Battle Trustees Explore Plan B for the 'Living History Centre'
In light of current and forseeable economic circumstances, the Trustees are now looking more closely at their Plan B - whilst still 'dreaming' of their Plan A!
Supporters of the Batle Trust's Campaign since 2006 will be well aware that the Trust's 'Dream' [Plan A] has been to create a Living History Centre at the bing that Frank Tyndall oversaw when the former East Lothian 'District' Council restored the Meadowmill area, removing its coal tips. From that vantage point every aspect of the battle sequence can be surveyed from Edinburgh to Birslie Brae and along the Riggonhead Defile to the battlefield itself just south of Cockenzie Power Station. That is why it is ideal, and why Frank Tyndall built the bing in the first place ensuring interpretation plates were placed at the top. From 2006 the Trust added the Prince's battle flag - a white rectangle on a red background.
However building on the side and top of the bing, which consists of washed coal fragments, is a significant structural engineering challenge, which means considerable additional expense. Best estimates stand at £15 million for the complete task inside and out, including new car parking and access roads. If it was acomplished some 70,000 visitors a year could reasonably be expected and that would be sufficient to make the Centre viable year on year.
Plan B insists the battlefield must be properly conserved and interpreted, but that the Living History Centre itself might be located at Prestongrange Heritage Museum - that's some two miles west
The Trust's Plan B still involves first and foremost the proper conservation and interpretation of the battlefield, retaining and developing the bing as both a fine viewpoint and a dramatic iconic focus for passing motorists on the A1. But the Living History dimension would be located at the Heritage Museum close by Morrison's Haven. Whilst this regettably splits the visitor's opportunity fully to appreciate the battle's significance, it has a distinct advantage. It adds the opportunity for all the other significant parts of Prestonpans history to be told as well. As such, whilst a battle visitor at the Heritage Museum can still take a regular minibus trip to the bing and to the battlefield itself, that same visitor can also come to appreciate the town's heritage in pottery, coal mining, brick making, glass making, chemicals, soap, salt, brewing, oysters and more - not to mention the Murals trail, the Witch gestalt in the town centre and the annual Three Harbours Festival.
Visitor numbers and repeat visitors under Plan B could be expected to reach towards 150,000 each year.
As such 1+1 'could' add up to considerably more than 2. But equally, unless both parts are of an internationally high standard such synergies will not be achieved and 1 + 1 might sum to well less than 2. What is absolutely known in the field of tourism is that to attract substantial visitors out from Edinburgh's many delights requires something unique and extremely well presented. The Trustees believe they know how they can achieve that, but any dilution would make it impossible to trade viably year on year. As such it is better for the Trust not to attempt it at all!
So, discussions are proceeding to explore how Plan B might be attained for the Battle Trust and for that outcome to trigger a bold approach for the entire multifaceted Heritage Museum.
Nothing has been agreed by any parties for such an alternative Plan B, but at the Petitions Committee of East Lothian Council on January 22nd there was a considerable measure of support for its careful exploration.  How can the bing and the battlefield conservation and interpretation [including the Riggonhead Defile at Blindwells], be expeditiously accomplished? And  how can a 'gestalt plan' for the Heritage Museum be created that encompasses the Trust's Plan B Living History Centre?
East Lothian Council has nominated Tom Shearer as 'Contact Officer with the Trust'. The Scottish Government, through the good offices of Historic Scotland's Chief Inspector Malcolm Cooper on the initiative of Michael Russell MSP when he was Scotalnd's Minister of Culture, has agreed to give such support as it might be able to the Trust. Prestonpans Community Council led by James Yule is, and has been from the outset, in comprehensive support of the Trust.
The Press has begun to pick up the possibilities of Plan B, as below. This Statement from the Trust is intended to set down a comprehensive record of where matters stand at end January 2010.
Just in case the reversed out text [second below] from the East Lothian Courier is hard to read, the online version is also given third below.
click to enlarge the press cuttings
P.S. We certainly share the two specific concerns raised in Inter@active which the Edinburgh Evening News included in its report. Funding in the next few years is a massive challenge but if we've already waited 265 years a necessary 'pause' in our campaign until circumstances improve is no disgrace. We remain wholly convinced that our goal is achievable. So far as visitor numbers are concerned, we have from the outset undertaken the most careful marketing analyses and believe we do now have in place plans and designs that will be able to attract the right numbers, not just once but again and again.
Published Date: February 5th 2010