The upper floor of Stornoway Town Hall was crowded last night (Thursday 31st May) as the Harris Tweed Authority's charitable arm, The Harris Tweed Educational Trust, launched a new public exhibition focused on the work of the industry.
The trust has created - within its new headquarters in the Town Hall – a ‘brand story showcase’ which opened to a small audience of invited guests from the industry and related enterprises.
The grand room on the first floor of the Town Hall, with spectacular views across Stornoway harbour, was formerly the Town Council Chamber and later, the registrar’s marriage room, as well as being familiar to many as the main exhibition space of the original An Lanntair arts centre.
Within the space there is both a Hattersley single width loom and a Griffith double width loom along with audio and visual presentations telling the Harris Tweed story, and a small collection of designer garments. The audience heard how getting the double-width loom up the stairs proved impossible and it had to be ported in through one of the window spaces. It is intended there will be regular displays of the looms in action.
The room – which still does not have a final name although it will be in Gaelic – was introduced to guests by Norman Macdonald, Chairman of the Harris Tweed Authority Educational Trustees who welcomed everyone and praised the work of the staff, companies and volunteers involved in bringing the project to fruition.
Earlier he explained: “We have long felt that the Harris Tweed industry deserved a showcase in the town and we were pleased to secure office accommodation with the Town Hall which included a room fit for this purpose.
“It has become clear to us at the HTA that visitors to the town are looking for information about the Harris Tweed industry.
“Health and Safety regulations and pressure of production deadlines have meant it is difficult for mills and weavers to always give the time they would like to tourists and visitors.
“Clearly what we can achieve in a small visitor attraction is limited, but it goes some way to sharing the story of our most unique and protected industry including the vital role of the Harris Tweed Authority. '
Independent weaver Mr Donald John Mackay MBE of the Luskentyre Harris Tweed Company formally opened the room. Donald John said it was long overdue for the town to mark our special industry in this way.
The room is open from 10am-4pm Monday through to Friday. Weaving demonstrations will be available twice weekly initially, with the expectation of more being introduced later in the season.