LAST week’s suggestion that Salisbury’s future could be secure and bright if only we had a new and purpose-built art gallery provoked some interesting reactions.

One sceptical response was that art gallery visitors aren’t big spenders and that the rest of the economy might scarcely benefit. Another was that people bussed in to see the cathedral are quickly bussed out again without seeing much else, so why would a gallery be any different?

Coincidentally the Guardian newspaper ran a travel story last week extolling the virtues of Margate. ‘There’s never been a better time to visit,’ it said, listing various attractions. Top was the Turner Contemporary, but also mentioned were the shopping, its restaurants, hotels and a number of other attractions including the beach.

‘Now the local council has seized on the artistic heritage of this town, which is becoming a… weekend-getaway destination, just 90 minutes from London… the old centre is now crammed with a fresh wave of organic cafes, independent galleries..,’ gushed the Guardian.

I went last October, and Margate is ok, but in all honesty has less to offer than Salisbury.

Of course our prime offering is the cathedral, and I have heard many strong feelings from business people that its visitors spend little in the rest of the town.

The recent Craft and Heritage Fayre in the Close, an event that was run by The Rotary Club for charitable benefit, suggests that this might be changing and there is a way to make progress.

From exhibitor feedback I’ve heard, it was in some measures quite a success.

Many visitors and exhibitors had come from far afield, and new people are exactly what we need.

The organisation was considered good and the overall quality sufficiently professional to make the exhibitors I spoke to eager to take part next year.

Around 2,500 visitors came, and better advertising will bring in more. But please change the name from Fayre to Festival or just plain Fair.

Stonehenge doesn’t work as a Salisbury attraction because it’s too easy to drop in en route to Bath to other points west. Add the cathedral and a new art gallery, though, and you do create a weekend destination, all year round.

The Margate gallery cost a challenging £17.5m, funded by local councils, the Development Agency, Arts Council and the EU.

But the new visitor centre at Stonehenge cost a whopping £27m. Hang on, some mistake surely?


Martin Urmson

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