A new campaign is due to be launched next month that could see Swindon becoming one of the cultural hot spots of Great Britain.
This comes after it was revealed in a national newspaper that Robert Hiscox, founder of Hiscox insurance and a noted art collector, who has a home nearby, is one of the people spearheading the campaign.
At its centre will be a £17.5 million museum and gallery as Swindon is home to what experts rate as one of the most important collections of 20th century British art outside the Tate.
Established in the 1940s by a local businessman, it includes works by Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Henry Moore, LS Lowry and Maggi Hambling. There is also a notable ceramics collection amassed over half a century.
It is currently housed in a building in Swindon’s Old Town, but one so small that only a fifth of the collection is on show.
The proposed new gallery will be the centrepiece of a “cultural quarter” in the town centre, surrounded by restaurants and bars, a theatre and a concert venue.
In the article published in The Telegraph, Mr Hiscox said: “Swindon is not a tourist destination. It has an image similar to that of Slough or Croydon. But it has an art collection which everyone admires, a good ceramics collection, and a great science and engineering heritage. We want to combine all of those in the new museum and gallery.
“If, by the time I die, Swindon has become a destination and the word makes people think of culture instead of ugliness, I will be a happy man.”
An initial bid for £12.5 million to the Heritage Lottery Fund was turned down, but a second bid is planned for the New Year. The council has pledged a further £5 million. A visionary artistic director is now being sought to spearhead the project.
The new vision for the town is due to be unveiled at the start of September.
©Calyx Pictures. Images by calyxpix.com
Top: Robert Hiscox and Sarah Rose Troughton CStJ – Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire at the Turner viewing at the Art Gallery and Museum in Swindon.
Below: Helen Miah, Swindon Council’s commisioner for leisure, libraries and culture discussing the finer points of one of the Turner pictures on display with Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Rose Troughton CStJ