Royal Bank of Scotland unveils design of first Polymer £20 note at Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous tearoom | Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
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Royal Bank of Scotland unveils design of first Polymer £20 note at Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous tearoom

Royal Bank of Scotland has unveiled the design of its first £20 polymer note at one of Scotland’s most iconic buildings. 

The note, which features the image of historic Scottish entrepreneur Kate Cranston, was revealed at her legendary tearoom in Glasgow, Mackintosh at the Willow.

Designed in partnership with leading Scottish arts’ organisations and designers including Graven Images, Nile, Stucco, Timrous Beasties, O’Street and the Glasgow School of Art, the note, which will enter circulation in 2020, will be the first £20 Scottish banknote to feature a woman other than the Queen, on its front.

The £20 is the third in a series of ‘Fabric of Nature’ themed notes made from a De La Rue’s Safeguard® polymer material and will also contain a variety of new security features, making it difficult to counterfeit but easy to authenticate. 

In designing the new notes, Royal Bank of Scotland launched the People’s Money programme and engaged with thousands of people across Scotland through workshops, online communities and polling surveys. 

As a result, ‘Fabric of Nature’ was chosen as the theme. The choice of Kate Cranston to feature on the £20 note was taken by the Royal Bank of Scotland Scottish Board. 

Speaking at the launch, Royal Bank of Scotland’s Scottish board chair Malcolm Buchanan, said: “At Royal Bank of Scotland, we feel that a banknote’s value is more than just the figure printed across its front - it is our symbol which lives in people’s pockets and touches everyday lives. 

“Kate Cranston’s legacy touches so many aspects of Scottish life that we, as a nation, are justifiably proud; entrepreneurialism, art, philanthropy and dedication. 

“Choosing the design of the £20 note was an important decision for it is Royal Bank of Scotland’s biggest circulating note, with £736m currently in circulation. 

“As such, it is fitting that such a figure as Kate Cranston will be celebrated on the face of our most popular note.” 

In keeping with the Fabric of Nature theme, the new £20 features illustrations of red squirrels on its reverse and also features the blaeberry fruit. It also includes extracts from 16th century Scottish poet Mark Alexander Boyd’s work, Cupid and Venus. 

The new note will carry the same exclusive weave pattern developed by textile designers Alistair McDade and Elspeth Anderson for the £5 and £10 polymer notes. 

The red squirrels on a tree illustration for the £20 follow mackerel in the sea on the £5, to otters on the shore for the £10.

Jeni Lennox of design agency, Nile HQ, coordinated the development of the design.

She said: “The People's Money project continues to deliver delight with the design release of the third note in the series.

“It celebrates the resurrection of the icon of Scottish design in Mackintosh’s original tearoom, the foresight and ingenuity of the enterprising Kate Cranston and the cheeky indigenous survivor in our red squirrel.

“The new design for the £20 pulls on the strengths of a committed and talented multi disciplinary team.  From calligrapher Susie Leiper, to our literature expert Professor Alan Riach, it is a real treat to join forces with such a depth of expertise. The images on the note are just the surface of an iceberg of effort that goes in to the production of these treasured pocket works of art.

“Squirrels have rarely been sketched so carefully, hours of work go in to getting the blaeberries just right, the custom designed tweeds are constructed and detailed by our textile designers and in the midst of their renovation of the original tearoom in Glasgow, the team behind the Willow Tearooms Trust scoured the archives to find us quotes and reference portraits. 

“The energy and cooperation we meet whenever we engage with anyone on the development of these notes is astonishing.”

Neil Wallace, Director of designers’ O’Street, added: "The Royal Bank polymer bank notes have been designed as a series. As well as looking beautiful on their own, it was important that they worked together as a set. With notes from multiple banks in circulation in the UK, we wanted the people of Scotland to easily recognise the Royal Bank notes. 

“We wanted folk to engage with the design and by doing so become familiar with the storytelling and history woven into it.”

Kate Cranston, from Glasgow, made her mark for her series of tearooms across the city.

Her flagship venue at 217 Sauchiehall Street, is celebrated by architects and designers due to the interior designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The tearooms made a cultural impact during her life due to offering venues where women could enter unchaperoned. Following her death in 1934, her fortune was left to support the poor and the homeless in the city.

Commenting at the launch, Celia Sinclair, Chair of the Willow Tea Room Trust, said: “We are delighted that the image of Kate Cranston is on the Royal Bank of Scotland £20 note. She was a very interesting and intelligent woman, an excellent businesswoman who changed attitudes. The Salon de Luxe, the centrepiece of Mackintosh at the Willow, was a symbol of social change in Glasgow where women began to socialise outside the home. 

“She was serious about training – she ran all of her own courses and all her staff had to toe the line. She grew her own flowers for the tearooms, fresh foods were supplied by her own dairy. I think there were many women like Kate Cranston around at that time, but history simply doesn’t remember them, but now I am glad to say we are with this very fitting tribute.”

Royal Bank of Scotland has been issuing banknotes since 1727 and has an average of £1.5bn worth of notes in circulation on a single day. The £20 note is the bank’s biggest circulating note, with £736m currently in circulation.

The existing paper note features a portrait of Lord Ilay, the first governor of Royal Bank of Scotland. The reverse features an image of Brodick Castle. 

The Polymer £20 note is set for issue in 2020 and will follow the £5 Polymer note, which was launched in 2016 and features poet Nan Shepherd, and the £10 Polymer which was launched in 2017 and includes the portrait of scientist Mary Somerville.

Pictured: Malcolm Buchanan, chair of Royal Bank of Scotland’s Scottish Board and Celia Sinclair, Chair of Willow Tea Room Trust.

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