THE Heart of Hawick is the second most popular visitor attraction in the Scottish Borders.
That is according to an independent assessment commissioned by Scottish Borders Council as part of a financial review of the facility, which rates the award-winning west end complex after Glentress, and ahead of the Teviot Smokery.
And having beaten all projections for visitors by attracting more than double the amount of people predicted through its doors, it has been confirmed this week that the Heart of Hawick is beating more strongly than ever.
Business manager Lindsay Wood said: “We have had a very successful year and are obviously thrilled. That success has been consecutive over the years and now going into our fifth trading year have exceeded all our expectations.”
The figures were revealed at a meeting of SBC’s Scrutiny committee last week, where it was heard that the project – which began trading in September 2007 and incorporates the Borders Textile Towerhouse, Civic Space, Heritage Hub and Tower Mill, including Beanscene, the cinema and theatre and unique glass floor over the largest waterwheel in the South of Scotland – has attracted a total of 710,000 visitors since it opened.
And each year it is attracting around 180,000 visitors – miles ahead of an initial target figure of just over 72,000 people, of which Mr Wood commented: “I think it is because we have the right product in the right place, and we are offering things that people want.”
He explained: “I think the secret to our success is the long hours, our live events and films, the addition of digital projection which makes a huge difference, and new satelite downloads from National Theatre Live of which we are only one of five venues in Scotland to have.”
Mr Wood says they hope to make more of the latter by broadening live performances via satelite to include comedy, music, opera and ballet. He added: “We can have high-end performances beamed live to Hawick.”
There are also plans to further improve the successful and varied cinema programme, which is presented in association with Edinburgh Filmhouse. With family films, movies such as Sex and The City 2 and Bridesmaids being a huge hit, as well as a strong arthouse following, Mr Wood says they aim to build on such successes.
But highlighting one of his own personal favourite aspects of the complex, added: “For me it is still the latte. It isn’t just ordinary coffee, and it creates a special aroma that you notice the minute you walk in.”
And alluding to the unique ambience of the Fifi and Ally-owned coffee and music house, added: “You just know when you walk in that you are in a nice place, and it’s for everybody.”
Councillor Zandra Elliot, scrutiny vice chair, told the Hawick News she was delighted with results of the review, commenting: “I have been involved with this project from day one and it has proved to be very much the jewel in Hawick’s crown. Lindsay Wood and his team are to be congratulated on realising their many ambitions for the project. It’s future looks assured.”