Summer residencies at the Tolbooth

GRAINNE Smith.
GRAINNE Smith.

Since Stonehaven’s Tolbooth Museum was saved from closure earlier this year, the visitor attraction has gone from strength to strength, with a growing number of visitors taking the time to pay a visit and learn more about the history of the town’s oldest building.

And now local culture and heritage will be brought to life for visitors, as the Tolbooth has started to welcome resident entertainers every Sunday throughout the summer months.

Storyteller Maggie Fraser held the first residency at Stonehaven’s Tolbooth on July 10 which helped push visitor numbers to 170 for the day.

Last Sunday poet Gráinne Smith appeared from 2-3pm, and she will be back this Sunday (July 24) to entertain visitors. Ms Smith writes both in English and Doric poetry, plays, fiction and non-fiction.

Phil Mills-Bishop, who is one of the volunteers who help to run the Tolbooth, said: “The key to making the Tolbooth a success is sustainability. We have been coming up with ideas to breathe new life in to the museum, and we wanted to open up the meaning of ‘heritage’ to incorporate the arts, making it more alive and interesting for people who come along.”

The Tolbooth hope to attract all different types of arts and crafts to the museum, making the residencies a regular Sunday attraction throughout the rest of the summer.

Other notable local artisans who have pledged their support to keeping the facility open is fiddler Paul Anderson.

It has not yet been confirmed when Mr Anderson will perform at the Tolbooth. The museum has already attracted 2000 visitors since it was reopened.

Public interest in the Tolbooth has increased and visitor numbers have prompted volunteers to open the museum from Thursday to Sunday from 1.30pm-4.30pm, and throughout August the attraction will be open six days a week, from Tuesday to Sunday.

The Tolbooth – which was opened as a museum by the Queen Mother in 1963 - was closed by Aberdeenshire Council officials in March and all the artefacts were removed as the authority battles to cut £58million from its budget over the next two years.

A group of volunteers from Stonehaven Town Partnership, Stonehaven and District Community Council and the local heritage society revived the facility however and it reopened last month.