Thanks to all who participated in our 2017 events or organised ones of their own. It was unquestionably a special year for the Society. Thomson’s Bicentenary presented a great opportunity to celebrate the legacy of one of Scotland’s greatest architects, and we endeavoured to do so by organising a programme of events that would span the whole year.
We had talks from Fiona Sinclair, Professor Dean Hawkes, Gary Paul, Gary Nisbet, Sally White, Mark Baines, Scott Abercrombie and Paul Stallan, to which we had over 850 tickets booked and over 50% sold out. Beyond this, we also delivered a number of talks and guided tours to other Societies across Scotland, and participated in events such as Doors Open Days and the Southside Fringe.
Our annual programme of Guided Walks led by Roger Guthrie was expanded this year and proved as successful as always. We owe thanks to SPAB Scotland who partnered with us for a trip to Rothesay, and Friends of the Glasgow Necropolis who ran Thomson specific tours throughout the year. We are also immensely grateful to the owners of Thomson’s residential buildings who opened up their homes over the course of two weekends for the fully booked ‘Get Into Thomson’ tours.
Holmwood House and the National Trust for Scotland contributed a plethora of events to our calendar for the year, and continued to deliver the faithful restoration of Thomson’s masterpiece of villa design. Whilst Glasgow City Free Church who worship in Thomson’s St Vincent Street Church held a special memorial service to mark the anniversary of Thomson’s birth.
We organised two exhibitions this year, the first a celebration of the entries to our Double Villa Competition in the Lighthouse. The Double Villa competition had over 100 entrants sign up, with registrants from every continent except Antartica. The second was our ‘Lines of Thought’ exhibition, a significant display of original Thomson drawings alongside surveys and interpretations of his works by others. During its seven-week run it was visited by over 11,000 people.
Exhibitions of Thomson’s work were also held elsewhere, including Historic Environment Scotland’s exhibition at the Engine Shed and one at Balfron Library organised by the brilliant Balfron Heritage Group. We also held an online exhibition of sorts, with our ongoing ‘Takes on Thomson’ project which drew a vast array of creative reimaginings of Thomson’s work. Featured in this were pieces by Marion Gardyne who exhibited her Thomson inspired artworks at a variety of venues over the year, whilst a contribution is currently in progress by Elisabeth Viguie Culshaw who led Thomson-inspired stencil workshops with Glasgow City Heritage Trust.
Thomson was featured on TV and in print throughout the year, but the most significant of these was the fantastic new documentary commissioned by the BBC, clips from which can be seen here.
We are hugely indebted to the support of the BBC, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow City Free Church, National Trust for Scotland, the Glasgow School of Art, GIA, The Mitchell Library, Southside Fringe, Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, Glasgow City Heritage Trust, The Lighthouse amongst many many others for their support and in-kind contributions over the course of the last year. But most of all we have the thank our membership for their ongoing commitment to raising the profile of ‘Glasgow’s Master Builder’.
Sadly the year ended with the loss of the greatest champion of Greek Thomson’s legacy, Dr Gavin Stamp. Gavin was our founding chairman and a Thomson fanatic. During his tenure with the Society he oversaw the publication of three books on Thomson’s work, the largest retrospective exhibition of his work ever held, and played a major part in campaigns to save his buildings. His passion and enthusiasm converted many to his belief that Thomson was one of Glasgow’s greatest architects, whilst the righteous anger he brought to the lectern and his writings emphasised the need for action to protect his threatened buildings. Gavin put it mildly when he said that upon arriving in Glasgow he noticed that “Thomson was a great architect who needed some help”. Thomson received that and more from Gavin, who, amongst his many accomplishments, was instrumental in organising the purchase of Holmwood House by the National Trust for Scotland, and its protection for future generations. He leaves behind a noble and vital legacy that focused in part on the preservation of the legacies of others. We are immensely grateful that as a Society we were able to benefit from his sharp wit, his brilliant intellect and his tireless commitment for so many years.
Looking towards 2018 we hope to build on the renewed momentum of the Society by focussing on delivering new publications, an exhibition of entries to our Takes on Thomson project, and carrying out new research. We hope to improve our website by adding a catalogue of Thomson’s buildings and designs, his lectures, and archive drawings. Whilst we will also continue our ongoing casework, our annual lecture series, and guided walks.
To those who are not yet members, please consider joining the Society for only £20 per year (£1.67 per month). Member benefits include copies of our journal, free access to our lectures and early access to tickets for special events. Information on how to join can be found here.
Thank you again to all who participated in our 2017 events, and we hope to see you all again in 2018!
The Alexander Thomson Society