Art school admits 'poor communications' after Mack fire

image copyrightAndrew Cowan
image captionMuriel Gray gave evidence before Holyrood's culture committee

Glasgow School of Art has expressed regret over its "poor communications" with the local community following the Mackintosh fire.

But despite two devastating blazes in four years the chair of the board of governors defended its performance.

And Muriel Gray told the culture committee she stood by all the decisions made before the fire.

The iconic building was reduced to a ruin in June, months before it was due to reopen after a £49m rebuild.

image copyrightJeff J Mitchell
image captionResidents and businesses held several protests after being denied access to their homes and premises

During her evidence Ms Gray told the committee the circumstances surrounding the latest fire and the 2014 blaze were not comparable.

The broadcaster noted the first occurred during the day while the school was operational while the most recent broke out at night in a building that was still under construction.

Culture committee convenor Joan McAlpine asked Ms Gray if she had any regrets.

She replied: "We take full responsibility, at all times, for what happens at the GSA. Absolutely. One hundred per cent.

"Yes I have massive regrets that we have suffered two major disasters.

"In fact, I would say more than regretful, it has broken my heart."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe building was undergoing restoration works after the previous fire in 2014

Ms Gray claimed the board had audited itself as rigorously as the committee and was "very self critical".

But she added: "I do regret not having engaged more fully, and sooner, with the local community.

"I really do because that was, actually, a communications mistake.

"It was not intentional but the perception they had is valid."


In July residents and businesses protested over lack of access to their homes and premises after the fire.

And the following month Govan Law Centre threatened Glasgow City Council with legal action over what it described as the "unacceptable" treatment of locals.

Glasgow MSPs Sandra White and Pauline McNeill both highlighted the treatment of the residents during Thursday's hearing.

image copyrightPolice Scotland
image captionThe Mackintosh building was devastated by a fire in June just months before it was due to reopen

Earlier this week former GSA director Prof Tom Inns said a trust should be set up to restore the Mackintosh building.

In a written submission to the committee he said such a move would leave the board of governors free to run the world renowned school.

But Ms Gray claimed this was a "minority" viewpoint and stressed the board was capable of managing both the day-to-day running of the school and the restoration project.

Prof Inns, who stood down earlier this month, said the latest rebuild could cost in excess of £100m and take up to seven years.

On Monday the board of Glasgow School of Art hit back at claims it failed to look after the A-listed Mackintosh building.

A submission to a parliamentary inquiry strongly defended its record following two devastating fires in four years.

In documents released ahead of the evidence session bosses denied claims of "systemic management failure".

image copyrightAndrew Cowan
image captionLiz Davidson, senior project manager of the Mackintosh Building Restoration also gave evidence on Thursday

MSPs on the culture committee have heard from architects and other experts but Thursday was the first time those in charge of the art school have had their say.

In their written submission, the board members responded to statements from previous sessions - that they failed to engage with experts, were not transparent enough and had "monetised" the building.

An evidence session on 20 September heard one Mackintosh expert described the A-listed Mack building as a "fire-trap waiting to happen" while another former employee said everyone knew the building was a risk.

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