Vibrant Gala


Completion Date:


Building owner/client:

Energise Galashiels Trust

Architect or lead designer:


Local Authority Area:

Scottish Borders

Nominating Body:

Energise Galashiels Trust

Project Description

Galashiels is the second largest town in the Scottish Borders. In 2014, the town centre was particularly challenged with the number of vacant units at a record high of 18%, declining footfall year on year and in many parts, was visually unattractive.

Energise Galashiels Trust (EGT), is a community-based organisation, established in 2014 to respond to the continuing decline in the town centre. EGT was formed by local residents, all with varying community, public and private sector backgrounds, sharing the aim of making the town more vibrant and welcoming. It has been a community-led organisation from its inception. EGT has progressed 10 years of partnership activity, focusing in the last 3 years on the Vibrant Gala Project with support from South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) and Scottish Borders Council (SBC).

The key aims of the Vibrant Gala Project were to improve the economic performance of the town centre and enhance community activity and wellbeing. To achieve these aims, EGT has focused on: delivering initiatives which contribute to the creative vitality and unique identity of our town; developing community-led projects & events in the town centre; marketing Galashiels and providing digital support to enterprises. As part of the Vibrant Gala project, EGT has focused on developing imaginative and creative projects designed and delivered by the community for the community. EGT has worked with national (Scottish Government and Scotland’s Towns Partnership) and local organisations including Gala Community Council, Gala in Bloom, Gala Rugby Club, Gala Fairydean FC, LiveBorders, Great Tapestry of Scotland Visitor Centre, Creative Borders, Heartland Market, and students at Galashiels Academy, Borders College and Heriot-Watt University School of Textiles and Design.

EGT volunteers have led on a range of projects all aimed at improving the town and restoring a sense of pride. Examples of the wide range of community-led activities supported include; National, local and community-based events bringing footfall and spend to the town; Public realm improvements including a range of themed pop-up banners designed by local pupils; a series of popular large-scale murals highlighting Galashiels history and heritage; a number of Sculpture Placements in local business and community premises: Creative arts programmes designed by local groups focused on young people and families to encourage engagement and participation in the arts.

EGT has also directly engaged with the local authority and key stakeholders and ensured local community input to partnership and place-based planning including the Galashiels Masterplan (2018) and the Tapestry Way Study which focused on the town centre (2022). EGT is currently supporting a Business Improvement District Steering Group and driving the formation of a town team for place planning activity.

Supporting Statement

Community involvement and benefits are at the core of all EGT activity. The following social benefits have been supported:

Health and Wellbeing

EGT launched a Cycling Without Age Trishaw Chapter – encouraging older people and those with mobility issues to experience being cycled around, reducing social isolation and improving wellbeing. Marooned in Gala, supported by EGT, is a Borders-wide community event based around rugby sevens for all ages, attracting around 800 participants and 4000 spectators. Engaging young people and supporting family-focused activities: A pop-up event, 'Creative Gala' was held to offer families, young people and others the opportunity to engage with printmaking workshops and local artists about art in public spaces. This has developed into a Community Arts Programme for 2023/2024.

Supporting the creative sector –EGT funded an exhibition of works by students from Heriot-Watt University displayed within the Great Tapestry of Scotland. EGT commissioned the Sculpture Placement Group to launch a public art partnership project. Six sculptures were placed in various premises around the town. EGT supported the first Tangled Fibre Festival in 2023, a unique event which brought independent wool and yarn businesses into Galashiels for two days, drawing more than 1000 attendees.

Community Pride

EGT hosted the inaugural Galashiels Heartlands Business Awards, attracting almost 7500 votes from the community, identifying 18 finalists with winners in 6 categories. It was recognised as an outstanding success by attendees and in the subsequent positive press coverage.

EGT has led the development of the popular “Galashiels Heartlands of the Borders” brand, website, and social media platforms to promote Galashiels to locals and visitors. With 125 local enterprises now listed, the website currently attracts around 1500 visitors each month raising awareness of Galashiels' offer to locals and visitors. With support from STP, EGT implemented a multichannel campaign promoting the 'shop local’ message in 2020, working with almost 100 businesses. EGT also launched Mi Rewards in 2021, the first town in the South of Scotland to run a shop local scheme open to all businesses and customers. 59 businesses and 430 customers registered for the loyalty card.

EGT has supported 12 community events over the last 3-4 years appealing to diverse interests within the community from sport, leisure, heritage, arts and education. Events have proven very popular and include the Heartland Market, launched in March 2022 which had 2,500 attendees and which continues to attract shoppers to the monthly markets and the inaugural Tangled Fibre Festival in June 2023 had 1000 attendees.

EGT has also supported the improvement of 35 town centre properties with funding of £119,000; priority is given to long-term vacant premises, large vacant units or those negatively impacting the town centre. This has encouraged new starts and expanding businesses creating a more attractive, vibrant town centre with new retail and service offers as well as local employment. Despite the difficult economic trading position in 2022, Galashiels had almost 30 new enterprises start trading or expanding in the town centre area over the last 18 months.