World’s largest pair of equine sculptures are unveiled in Falkirk

Kelpies project backed by funding partnership of The Big Lottery Fund, Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals

Scotland has a major new cultural landmark, in the shape of the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures, as construction on the £5 million The Kelpies structures was completed earlier today (Wednesday, November 27th) in Falkirk.

The completion of The Kelpies marks a significant stage in the £43 million Helix project, which is transforming 350 hectares of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth, and is funded via a partnership between The Big Lottery Fund, Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals.

Sculptor Andy Scott with Clydesdales, Duke and Baron at the unveiling of the Kelpies

Sculptor Andy Scott with Clydesdales, Duke and Baron at the unveiling of the Kelpies. Photo: Jim Stewart

The Kelpies form a dramatic centrepiece to The Helix development, which is expected to attract an additional 350,000 visitors and add £1.5 million in annual tourism spend to the area, when it officially opens in 2014.

Standing 30 metres (100ft) tall, they pay homage to the tradition of the working horses of Scotland which used to pull barges along Scotland’s canals and worked in the fields in the area where they now stand.

They also stand either side of a new canal extension which links the Forth & Clyde Canal to the North Sea and are the result of a unique collaboration between the partners and Glasgow-based artist, Andy Scott, which has been seven years in the making.

More than six kilometres and 600 tonnes of structural steel has been used in the construction process and more than 10,000 special fixings have been used to secure the ‘skin’ of the two horses heads (one looking up and one looking down) to the steel framework.

Dramatically changing the landscape around Falkirk, The Kelpies and the new canal link into the Forth & Clyde Canal are expected to open up the inland waterways to more and bigger vessels and lead to an increase in boating traffic throughout Central Scotland.

Senior representatives from each of the funding partners were joined on site earlier today (Wednesday, November 27th) by Scottish Government, Minister for Transport, Keith Brown MSP, and Andy Scott to complete the five-month construction project, which has seen seven men carefully put the intricate design together piece by piece.

The Helix development has benefitted from a £25 million award from The Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks programme – one of the largest awards of its kind in the UK.

Jackie Killeen, Big Lottery Fund Scotland Director said: “When we launched our Living Landmarks programme it was to support projects of national and regional significance which would be truly transformational for the communities which use them.

“The construction of the Kelpies as well as the development of the wider Helix site has changed Falkirk’s landscape forever.  The Helix partnership project, which has seen significant community involvement, as a key part in the creation of a physical living landmark, has captured the imagination of the Falkirk and Grangemouth communities changing their outlook through regeneration.

“This is the single biggest investment the Big Lottery Fund has made in Scotland and we are confident that this living landmark will be truly transformational.”

Councillor Adrian Mahoney, Falkirk Council’s spokesperson for Culture, Leisure and Tourism, said: “The completion of the giant Kelpies – the world’s largest equine sculptures – is a major milestone. They have attracted international attention and really put the whole Helix project on the map.

“The wider Helix initiative, costing £43 million, will be fully finished next year.  It will provide another major tourist attraction for central Scotland and further build the growing tourism economy of the Falkirk Council area.

“Experts are predicting hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.  The Kelpies – easily seen from the main M9 motorway and vantage points around Falkirk district – will be a key part of that attraction and look absolutely stunning.  I’d like to congratulate artist Andy Scott and all the team involved in their creation.”

Councillor Mahoney said the strong response to the September launch of the Helix Park – attracting an estimated 15,000 people on one day – showed the high level of public interest in the project.  “I hope that enthusiasm continues and the Helix will help re-define the way people see the whole Falkirk Council area as a great place to work, live and visit.”

He added: “This has been a dramatic year for the overall project, with the Helix Park and its lagoon being unveiled to the public.  Contractors have also moulded great new access routes and paths to ensure the site is easily accessible from neighbouring communities.  There’s no doubt the Helix will attract visitors.  Hopefully it will also bring local communities together too.”

During the ceremony, Minister for Transport, Mr Brown, highlighted the key role both The Helix Park and The Kelpies would play during a year in which the eyes of the world would be on Scotland.

“I am delighted to be here today to see the completion of the Kelpies which are an impressive addition to the local landscape and form part of the ambitious Helix project to transform this area for the benefit of the local communities.

“The Kelpies will not only help attract visitors to the Falkirk area but also help to boost tourism and investment in the area during the Year of Homecoming 2014.

“The Scottish Government and Scottish Canals have committed £8.8 m of funding towards the ambitious Helix development which will help to support and shape the local communities and places, fostering and reinforcing peoples sense of identity and community.”

Andy Scott, has already created major public art works in Glasgow, London and Belfast and The Kelpies are one of the tallest pieces of art in the UK.

“It is almost eight years since I did the first sketches of the project on the kitchen table of my then girlfriend and now wife’s kitchen table in Amsterdam, so to see them completed here today is both humbling and fantastic,” said Mr Scott.

“I have always been fascinated with horses and the heavy horse was at one time the driving force in industry until after the Industrial revolution.   There is an ancient and almost primal link between man and horse and The Kelpies you see here today are an outstanding exemplar of art and engineering coming together to deliver something really special for the people of Falkirk and Scotland.”

Construction work on The Kelpies structures began in June and has been undertaken by Yorkshire-based SH Structures.  Each Kelpie weighs 300 tonnes and contains 3,000 metres of steel tubing and 17,000 component parts.   The steel was fabricated in Yorkshire and transported to Falkirk where the SH Structures team painstakingly pieced the structures using sophisticated 3D modelling software.

“We took our first phone call about this project in October 2008, when we were asked to provide some budget information for an ‘unusual’ project in Scotland,” said Tim Burton, Sales & Marketing Manager at SH Structures.  “Now just over five years later we have completed the installation of The Kelpies.

“This has been a fantastic and challenging project to have been involved in and whilst we specialize in constructing complex structures, The Kelpies are unique and something we are delighted to be associated with.

“The delivery of this project has involved a mixture of traditional skills, technical innovation and the most up to date 3d modelling techniques and as well as being a stunning piece of public art it is also a fabulous piece of engineering.

“The successful delivery of the project has very much been a collaborative process involving a lot of talented individuals and organisations who have all helped to bring Andy’s original vision to life.”

Work on the site’s visitor and parking facilities is currently underway and the development will officially open to the public in the summer of 2014.

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Author: News Editor

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