AFTER a turbulent ten days for the team behind the proposed new Swindon Museum and Art Gallery vision, this evening presented an opportunity to regroup and to inject a new energy into the project.

With a November deadline looming for a £10m Heritage Lottery funding bid, and with the resignation of the former Director still looming over them, the project's trustees and their council backers were well aware that they had to re-capture the enthusiasm of the public, and fast.

To kick off that effort, the Trust held their biggest public event to date. The evening saw leading players in the project address a crowd of more than 100 people who had gathered in the Phoenix Theatre at New College.

Robert Hiscox, Chairman of Trustees, outlined his motivation for trying to bring a brand new gallery and museum to Swindon.

He described the town as "quite architecturally challenged" and said that while Swindonians should be proud of their railway heritage, they should also aspire for more.

"There isn't a building built in England that hasn't been opposed by people," he said. "But if you build a beautiful building here it really will make a measurable difference.

"This isn't just a place to hang art and display collections, I seriously believe it will give a throbbing heart to Swindon that you can all be proud of."

Mr Hiscox spoke passionately about the project, as did council leader David Renard. But it was Mike Pringle of the Richard Jefferies Museum who brought the room alive.

"We're always the butt of jokes and I for one am sick of it," he said.

He spoke of Swindon as a town where the history goes well beyond the railway yards - agricultural, Roman, even medieval.

"This is the town that built Spitfires at the end of the war," he added.

"We have one chance to save our museum, it's about a wider view of Swindon's culture and giving a new impression of who we are."

At the interval, one resident who had been sceptical of the new-build plans said: "If they want to get Swindon on board, they need to show a bit more of the passion Mike Pringle had in there."

Mr Hiscox acknowledged the Trust must do more work on public engagement with the little time left.

But beyond the cultural offering that a museum and gallery would bring, there was a more serious warning.

With leaders of the business community in the audience, it was Excalibur's James Phipps who spoke out.

"We won't be here in five to ten years if this project and the town centre regeneration doesn't happen," he said.

"That goes for a lot of other businesses too. We recruit a lot of our people from outside and most of them won't live here."

With the evening drawing to a close, a show of hands indicated strong support in the room for the Trust's ambitious proposals.

The challenge they face in the next six months is persuading the wider public, and the Heritage Lottery Fund, that they're up to the job of delivering it.