SATURDAY is going to be a big day, not just for Bishop Auckland, but for the whole North-East.

The opening of the Mining Art Gallery, in the town’s former Old Bank Chambers, is the first aspect of the Auckland Project to be completed, and will be followed by the renovation of Auckland Castle, a welcome tower, Spanish art gallery, walled garden, faith museum and deer park.

It is hoped the schemes, added to the popular Kynren shows, will bring investment, jobs and tourism.

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The Northern Echo has reported on every stage of the Auckland Project, originally known as the Auckland Castle Trust, since it began life with Jonathan Ruffer stepping in to save the Zurbaran paintings in 2011.

The paper campaigned vigorously to keep them in the North-East, and in his first interview after buying the paintings for £15m, Mr Ruffer said: “This is a startling way of saying to the people of the North-East that they are loved, that there is far more in life than their terrible day-to-day worries, and that they are worth far more as people than anyone can put a value on.”

Tourism and jobs-value aside, the Mining Art Gallery gives exactly that message. There is now a permanent platform to display the internationally-renown work of miners who used art to express the harsh reality of their lives and the pit communities they came from.

In creating the gallery, Mr Ruffer, along with dedicated historians Dr Bob McManners and Gillian Wales, who gathered the collection over more than two decades, have definitely shown the region that its heritage is loved, valued, and something to be proud of – as are the people who shaped it.