Published: 14/05/2013 16:20 - Updated: 14/05/2013 16:21

Celebrations to take place for the grand unveiling of The Higgins

Written byKATHRYN CAIN

CULTURE vultures across the country have a date firmly fixed in their diaries, and this date is fast approaching!

The Higgins Bedford’s launch will take place on Friday, June 21 - and more details have now been confirmed of the ‘dawn to dusk’ opening on the longest day of the year.

As the £5.8m project is set to be reopened, interest in the launch has accelerated. Details announced, so far, include:

Special pre-booked highlight tours introducing collections from the art gallery and museum will start from sunrise at 4.40am, and then take place at 30 minutes past the hour until nightfall at 9.30pm. Free refreshments will be offered to those booked on a tour. The tours are free but places are limited.

The tours will take in highlights from across the building which has brought together previously separate venues and redeveloped them over the past 2 years. New displays breathe life back into The Higgins Bedford, which holds world-class collections including works by Turner, Picasso and Warhol.

Further entertainment is planned throughout the day, with the official opening taking place at 11am in the courtyard at the entrance to the building.

Mayor Dave Hodgson will then be opening Sense of Place, an exhibition of work by ten local community groups. There will also be an official opening for Fatal Attractions, an exhibition curated by students from Beauchamp Middle School.

Exhibitors will join staff and volunteers from The Higgins Bedford during the afternoon to talk to visitors about the new displays and exhibitions.

As dusk approaches, from 6pm onwards, the party atmosphere will continue. Fairy lights will illuminate the courtyard as local acoustic bands play into the night. A bar and restaurant will be available throughout the evening.

Visitors on the day are also being asked to do their part to celebrate the opening. The Higgins Bedford is encouraging visitors to share pictures of the day on Instagram, twitter and facebook to record the atmosphere and events from every perspective.

Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture at Bedford Borough Council, said: “Intense national interest has been shown in the launch of The Higgins Bedford. It is hugely exciting for us as a borough, to be hosting such an attraction. People will come from overseas to visit The Higgins Bedford, so we are expecting local Bedfordians to gather on masse to mark this occasion. We will be there from the crack of dawn to welcome people who want the first glance of this exciting new cultural venue. With all the activity in addition to the collection itself we’re expecting a lot of interest in this opening day.”

Mayor, Dave Hodgson, said: “The Higgins Bedford belongs to us all, and that’s the message that we want to send out right from day one. That’s why we’re marking its opening by throwing open the doors for 17 hours on the longest day of the year, to give everyone the chance to enjoy the launch of this major cultural attraction in the heart of Bedford. Entry is free, as are the pre-booked tours, and I look forward to seeing who will be joining me on the first tour at 4.40am!”

The excitement is set to continue throughout the year with a programme of exciting exhibitions also planned. The first exhibition, in the Wixamtree gallery, will be Victorian Visions: Pre-Raphaelite Watercolours and Drawings from The Higgins Bedford’s renowned collection of works on paper. The works on paper are not on permanent display, but shown in rotation as part of the temporary exhibition programme.

The house was built in 1846 by Cecil Higgins’ Grandfather, local brewer, Charles Higgins and remained within the family for several decades. Cecil Higgins became sole heir of the Higgins estate and used his inheritance to build a collection of decorative arts which, in his own words, he could leave ‘for the benefit, interest and education of the inhabitants of, and visitors to Bedford’. He left the house to the Borough of Bedford, to display his collection.

For more details on the launch contact Gemma, at Bedford Borough Council, via gemma.hutton@bedford.gov.uk

To book your place on a guided tour contact The Corn Exchange on 01234 325358 or visit www.bedfordcornexchange.co.uk

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