The Hot 100 2018: Glasgow School of Art
- David Pollock
- 1 November 2018
David Pollock reflects on a tragic June night when the Mackintosh Building was destroyed by a second fire and finds that above the debris, optimism and hope fills the air
The only thing everyone knows for certain about Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh Building is that most of us don't know very much at all. Beginning with what actually happened on the night of June 15, when the nearly-complete building caught fire again four years after a previous, severely damaging blaze, and left the old stone walls a crumbling shell. Once more, dramatic images of the fire were streamed live across the world, and the devastation done by the time it had burned out was near-total.
In another dismally contemporary twist on proceedings, where lack of knowledge exists online, so too do professional opinions treated as incontrovertible fact and understandable anger translated into conspiratorial guesses. As bad as the last fire was, this time the effect was far greater, with Sauchiehall Street's historic ABC music venue also destroyed, local residents locked out of their homes for an extended period of time, and local businesses (including the Centre for Contemporary Arts and arts organisations based there) forced to close or relocate indefinitely.
At time of writing, the CCA has just reopened but we don't know when, how or even if the Mack building itself will be rebuilt once again. The School's board, through its chairperson Muriel Gray, has made an emphatic declaration that it will return in something like its original form, and that insurance money and private donations will insure that no public money needs be spent in the process.
Hopefully that will be the case. Where the tragedy of the 2014 fire brought a broad, Dunkirk Spirit consensus that this horrible development be put right immediately, the much wider impact of 2018 and the sense of bubbling frustration at how lightning could have been allowed to strike twice has left a far messier public conversation about the value of art in a time of austerity. Yet Glasgow's reputation across the arts has been built upon people doing great things with not very much, and such ingenuity must surely be given every opportunity to win out again.
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