25 September 2011: firstsite opens!
Hundreds of Colcestrians set their alarm clocks on Sunday 25 September for the grand civic opening of firstsite’s spectacular new building.
As the excitement mounted, crowds gathered in the morning sunshine outside our vast glass-fronted entrance space.
Colchester Borough Council Chief Executive Adrian Pritchard started the proceedings, announcing:
firstsite is a building that can educate and stimulate our young people; and a building where businesses can hold their conferences or meetings. But above all, firstsite is a place for families and communities to enjoy.
He was followed by the Mayor of Colchester, Councillor Helen Chuah, who added:
This beautiful golden building will attract visitors to the town from near and far... firstsite will certainly enrich the cultural lives of everyone in Colchester and the region.
Mayor Chuah then declared the building officially open, slicing through a giant red ribbon with the help of children from St Helena School, who helped with the Heritage Lottery Funded project to restore the Berryfield Roman Mosaic, firstsite’s only permanent exhibit.
Crowds cheered as Mayor Chuah released 200 golden balloons into a glorious sky, and the first guests streamed through the doors.
In just six hours, we welcomed more than 3,000 guests into the building, to enjoy our inaugural exhibition Camulodunum, get involved with creative family activities in the on the D-shaped lawn, sample lunch in the new café restaurant MUSA, sun themselves on the terrace, and browse the shop for gifts and souvenirs.
We were overwhelmed with the public response to the building and the show – from people from all over the country:
‘Now they can see it and be here, the critics can choke on their own words. It’s fabulous!’
– Evalina Kolaczek, London
‘This is absolutely great and just what Colchester needs. If a place doesn’t grow and change it will die and Colchester really needed something right now to bring new life to the place.’
– Lorraine Jarvis, Colchester
‘It’s totally brilliant and it will be great for the town. I’m sure Ipswich or Chelmsford would give their right arm for firstsite to be in their own town. Well done, Colchester!’
– Simon Renton, Colchester
‘I am surprised and delighted to see how much there is for the children here. It is a wonderful place to visit with all my family and there are four generations of us!’
– Joan Lawrence (aged 85), Colchester
‘It feels like we are in London and that we have just stepped off the tube into this marvellous place. The atmosphere is just brilliant. Look; the hairs on my arms are standing up!’
– Emma Lawrence, Colchester, with Effie (aged seven)
‘I’ve never been into an art gallery before but this is different. I think the gardens and views are lovely there’s so much space – we’ll be coming into Colchester much more often now.’
– Amanda Tricker, Weeley
‘I feel like I’m in London, only better! This is the only place in Colchester where you can enjoy the same experience as any international gallery. Since the Minories was closed there hasn’t been any kind of meeting place where you can sit, look and watch the world go by. There is now!’
– Helen Lee, Colchester
‘It’s totally cool! Brilliant things to do and I love the gardens and mosaic.’
– Will Sizer (aged 10), Colchester
‘We have travelled from Leicester especially to be here for the opening. We have a Viñoly theatre, The Curve, in Leicester and we wanted to see another building by him. We think firstsite is absolutely brilliant. We wish Colchester every success with this fabulous gallery.’
– Sylvia Wright, Leicester