Issue 206
Winter 2018/19

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Jan 21, 2019

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ArtWork Newspaper Issue 206
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Editorial Comment

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Who was watching the watchmen?

FOR A MAN who built so little, Charles Rennie Mackintosh has, on the whole, been well served by those who owned his buildings.

The Davidson family, who bought Mackintosh's house in South Park Avenue, Glasgow (now resurrected, phoenix-like, as the concrete clad Mackintosh House) gave both the house and furniture to Glasgow University while, in the early 1970s, the dwindling congregation of Queen's Cross Church decided to share the building with the newly-established Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.

Then, by the late 1980s, The Hill House in Helensburgh had passed from the Blackie family to the Lawson family, who refused a developer's offer for the site when they sold the house to the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

Soon after, ownership passed to the Landmark Trust before the gift to the National Trust for Scotland. Whether they can afford the hefty sums needed to restore its crumbling Portland cement-clad walls remains to be seen.

Also, by the 1980s, fate had intervened by saving the Public Martyrs' School and Scotland Street School from Glasgow City Council's bulldozers as the council ran out of money for its road-building programme.

Fate intervened yet again when the empty Glasgow Herald building was selected for conversion into a new exhibition, conference and retail centre known as The Lighthouse – a fitting commemoration of Glasgow's City of Design year 1999. And the newly re-opened Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow serve to confirm the revival in Mackintosh's reputation.

Yet now, Mackintosh's luck seems to have run out. Two fires, one in 2014 and one this year, have all but totally destroyed Glasgow School of Art, his most iconic building. And, while it may be time to consider its rebuilding (at a cost of £100m and more?), some wuld argue that Mackintosh himself, were he alive, might be advocating a completely new design.

In the aftermath of the fire questions are inevitably being asked about where responsibility may lie. There were many who regarded the building as a fire hazard long before 2014, and saw the apparent shortcomings in fire prevention measures as grossly negligent.

Following the resignation of the School's Principal, questions have now begun to be asked about the suitability of the board of governors.

Yet what body, one might ask, could be more knowledgeable about matters architectural than a school of art that teaches architecture?

To butcher Juvenal – Who will watch the watchmen? – and for that matter, why weren't they actually on duty on the fateful night?

First with the news – yet again!

IF IT WORKS (?), this issue of our paper will introduce yet another Famedram first. At the foot of each article is a jumble of dots tech savvy readers will identify as a QR code – a sort of enhanced barcode.

Land your smart phone on it and it should dutifully read you out the contents of the chosen article to save you scrabbling for your glasses, turning on the reading light or taking your eyes off the road (VERY bad, this last, just a poor joke!)

Yet another instance in which we underline our belief that Print is Not Dead.

To continue bragging (someone has to) this modest organ was the first (in the world, we claim) to use Macintosh generated output rather than the then conventional photo typesetting for text origination.

Then, if we weren't the first, we were pretty well the first to offer online video (through a dial-up modem) via our Desktv.

OK, it's fun to shout the odds, but there is a serious point.

So very many of our newspapers just rolled over and gave up, faced with the challenge of the online monsters. In fact they welcomed them in. Too late in the day they realised that the Googles and the Facebooks were not their friends, but their deadly enemies.

They also stood by and watched while their big allies – the small shopkeepers and High Street retailers – their main outlets, went to the wall.

It's late in the day, but not too late to stand and fight, to believe in the product.

Here's to another 35 years of ArtWork – first with the new ideas

Not an inferiority complex, surely?

WITH THIS, out Winter Issue, this newspaper now takes a break until the Spring.

Our next issue will appear in March, just a few short weeks before we are due to go crashing out of the European Union.

Yet, as we write this, there is more than a glimmer of hope that sanity may yet prevail and we may remain in a close and friendly alliance with our European friends.

Over the past weeks and months the awful suspicion has grown that the desire to go it alone has been driven not so much by a sad nostalgia for Empire, but more out of a feeling of inferiority to our European neighbours than anything else.

Heaven help us!

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