Kirkcaldy Galleries - packing out the the people’s place

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YOU couldn’t have asked for a better weekend to celebrate the launch of Kirkcaldy Galleries, and the first Adam Smith Festival.

The sun shone and the crowds flocked to events from the War Memorial Gardens to the Old Kirk and many points in between.

Over 2000 people poured into the new-look Kirkcaldy Galleries on Saturday alone, and many of the events - almost all free - were jam-packed.

In many ways the VIP launch on Friday was merely the opening act - these buildings were built for the people, and they quickly gave the refurbishment their seal of approval by turning out in such huge numbers.

Jack Vettriano spoke for all when he concluded his address with the words: ‘‘John Nairn would surely have approved.’’

In linking the building’s history to its original benefactor, Vettriano handed it back to the people.

Indeed he was back on Saturday as a face in the crowd to browse the galleries, leading to at least one double take from a couple busy admiring his own paintings that hang on its walls. It was as if Picasso or Peploe had simply wandered past ...

Vettriano spoke of the hours he spent in the gallery studying great artworks then returning to his garden shed in West Albert Road to apply the lessons he had learned.

‘‘This building is where it all started for me,’’ he told Friday’s VIP launch, adding how much the Shell sponsored amateur art competition - which runs to this day - had been in giving him his first platform. He won with his first entry and gained awards in each of the next five years.

‘‘Shell bought my painting and gave it to the Vic. I got £100!’’ he added.

Friday evening saw fellow Langtonian, Val McDermid, talk about her career and her next book sitting in the library which first introduced her to a world of literature.

She spoke eloquently about the vital role galleries and libraries play in opening the world to people - and how Fife deserved huge credit for investing at a time when other councils and cities are closing their doors.

‘‘I am very proud of what is Fife is doing,’’ she said. ‘‘Places like this are about discovery and excitement and this building will bring new excitement to generations to come.’’

If Friday was reserved for VIPs and invited guests, Saturday’s was the people’s day - and they turned out in huge number.

From the stilt walkers and magicians who entertained in the sun, the building buzzed with excitement.

All day people wandered round the new exhibitions and enjoyed the many free events, while outside a hugely energetic crew from Radio Lollipop kept the party fun going in the gardens and had people of all ages up dancing and playing the daftest of daft games!

Down town students dressed in period costume handed out leaflets to entice more people along, while the launch of the Adam Smith Trail culminated,with a re-enactment of Scotland’s last duel in the gardens.

The walk round town brought Smith’s Kirkcaldy to life and it enjoyed by all - the trail has much more to cover and this time next year will be bigger and much more ambitious in scope, but it was an important and successful first step for the Adam Smith Global Foundation.

It started at the Old Kirk, scene of Saturday’s showcase event with Ian Rankin and Jack Vettriano in sparkling form - bouncing off each other with great humour.

The bonds between the author and artist were evident as they wound each other up in between bringing to life memories of the days when the town centre buzzed with vitality and anecdotes on how it shaped their own stellar careers.

The new Kirkcaldy Galleries may yet inspire a new Vettriano or the next Rankin or McDermid.

They are, as Val said, the key to a world of discovery and excitement ...