A NEW campaign involving more than 100 famous people from the world of the arts is being launched today in a bid to save Castle Toward school for the nation as a “Scottish cultural institution”.

Conductor Sir Simon Rattle, Kelpies sculptor Andy Scott, actor Brian Cox, actress Laura Fraser, singer Fran Healy, artist Alison Watt, and Scotland’s makar Liz Lochhead have joined the campaign which its organisers say aims “to safeguard a precious haven that has nurtured generations of artistic talent”.

Glasgow City Council purchased the Castle Toward estate after the Second World War to offer inner-city children a taste of the outdoors and the arts.

Over the following decades, some 400,000 young students attended residential arts and music courses within the castle’s walls, but after a long-running dispute which The National has chronicled, private developers are set to purchase the school from current owners Argyll and Bute Council who turned down a bid from the local South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC).

The new campaign has been created in great secrecy and neither Argyll and Bute Council nor SCCDC were made aware of it in advance.

The campaign’s website www.iheartcastletoward.co.uk launches today with some of the campaigners telling personal stories of how their time at Castle Toward proved career-defining.

Kelpies sculptor Scott said: “My time at Castle Toward art course was a transformative experience. To go from high school and meet so many talented fellow students and to benefit from the wisdom of amazing tutors confirmed to me that art-making was to be my future and set me on the path which led to The Kelpies.

“I believe it is vital that the building and the creative courses it offers are maintained for future generations.”

Rattle, who it has been announced is to become music director of the London Symphony Orchestra in 2017, said: “I have immensely happy memories of my time in Castle Toward, working with the Glasgow Schools Symphony Orchestra.

“It was obvious that the location had a profound effect on all the young musicians. It is exciting to think that this great building may once again be a hub for music, such an important step forward. I would urge everyone to support this development.”

The campaign is calling for Argyll and Bute Council to protect Castle Toward from development and to work with it to restore the castle as the flourishing hub for youth arts and sport that it once was.

A statement by the campaign said: “The campaign believes that within the ethos of Culture for Life, this project can attract funding from Scotland, the UK and further afield.

“This new and independent campaign is not aligned with any political interest or previous activity. Its aims are simply to bring prosperity, increased visitor footfall, credit and artistic prominence to Argyll and Bute.”

Chief organiser Kerry Nixon told The National: “The campaign is incredibly positive in its message – I haven’t been in contact with the council or the preferred buyer and we have absolutely no interest in the politics of the issue.

“I started the campaign because I felt that the true story of the castle was not being told, the story of how incredible the place is and how it influenced so many artists and musicians. I personally spent about 35 weeks of my teenage years at the castle on music courses as a young violinist, finally leading the Glasgow Schools Symphony Orchestra in my final years there and it is difficult to describe how incredible an experience that was.

“The place was magical, from the beautiful and vast grounds rolling out to the sea, to walks to the Chinese water gardens and stolen moments alone on a winding staircase. These were once-in-a-lifetime experiences and it is unthinkable to me that young people might not get these opportunities again

.“We are currently working together with some of the amazing alumni of the castle and a solid business plan is evolving alongside the campaign. The response from everyone has been incredible so far with many solid pledges of support from the arts and business community.

“Our aim is to persuade the Argyll and Bute Council to work with usto make Castle Toward a thriving Scottish cultural institution once again.”