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Meet the man who won the chance to design an Art Suite at Icehotel

Mike McGrow from Stevenage, UK was the lucky winner of the Telegraph Travel Awards first prize – a chance to design a suite at ICEHOTEL no 25.

Congratulations, first of all! Is this the sort of trip you’d usually take?
Icehotel isn’t the sort of place we’d usually go, but now that it’s happening, we’re really excited.

Where do you usually like going on holiday?
Mostly we go to South East Asia – Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia – warm places! We’ve also got a son who lives in California and a daughter who used to live in New York, so we’ve done quite a bit of America too.

What were you doing when you found out you’d won?
I’d been decorating a bedroom for my grandson, and I was in the bathroom cleaning off the paint rollers when the phone rang – by the time I got to it, I thought I was going to miss the call. Then a voice said “Is this Mike McCrow?” I thought it was going to be another cold call when she said, “it’s Belinda calling from the Daily Telegraph.”

What was your initial reaction?
When I put the phone down I couldn’t quite believe it – I’ve never won anything. I just wanted to be sure it was really the Telegraph, so I did a little google search and found a phone number for the paper. I eventually got through to Belinda’s desk and she confirmed that it was her who had phoned me.

It was a real surprise – I didn’t come down to earth for two whole days.

Tell us about your design ideas and the process of creating a Suite
I’ve been speaking on Skype with Jens [Jens Thoms Ivarsson, an ice artist at the Icehotel) who asked me to come up with some themes, personal to me. I was born in the 40’s and lived next to a railway – I used to watch the trains going off to the continent, the Orient Express and all that. So I’ve always liked railways and railway architecture – I love what they’ve done with some of the London stations – Kings Cross and St Pancras and Euston for example. I also enjoy gardening, so that was one of the themes. And of course, travel – the skylines of New York and Singapore, boat voyages and Cordoba.

He asked me to write up some notes on each to give him a fuller feeling for where I was coming from, then after plenty of discussion, in the end we cut these ideas down to railways and Cordoba. He asked if I had a preference between them, and I said if anything Cordoba as that’s the one my wife was supporting me on.

We’ve another son who lives in Spain – and every time we go and visit we try and visit a different Spanish town for the day. Cordoba is somewhere we’d always wanted to go, but it was just a bit too far for a day trip until 2011 when they opened a new toll motorway.

We’d read about it in the books, and when we got there it was just as we’d imagined it. The Mezquita, the Roman Bridge going over the river – all of it. I wrote some notes about all of this and sent them to Jens. He called me back saying he’d looked at pictures, and we decide that was the one.

What are you looking forward to about going to the Icehotel for the first time?
We’re just looking forward to going somewhere so totally different. And seeing something you’ve had a hand in designing is very special. Well, something you’ve been involved in; I just had some ideas, Jens is the clever one!

From speaking to Jens and Arne [Bergh – Creative Director of the Icehotel], everyone out there just seems really nice and friendly too. And trying all the activities – just having another new experience – will be lovely. We’re really looking forward to it.