"It is the same, but better" – the resounding conclusion of over 1,000 Friends, 500 builders, supporters and local villagers
“It is the same, but better” – this was the resounding conclusion of over 1,000 Friends, and over 500 builders, supporters and local villagers who have so far been to visit Watts Gallery as part of the celebration of the re-opening. For a team who hoped that the first reaction on entering Watts Gallery might be “What on earth have you spent your money on?”, this was music to our ears. How does one save an ecosystem which is failing, a fragile wreck which is crumbling, and yet maintain the atmosphere, spirit and unique eccentricity? The answer lies with all of you who have helped, nurtured, encouraged and supported the Watts Gallery Hope Project and enabled Watts Gallery to be saved for another hundred years. Thank you.
To see Watts Gallery Estate come back to life is a discovery - with the new Visitor Centre opened with a wonderful collection of books on people and art of the 19th Century, gifts, jewelry, cards and guide books; to visit the artist in residence, Deborah Gourlay, in her new studio and learn about her fascination with old buildings and look at her drawings; to enjoy the fresh planting in Jekyll style of herbaceous plants and shrubs, generously grown by volunteers and donated by Wisley; to sit on one of the award winning Watts benches by local craftsman Simon Burville; to enjoy tea in The Tea Shop sitting at the lovely wood tables in the woodland made by Andy Cox and sampling the new menu; catching site of the fairy Harebell near the Foyle Art for All Learning Studio which is now abuzz with pottery making and firing of the new kiln, spending time in the John George study room to relish one of the finest collections of books on 19th-century art and visiting Watts Gallery, a national gallery in the heart of a village, which is reinstating Watts and his collection as one of the most important artists and collections in our heritage of the 19th Century – all these aspects are open to all and offering art for all.
As a local, I feel honoured to have such a gem on our doorstep. I do so hope that all who live locally, can share in some aspect of this rich legacy left to the people of Surrey and I would welcome hearing your views on twitter, facebook, email or by post.
Above all, may I thank everyone who has contributed to this mammoth effort, saved a fragile ecosystem, and brought it back to health and for all of our enjoyment in posterity.