Ambitious plans have been unveiled to convert a former bank building in Newton Stewart into an arts centre.
The Trad Music Trust, a Scottish registered charity which organises and runs the annual Newton Stewart & Minnigaff Traditional Music & Dance Festival, is spearheading the proposal.
The project, entitled The Vault Arts Centre, would see the former Royal Bank of Scotland building on Victoria Street converted into a new arts centre offering music, dance, language, arts and crafts tuition, live performances and exhibitions.
The trust says the project has received strong backing and support from the local community, with 449 people responding to a recent community survey and more than 400 signatures, to date, added to a petition supporting the development.
Project co-ordinator and festival director Nathon Jones said: “Trad Music Trust have worked very hard over the past six months to develop a project that responds to what the local community have said they want, and which will also help the charity to develop and grow.
“The results of the survey were unanimous – 84 per cent of those surveyed felt that there were not enough music, arts and cultural events, activities or opportunities for people in Newton Stewart & Minnigaff.
“Sixty-eight per cent want to see existing vacant, abandoned or derelict buildings utilised and a huge 94 per cent said they’d prefer any new facility to be within Newton Stewart or Minnigaff.
“We are already running pre-registration for music tuition, with nine people already signed up for guitar. There’ll also be regular fiddle, flute, singing, whistle, bouzouki and banjo lessons available with more to be added to the programme as we develop.”
Those familiar with Newton Stewart & Minnigaff Traditional Music & Dance Festival, which looks forward to its sixth annual event this year, will know just how much the organisation has done in recent years to bring traditional music, and live music in general, back to region.
The festival continues to attract world famous stars to Newton Stewart & Minnigaff, and this year is no exception with the fabulous Dougie MacLean OBE performing at the closing night concert in Newton Stewart Cinema.
Nathon continued: “We want to build on the success of the annual music festival which, last year, had an economic impact of £130,320 in the region.
“We’re expecting over 2000 visitors this year and we’ve already received bookings from Holland, Germany, France and the USA.
“The Vault Arts Centre will not only provide us with the office space and facilities we need to run the annual festival, but it ties in superbly with the festival’s programme of events as well as giving us another venue option.
“It will also benefit other community groups, organisations, businesses and individuals as the venue and its facilities will be available to hire for events, activities, conferences, meetings, private parties and special occasions.”
Fundraising is already well under way with a JustGiving campaign launched last week online at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/thevaultartscentre.
There are also two fundraising concerts scheduled for this month – this Saturday (February 9) at the Cree Inn, Minnigaff, from 7.30pm. There will be music from past festivals and live entertainment from the festival Board of Trustees, friends and family, plus a charity raffle.
They will also be rocking the night away with Bad Reputation and The Dynamite Kings at the Belted Galloway, Newton Stewart, on Saturday, February 23, from 8pm.
Entry is by a donation of your choosing and all monies will go towards the new arts centre project.