When Glenrothes was at the heart of Fife tourism

Linda Ballingall with some of the posters from the history of Glenrothes.
Linda Ballingall with some of the posters from the history of Glenrothes.
  • New exhibition reveals history of promoting town
  • Tourism strategy copied around the globe
  • Once the ‘epicentre’ of Fife tourism
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As Fife Council prepares plans for its ‘Go Glenrothes’ initiative aiming to attract more people to the town, while at the same time building momentum by way of an internet ’web presence’, it should look no further than a new major exhibition about to be staged in the town centre.

The concept of promoting Glenrothes is nothing new and, as the exhibition proves, has been done with a great deal of success in the past.

Linda at work with the GDC in the 1980s

Linda at work with the GDC in the 1980s

Later this month, the Glenrothes Heritage Centre unveils a fascinating overview of how, from the 1950s through to the winding up of the town’s Development Corporation in 1996, Glenrothes – the UK’s foremost and leading new town – projected itself across the globe, attracting significant industrial investment and inventing itself as a tourist destination.

“The demise of the Rothes Colliery and the collapse of the idea of a super pit meant a radical rethink of what and how the idea of a Glenrothes new town could be sustained,” explained Linda Ballingall, Heritage group chairman and one of those behind the exhibition.

Certainly, it was the post-war prosperity boom and, as the town grew, so industries from across the world saw Glenrothes as a viable destination for achieving a foothold in the UK.

As the town continued to expand, the oil boom of the 1970s and the development of a home computer industry the following decade saw an influx of business start-ups across the town and earned Glenrothes the nickname of ‘Silicon Glen’. The town had a talent for adapting to changing times.

Many thought there was an apathy from Kirkcaldy District Council (KDC) towards Glenrothes

Linda Ballingall

But it was the success of positioning Glenrothes at the heart of an orchestrated and articulate campaign to promote Fife as a tourist destination in the 1980s that proved one of GDC’s finest and most lucrative campaigns.

Linda was the Corporation’s tourism development officer throughout that highly successful period for the town.

But it didn’t come without a fight, as she explained: “Many thought there was an apathy from Kirkcaldy District Council (KDC) towards Glenrothes and the Development Corporation clashed with the KDC over a great many issues, so when the GDC took it upon itself to promote the town and Fife single-handedly, Kirkcaldy District was outraged.

“We set aside a budget of £55,000 per year from around 1985 to create an events strategy to make Glenrothes a come-to destination, and it quickly became a big hit,” said Linda.

Promotional poster for Glenrothes

Promotional poster for Glenrothes

Under the ‘Glenrothes Go’ umbrella, which included go for leisure, Go For Business and Go For Tourism, the town was promoted at many European, Scandinavian and American trade fairs, with a highly structured campaign that was eventually copied by the Irish Tourist Board.

“Glenrothes has never been a destination for shoppers but, with the wider Fife attractions, be it culturally, historically, golf and sport or leisure, the town was at the heart of all of that and could be used as an ideal base,” Linda explained.

Very quickly, the marketing strategy proved attractive to the public and lucrative to the GDC, with one national newspaper describing Glenrothes as the ‘epicentre of Fife tourism‘.

With the GDC promoting on both business and leisure fronts, there was national media coverage aplenty and a plethora of events including a pro-am golf tournament, including household names such as Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck, the National Pipe Band Championship and the Scottish Aerobatic championships, which brought people flocking to the town for the first time.

Promotional poster

Promotional poster

Television programmes also saw the town as a destination, most notably BBC’s ‘Antiques Roadshow’ and ‘Songs Of Praise’ both being broadcast from Glenrothes.

The story of how it all came about, and ultimately how it all came to an abrupt end following the dismantling of the town’s Development Corporation, is documented in in a fascinating new exhibition due to start in two weeks time.

It’s likely the town centre stakeholder group could be among the first through the door.

Holiday brochure

Holiday brochure

Promoting business

Promoting business

Promoting leisure

Promoting leisure