Spy and Try … Mackintosh at the Willow

There is a Spy and Try stencilling station in a tent @ 215 Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow… in front of the building of Mackintosh’s willow Tea Rooms which we now call “Mackintosh at the Willow” why don’t you come and try your hand at Stencilling? I was there last week end, for the door open days but also training volunteers who going forward will welcome you and show you how to stencil… Would you like to come?

Would you like to volunteer to help with it? if yes email the trust office info@willowtearoomstrust.org

A good hundred years ago, 115 to be precise, a Glasgow Business Woman Kate Cranston commissioned a local architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh to refurbish a building in the fashionable Sauchiehall Street to be opened as a fashionable Tea Rooms … and did he just do that… Having worked with the very well known Miss Cranston over the years on other buildings … The Willow Tea Rooms would be his cherry on the cake. Kate Cranston asked from Mackintosh nothing but the 100% design. From facade to the back, inside and out, all elements including waitresses uniform and cutlery Mackintosh set out to complete his task in a short period and the finished Tea Rooms opened to the public both local and International Art Specialists with great trepidation.

Sauchiehall is a very special place, one of the most important shopping avenue at the time, today its one of the very important piedestran street in Glasgow. Its also “down the hill” from the famous Glasgow School of Arts one of Mackintosh’s very praised commission which is currently being rebuilt after the terrible recent fire. Could we be in the “Mackintosh Mile” …  It takes its name from the old Scottish language which people have forgotten about… “the avenue of the willow trees”  this is the tea room that Mackintosh designed for this delightful avenue of the willow trees… how poetic is that.

Over the years the building went up and down and in my time in Glasgow it has been host to a very good albeith Mockintosh “themed” tearoom run by a local family…. Great scone though and a decent cup of tea too … but not the elegant interior that Mackintosh had once designed and certainly the building could do with a huge uplift.

All is not lost. A couple of years ago a local business woman and Mackintosh lover decided to do Glasgow a good dead and with her very own pennies purchased the Tea Rooms buildings from the Council with the enormous task to refurbish to a superb standard this A listed unique work of art. A charitable trust was formed with in it a good deal of specialists in the field, professor in Mackintosh studies, owner of other Mackintosh buildings… and  for The Willow Tea Room Trust a lottery grant was gained. The work is underway and should be completed by the birthday of the great man in June 2018… The Big Mackintosh year. This should be a very joyful occasion.

Off course there is the name issue… The Willow Tea Rooms was registered as a trading name a good 20 years ago by the lady entrepreneur and it is being used still today for another Tea Rooms further down in Sauchiehall Street. How confusing for visitors because off course although its a very good tea rooms its not really The Willow Tea Rooms, or is it? Oh so difficult when you mix history and business… What would Mackintosh think? There is so much symbolism in his work I am not sure he would want his “Willow Tea Rooms” to be in Buchanan street … but then what do you do when you have built a business over 20 years… and given a lot of customers a great service. I am not sure I have an answer. The important is to be transparent… call a cat a cat I say !

So It will be “Mackintosh at the Willow” and what a better name and more poetic for such a beautiful project. A huge crowd of Mackintosh lovers and specialists all embarked in the adventure to complete the work in time….

There is the small matter of the couple of £ million missing… could you donate? There is a fund raising campaign you can access Here  how being part of this great adventure.

But in the meantime we will be welcoming the public regularly in the Spy and Try tent opposite the Tea Rooms at 215 Sauchiehall Street, check the Trust’s website for the dates. There we will give you news and show you how to stencil… Every month a new design, grab our passport when you come first and get it stamped when you come. A small gift will reward all completed passport when the Tea Rooms reopen next June.

A few visitors had a go last week end for doors open day. It was very good fun. If you volunteer I will certainly train you.

So see you there?

Betty x

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