'Gaunt' Reality Check Matches £7 million Dream for The Pans
Battle Visitor Centre Proclaimed a Winner - that's Official; now plans in hand to Open September 21st 2011
When the Battle Heritage Trustees along with Prestonpans Community Council and the Prestoungrange Arts Festival floated the notion last year that the Battle of Prestonpans should be better conserved, interpreted and presented for visitors, they called it their Dream. But they were wise enough to take the very first bit of advice given them by the Scottish Executive when they approached then Heritage Minister Patricia Ferguson for help finding the £7million. "Prove that Dream can be sustainable once created".
Without any support from public funds whatever, they commissioned one of Scotland's leading tourism assessment experts, Max Gaunt of RGA, an accountant himself and not one to be easily convinced, to look hard at the prospects. 9 months later he has delivered his 120 page verdict:"It's a Goer".
click on Bill Brady's photographs of Iain Gray MSP for East Lothian at the alfresco press conference to enlarge them
'Grand' Opening Re-enactment set for September 21st 2011
The Trustees wish they could target an opening for 'Scotland's HomeComing' in 2009 but that is frankly not realistic, although a great deal of activity will be in hand by then and across all the months to that target date in 2011. A visit is always going to be worthwhile and a regular schedule of the now well established 'Battefield Walks' and an Edinburgh Tourism-Visitor Programme are set to be launched in 2008.
To achieve the Dream, the Trustees will shortly be returning to the SNP-led Executive, Historic Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Power [which today owns the battlefield itself], with this convincing evidence in hand. And they will be proposing the four year programme of planning, fund raising and construction leading to a Grand Opening on the 266th Anniversary of Prince Charles' Victory.
What the Study Concluded
If the Centre takes the distinctive focus of the globally recognised icon Bonnie Prince Charlie re-creating the essence of his Victory in Prestonpans, and the Hope and Ambition that made that Victory possible, then some 70,000 + visitors each year can be expected to come. This prediction is firmly rooted in a thoroughly authenticated and authoritative conclusion and steps are already moving along in parallel with the search for the £7m required for the Visitor Centre.
The 'authentic and authoritative' presentation of the Battle will explore not only the strategies and tactics on both sides before, during and after the battle, and the contribution that battle archaeology can make. It will devote equal attention to the literary flowering that occurred because of the Victory, the Hope and Ambition of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highlanders. Stevenson and Scott used this momentous event in Kidnapped and Waverley, poetry abounded and song. Living History through new art works is already being shared not least in Andrew Dallmeyer's new play The Battle of Pots and Pans, premiered in Prestongrange Kirk during the Three Harbours Festival in early June and destined to tour and share in The Fringe in 2008.
Much Work-in-Progress and Momentum is Increasing
A modest portakabin has been leased to serve as a Temporary Visitor Centre at weekends across the summer months right up to the Battle's 262nd anniversary on September 21st. Bonnie Prince Charlie's Battle Flag now flies proudly at the top of the Meadowmill Memorial Bing where somewhat battered interpretation plates are currently being restored by East Lothian Council.
On September 21st a Bonnie Prince Charlie Celebration Party will be held in the Conservatory at Holyroodhouse Palace and at dawn next day the Highlanders will Walk the Riggonhead Defile and once again mortally wound local Hanoverian supporter, Colonel Gardiner. They will capture General Sir John Cope's Baggage Train at Cockenzie House with £5000 intact and later occupy Prestonpans celebrating with a beach barbecue, ceilidh and assigning miscreants to the stocks as necessary.
Not surprisingly the new SNP/ LibDem coalition that took over East Lothian Council from Labour in May this year is just as supportive as Labour was of the campaign the Trustees are waging for the Visitor Centre. SNP East Lothian Councillor and Cabinet Member Peter MacKenzie has been the leading light for seven years in the cause pioneering regular Battlefield Interpretative Walks which he still leads. However, Iain Gray, MSP for East Lothian and Labour Shadow Minister for Tourism at Holyrood, is totally enthusiastic and said so very clearly as reported in the Edinburgh Evening News on July 26th shown below. He aso climbed the Battle Bing [with Trustees Councillor Peter MacKenzie and Herbert Coutts] to proclaim the message in adverse weather conditions which nonetheless kept the Battle Flag aloft there.
click on all images to enlarge
Published Date: July 30th 2007