IN WILTSHIRE there are people of vision who are determined to create a new centre of culture. It is to be Swindon! Yes, the town that gave us the most complicated roundabout ever - so large it can be seen from space, apparently - is about to enter a new and glorious age.

At present Swindon’s main claim to fame is as the birthplace of Diana Dors, with a vulgar public statue of the lady to prove it. It also has a rather good collection of modern British art and very little space to show it.

This includes works by Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Henry Moore, LS Lowry and Maggi Hambling, as well an impressive ceramics collection. Swindon Museum & Art Gallery in the Old Town only has the space to show a fifth of the collection at a time.

So a new gallery has been proposed, to become the centrepiece of a ‘cultural quarter’ in the town centre, surrounded by restaurants and bars, theatre and concert hall. The idea that an art gallery can galvanise a town by attracting other shiny new businesses should be familiar with readers of this column. I pointed to the Turner Contemporary in Margate as a success story; so do supporters of the Swindon plan.

Such was the publicity generated last week by this story, I imagined it was a done deal with the £17 million needed to build the new gallery secured, but it seems not. An initial proposal to the Heritage Lottery Fund has been turned down, and a second bid is planned for the New Year, with the council promising £5 million. A visionary artistic director is being sought to spearhead the project, and I am anxiously awaiting the call.

However, before we get too excited about Swindon’s future prospects, we should consider what it means for Salisbury. I’m thinking about the £27 million spent at Stonehenge, surely a good thing for south Wiltshire? These days, the concern is that tour operators who bring revenue into the city are allowing even less time here, because the Stonehenge visit takes so much longer.

The £20 million invested about five years ago in Salisbury for new buildings at Bourne Hill hasn’t given much of a boost to tourism, sadly.

It’s an interesting coincidence that as Carsten Höller’s abysmal funfair-inspired show at the Hayward Gallery closes, another art/funfair opens. This one’s at Weston-super-Mare (even uglier than Swindon) and is a tongue-in-cheek venture by the artist Banksy. Called ‘Dismaland,’ it’s centrepiece is a burnt-out fairyland castle. Billed as ‘The UK’s most disappointing new tourist attraction,’ it just has to be worth a visit.

Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here