CAMPAIGNS: Gallery Opening - A welcome for the arts in Walsall

Client: New Art Gallery, Walsall

Client: New Art Gallery, Walsall

Campaign: Launch of gallery

PR Team: Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications

Timescale: June 1999 - March 2000

Budget: Undisclosed

The West Midlands town of Walsall has not been recognised as the

epicentre of the arts world but it did possess the very impressive

Garman Ryan Collection, which includes works by Monet, Degas and Van

Gogh, bequeathed by the wife of the sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. In 1996

it received a pounds 16 million Lottery grant for the building of a new

gallery to contain the Garman Ryan Collection, plus other exhibits.


To gain local and national exposure and attract visitors to the first

landmark Lottery project to open outside London and make people aware

that the New Art Gallery was a building of international


Strategy and Plan

Hobsbawm Macaulay had already launched another Lottery project, the Ikon

Gallery in Birmingham, in 1997 and so already had a wealth of contacts

to bring to this latest project. Articles about the new gallery in

Walsall first started appearing in the press in 1996, and by the time

HMC was officially appointed to the project in 1999 there were a number

of people the agency could contact who were already well aware of the


The ethos of the gallery is that art is for everyone, therefore the

campaign had a very broad target audience. As well as the usual arts

titles, HMC also targeted the education, travel, lifestyle and

architectural media.

Much of the campaign’s attention was focused on the new gallery building

itself, designed by the young, dynamic architectural duo, Caruso St


Taking advantage of the interest in the building, heralded as the most

significant building created by architects under the age of 40 in the

last generation, HMC ran a series of press trips to the site at various

stages during the gallery’s construction.

The agency was also able to make use of the popular public profile of

the gallery director, Peter Jenkinson, known as a pioneer in introducing

new audiences to the arts. He attended a number of lunches in London to

promote the new gallery.

Non-media audiences including gallery directors, artists, politicians

and celebrities, such as Meera Syall from the BBC’s Goodness Gracious

Me, were targeted in an effort to raise the profile of the gallery.

The New Art Gallery gained exposure at the National Portrait Gallery in

February when Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Chris

Smith announced the opening of several millennium projects.

An extensive programme of press trips was co-ordinated when the New Art

Gallery officially opened its doors in mid-February.

Measurement and Evaluation

The gallery had nearly 80,000 visitors in the first ten weeks of


It received extensive media coverage, not only locally, but also

nationally and internationally. In the run up to the opening both the

Independent and Observer ran full-page stories on the architecture.

After the opening there was coverage in all of the nationals, from the

Sun to the FT.

Broadcast coverage has also been impressive, including Radio 4’s

Saturday Review and Front Row. Jenkinson and his partner Elizabeth

Macgregor, former director of the Ikon Gallery, appeared together on

BBC’s Lottery Live as the nation’s first Lottery couple.


A major Lottery project got the high profile launch it merited. Coverage

has been positive, unlike other Lottery projects, with only some

negative comments in the Sun. The New Art Gallery in Walsall is still

being mentioned in a positive light in the media, often in the context

of the Millennium Dome, on programmes such as Question Time and on

channels such as BBC News 24.

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