A new gallery is opening its doors on Weymouth quayside. Laura Hanton dropped by to take a look inside.

WITH a renowned local painter as its artist in residence, Harbour Gallery already has something to shout about.

Paul Liggins is known for his colourful coastal scenes, full of happy harbours, jolly fishermen and pesky seagulls. Originally from Portland, he can now be found six days a week in a studio just a stone's throw from the water.

"My paintings come about by observing the humour of life that most people pass by each day because they are too busy," Paul says. "Taking time out to observe life makes you realise how great it is."

Having already developed a range of homeware, gifts and accessories based on his original acrylics, Paul is now in the middle of writing a children's book about a stowaway cat who meets a lighthouse keeper called Welly Boot.

The new Harbour Gallery is a collaboration between Paul and two sisters from Devon: Debbie Pilgrim and Annette Rydin. The siblings have recently relocated to Chickerell in preparation for their new business venture.

"We're aiming to exhibit a whole range of artwork," Annette, an artist herself who specialises in sculpture, explains. "We want local artists and those from further afield; traditional pieces of art and those that are more modern and contemporary. We'll change our displays regularly and hopefully always have something that appeals to everybody."

Having previously worked in Dorset for a decade, Debbie is familiar with the area and brings her corporate and administrative skills to the business.

"What's really important to us is that we are friendly and welcoming, professional but not pretentious," Debbie says. "We would never pressure anyone into making a purchase. People are welcome to simply take a look around, grab a coffee and have a chat."

Speaking of coffee, a coastal-themed café - complete with lighthouse-shaped vinegar bottles - is nestled at the back of the art centre, and will be serving hot and cold drinks, snacks, scones and sandwiches.

The eatery is run by Paul's partner, Rachael McGarvey, who has worked locally in hospitality for the past three decades. "We're going to keep the menu simple, source products locally, and just make it a nice space for people to come and relax," she says.

Rather than being separate, the café is very much a continuation of the gallery, with works of art dotted around the room. Some of these have been made by Annette herself, who uses cast bronze powders and resins to create figures of horses, goddess and greyhounds. She has previously been commissioned by Disney, Shepperton Studios and even Russell Crowe, for whom Annette created work for his 2000 film, Gladiator.

Before moving to Weymouth, Annette managed an art gallery in Ilfracombe, where she built up a range of contacts and a network of artists.

"Everyone we've invited so far have been so keen to get involved and exhibit their work in this new space," she says. "We want there to be a range of price points, with some more affordable pieces and others which make people go, 'wow, I can't believe you've got that.' In future, we're looking to exhibit some more sculptures, and perhaps some handmade jewellery, too."

The gallery has plenty of plans for the future, particularly come summer when Weymouth comes alive with tourists.

Paul says: "I'd like to run some art classes, and teach people some different skills and techniques. I'd also like to do more with charity; I'm currently working on a piece for GO Girls, which is going to be sold at an auction in March."

He adds: "Over the years, I've probably raised about £4,000 for the RNLI, so I'd like to get involved with them again. Especially now I can see the lifeboat from my studio!"

The summer season will also see longer opening hours, with Annette and Debbie hoping to hold various events and special exhibitions throughout the year.

Given the success of the gallery's soft launch last November, its popularity with the public seems guaranteed. "A lot of people were saying that a space like this is exactly what Weymouth needs," Debbie says. "They're worrying that the quayside is going a bit downhill, but we're hoping to turn that around."

*The Harbour Gallery is located in the basement of 16 The Esplanade, Weymouth, and can be reached from Custom House Quay at Weymouth harbourside. It is opposite Weymouth Lifeboat Station.

It is preparing for its official launch over February half term week, when it will be open every day. Visitors are invited to grab a glass of Prosecco and take a look around.

Currently, Paul is on site from 9am - 3pm, Tuesday to Sunday.

For more information about the gallery, contact Annette or Debbie on harbourfineart@outlook.com To see examples and find out more about Paul's work, search Paul Liggins Art on Facebook.