A NEW, cutting-edge exhibition space, music centre, digital education venue, television studio and recording suite serving the West of Scotland and beyond, is to open its doors to the public next month (Feb).
The Tower is a new digital arts centre created by VisitHelensburgh, a not-for profit marketing organisation set up to promote the Clydeside town and attract both investment and tourists to the area.
The organisation represents 85 members of the local business community and boasts partnerships with Helensburgh Chamber of Commerce, Argyll & Bute Council and VisitScotland.
VisitHelensburgh is to take over ownership of the former Church of Scotland’s St Columba complex in the heart of the town, having recently agreed the purchase of the property and secured core funding to turn into a digital arts and education centre for Argyll.
Plans have already been drawn up to convert part of the venue into a contemporary space which will be used to stage long-term exhibitions with links to Helensburgh, Argyll and the West of Scotland in particular.
The main section of the former Victorian church will be converted into a music centre run by ArtsQwest, a charity which already provides music tuition and innovative arts projects for all ages throughout schools and communities in the West of Scotland.
ArtsQwest currently offers tuition in a range of musical instruments to hundreds of children at the primary five stage and beyond. It also manages the Argyll & Bute Schools Concert Band, in partnership with Argyll & Bute Council, providing the cream of the area’s woodwind, brass and percussion players the opportunity to play a stimulating and challenging repertoire.
John Grant, director of ArtsQwest, said: “To have a venue dedicated to teaching music and musical excellence right beside a digital hub will be extraordinary and will not only be great for Helensburgh but for the whole of Argyll & Bute and beyond too.”
In addition to the arts and music facilities the new complex plans to house the first 4K technology lab in the West of Scotland, incorporating training and educational facilities for a new generation of digital media students.
The Digital lab will have specially created classrooms and training facilities which include a television studio and editing facilities capable of streaming events live around the world.
Work is already underway to install equipment in the new centre which will provide free 24/7 wi-fi access for anyone using the academy and the surrounding town centre.
URTV, the Helensburgh-based video presentation and management software company behind the launch of community broadband television channels such as HelensburghTV, InverclydeTV and AnnandaleTV, will also be creating new studios within the complex.
URTV, which already has a successful partnership with the West College Scotland – one of the biggest in the country, will help operate the sound and video recording facilities at the centre in addition to providing a variety of digital media and technology training events for all ages and abilities.
Chris Terris, general manager of VisitHelensburgh, said: “We are delighted to have agreed the purchase of the St Columba buildings as this will enable us to create the Helensburgh Arts and Digital Academy to both promote the area and improve educational facilities for all.
“St Columba is ideally located in the middle of the town. We are just 23 miles from Glasgow and have direct links to Edinburgh and other parts of the country making us the perfect location for an arts, music and digital education centre which will attract visitors from all over.
“While ArtsQWest is an excellent partner to help us achieve our aims of establishing an exemplar music centre for Argyll in Helensburgh URTV can help create a digital hub for young people of the region.
“URTV is already heavily involved in community projects across Scotland having formed partnerships with a number of schools, colleges and universities. Several of URTV’s alumni have gone on to positions within mainstream television and corporate communications as a result of their experiences at a hyperlocal level. The town is justifiably proud of our link with television pioneer John Logie Baird and we want to ensure we build on that inspirational connection”.
VisitHelensburgh operates the town’s main tourism information centre and has been instrumental in establishing a co-ordinated social media marketing campaign, including the launch and distribution of a new quarterly digital and printed magazine to promote the area, its attractions and businesses to as wide an audience as possible.
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Contact: Chris Terris