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Photography focus for Shambellie House

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By Rod Edgar
Dumfries and West
Photography focus for Shambellie House

A HISTORIC building at New Abbey could be brought back to life as a national photography centre.

Shambellie House was donated to the Scottish Government in 1977 for use as the National Museum of Costume – but it closed in 2013 with National Museums Scotland blaming the economy.
Now serving as project organiser for a trust aimed at resurrecting the house, Dr Piotr Bienkowski said: “Photographers have said that what we don’t have in Scotland is a national centre for photography.
“Something that’s a focus for teaching people a lot of the basics of photography, and we’ve got all the right conditions and opportunities within the area.”
A campaign to save Shambellie from closure resulted in the Scottish Government agreeing for an options appraisal on the house to be carried out by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust.
An arts or outdoor centre emerged as a preferred option, and the Shambellie House Trust was formed.
And an extensive consultation with local people and possible course leaders over the past year resulted in the idea to focus on photography.
While he says other arts could be covered at a house, which is set within extensive, well-developed gardens, Dr Bienkowski said: “It’s not only having photography studios, but being able to offer things like flora and fauna photography, dark skies photography and underwater photography.”
Dr Bienkowski says an application has been made for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to investigate the capital costs of such a project.
South of Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper has offered her backing to the trust, and the idea of establishing it as a National Photography Centre.
She said: “The scenic surroundings and wildlife would be sure to draw photographers from across the world.”
And she added: “The plans will be a huge boost for tourism and the local economy.
“Although the provision of some accommodation is planned on site at Shambellie, visitors will undoubtedly also want to come to New Abbey for accommodation, meals, and as tourists to the village.
“I look forward to seeing the final business plan from the Trust, and to helping them realise their vision for Shambellie.”

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