Tag: Glasgow

Story of the week: Behind the scenes at the Glasgow School of Art


* Something a bit different this week in response to the sad news of a major fire at the Glasgow School of Art. I toured this very building just a few weeks ago on a visit to Glasgow and stood in the now burnt-out library.

I look forward to visiting again when the building re-opens.

As ever, follow me on Twitter, or subscribe to the RSS, for weekly updates from my travel-writing archive in the months to come.

The Glasgow Miracle was a hybrid of the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau movements, which flourished in Glasgow from 1890-1905. It drew on the materials of the industrial age but merged them with romantic flourishes.

The pioneering Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh was the leading figure in the movement and the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is considered to be his masterwork.

Two city walking tours, the Glasgow Miracle and the Glasgow Style (running May to mid October) both look at Mackintosh’s legacy on the city.

Many of the buildings Mackintosh designed remain open to the public, notably the Willow Tea Rooms and the Mackintosh House, a reassembled family home at the Hunterian Art Gallery.

But the GSA remains the cornerstone of Mackintosh’s legacy to Glasgow.

When I was there in late March, the Reid Building, the light-filled new design school designed by the American practice Steven Holl Architects, was about to open.

Current students or graduates of the GSA lead the tours. The School has an illustrious list of alumni, including the sculptor Martin Boyce, who won the Turner Prize in 2011, and David Shrigley, a nominee in 2013.

The Turner Prize will be staged in Glasgow in 2015.

I joined 19-year-old Jamie Snedden [pictured, above], a first-year architecture undergraduate originally from Inverness, for a behind-the-scenes look into hidden nooks and crannies.

The young Mackintosh, he explained, studied at the GSA himself and then worked on designs for the new building as a young draughtsman in a Glasgow firm.

As such, he built lots of personal touches into the building, such as no door handles but swing doors – ideal if you’re carrying a large portfolio of drawings and sketches.

“As a designer, what impresses me is his vision to design a bold new building before even the age of 30,” says Jamie.

“This building showcases he cannot be slotted into a single category.”

We climbed staircases, passing walls of Glasgow granite (polished concrete in fact) and colourful mosaic designs built into the walls by Mackintosh as some sort of secret design code.

Many of the doorframes have shelves built into the wood. This, I discovered, was Mackintosh’s idea to place a single red rose (his emblem) into the slot each morning, a trend revived by current students each Valentine’s Day.

On the top floor I find the Hen Run, the place where the then segregated female students would be watched by the male students below. The south-facing floor-to-ceiling windows overlook Sauciehall Street, home to the Willow Tea Rooms, another of his signature designs.

The piece de resistance, however, is the library, a three-storey space dating from 1908 and still enveloped in the rich musty smell of old, leather-bound tomes.

We ended the tour in the furniture gallery, admiring a curved, lattice-back chair of ebonised oak from 1904. It was once the manager’s chair at the Willow Tea Rooms.

“Mackintosh believed in form, not function.”

“That’s why,” he laughs, “So many of his pieces are incredibly uncomfortable.”

* Liked this? Try A cultural feast in Glasgow.

More details of the damage from Channel Four News; more about tours and guided walks from the GSA.

And post your comments below.

A cultural feast in Glasgow

Oran Mor Entrance

* The Commonwealth Games open in Glasgow one year from today. Here’s my personal take on the Games build up, based on a recent research trip on commission for a couple of magazine stories – more of those later.

Thursday lunchtime and it’s a full house.

I’m at Oran Mor [pictured above], the arts centre, whisky bar and entertainment venue at the pulsing heart of Glasgow’s West End.

Visitors to the Botanic Gardens, located across the road, are basking in a rare outburst of tropical Glaswegian weather. But it feels deliciously cool downstairs in the crypt beneath the bar.

Around me people are tucking into their pints of lager and scotch pies, a diverse crowd of regulars, trendy West End types and a couple of Chinese students, who looked somewhat bemused by the thick local patois.

We are all gathered here for a West End institution: A Play, a Pie and a Pint.

The lunchtime theatre was started by Scottish theatre stalwart David Maclennan in 2004. Oran Mor today commissions and produces 38 original new dramas per year, and stages them six days per week, commissioning the largest amount of new theatre in the UK.

Glasgow is gearing up for a big year in 2014 with the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park a year from today, and the accompanying cultural programme, Festival 2014, running from May next year onwards.

This lunchtime drama, however, offers a truly gritty Glaswegian introduction to the city.

The show today is a summer pantomime, an adult take on the traditional “He’s behind you.” Entitled A Bit of a Dick … Whittington, it’s more Mock the Week than Mother Goose with sweary, satirical swipes at Russian oligarchs and bedroom tax.

The crowd whoops appreciatively as a wee Jimmy Krankie soundalike runs circles around an older man dressed as a pantomime dame.

Two ladies of a certain age close to me join in vocally with the heckling in between gulps of their fizzy lager.

We troop out into the sunshine afterwards, blinking as West End’s heady mix of yoga studios, trendy coffee shops and self-consciously cool vinyl-only record shops jolt us back to reality en route to Hillhead subway station.

Scotland’s key medal hope among the 17 sports included in the Games is lawn bowls.

But a lunchtime performance at Oran Mor confirms that, culturally at least, Glasgow is poised to take the gold.




What’s your take on Glasgow and the Games? Post your comments below.

* Liked this, try this also, A fact-finding trip to Glasgow.

A fact-finding trip to Glasgow



I’ve always been curious about Glasgow. Passed through, never stayed, heard good things.

This week I finally had a chance to explore.

What I found was Scotland gearing up for a big year in 2014 and lots of potential angles for a work-hungry freelancer.

The Commonwealth Games is the hook for July next year with an accompanying (as yet undisclosed) cultural programme from this summer onwards.

Then there’s the Ryder Cup coming to Gleneagles in September next year and events as part of the Homecoming 2014 festival throughout the year.

While this visit was very much a fact-finding trip, I came away with lots of food for thought and I hope I’ll be back soon to do some more individual research.

But meanwhile, and in the spirit of Glaswegian irreverence, here are ten things I learnt from 48 hours in Glasgow:

  • The job title Legacy Manager does not just exist in the TV programme 2012
  • The Commonwealth Games features 17 sports of which lawn bowls is one of the Scotland’s strongest medal hopes
  • A squished Curly Wurly provides a surprisingly vivid metaphor for the formation of metamorphic rock in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
  • The top notes of citrus in natural beauty products made on the isle of Aran can the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • To caramelise your scallops perfectly, don’t shake the pan (Gleneagles Hotel Executive chef Alan Gibb pictured above)
  • Owls (Falconry display pictured below) don’t want to be mates. For them, it’s strictly business
  • A drop of water will bring out essential oils and flavours in a whisky tasting. Anyone who says it’s diluting the whisky is talking pish
  • There are five Unesco Cities of Music including Glasgow. The next nearest is Ghent
  • The toilets in Citizen M hotel rooms glow Ghostbusters green while you’re trying to sleep
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the ubiquitous Glaswegian doyen of the Arts & Crafts movement, believed artists should work according to the following mantra:

“Reason informed by emotion, expressed in beauty, elevated by earnestness, lightened by humour.”

What have you learnt about Glasgow from a recent stay? What’s your favourite hidden-gem place for me to discover on my next visit?

Post your comments below.


See Glasgow

Visit Scotland – Glasgow

Glasgow City of Music

House for an Art Lover

The Gleneagles Hotel