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Something new and exciting is happening

The Cheltenham Trust and the Charles Irving Charitable Trust are delighted to announce a bequest that will enable an innovative new community exhibition gallery and exciting community arts café to be created at The Wilson Art Gallery and Museum.

The Charles Irving Community Art Gallery will be created on the existing mezzanine floor as a lasting legacy to the Cheltenham born former mayor who was the town’s Conservative MP from 1974 to 1992. A community arts café will be created in the ground floor space incorporating the current café and reception area.

The Charles Irving Community Art Gallery will house memorabilia and regalia from Sir Charles’s political life and tell the story of his life and legacy to Cheltenham and its community. An exciting programme of community exhibitions, workshops, events and activities will be developed.

The Wilson has been closed, in line with government guidance, since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The building work to alter and improve the interior of the ground floor and mezzanine has been programmed to tie in with the current closure. As the work will disrupt the ground and mezzanine floors and restrict public access, it has been decided to reopen The Wilson to the public when the work is completed and the new gallery and café can welcome visitors.

Chair of The Cheltenham Trust, Louis Eperjesi said: “We are pleased to be asked to create a legacy to Charles Irving and have recognised the need to create a gallery dedicated to the local community of Cheltenham, This space will be used for local artists to showcase their work and to host cultural events and groups. In addition we also look forward to creating a new, spacious and arts focused café that can also host a range of events and activities.”

The Trustees of the Charles Irving Charitable Trust said: “We are delighted to be involved with this project which will provide a permanent and fitting reminder of Sir Charles and his legacy to the town of which he was so proud.”

Leaving school at 14 to work in hotel kitchens in Bath Charles Irving went on to own a string of hotels across the country. He served on Cheltenham Borough Council for nearly 50 years and was three times Mayor. He was elected as the town’s MP in 1974 and delighted then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by sending her fresh flowers every day.

A benefactor of many charitable causes he was knighted in 1990 but, with his heath failing, he stood down from Parliament at the 1992 election and died in 1995.

Such was the high regard in which he was held he was afforded a civic funeral attended by aldermen and councillors who processed on foot behind the horse-drawn hearse from the Municipal Offices to a packed St Matthew’s Church. His final request was that his and his twin sister’s ashes be scattered over Cheltenham from the air which was duly fulfilled.

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