.
“We already have hundreds of millions of pounds being invested in the town centre through the major regeneration schemes that are currently underway and a cultural quarter in this location would link these developments together.”
Robert Hiscox added: “The Swindon Museum and Art Gallery has a fascinating collection of Modern British and Contemporary Art, but the collection deserves a better home and it is inspirational that the Council, the politicians and local people have united behind the vision of building a new one.
“A new museum and art gallery would bring a cultural vibration to the heart of Swindon and be a vital part of its regeneration and a great asset to the whole region”.