Client: New Art Gallery, Walsall
Campaign: Launch of gallery
PR Team: Hobsbawm Macaulay Communications
Timescale: June 1999 - March 2000
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
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.