Still Standing: Red Road flats, Glasgow 2014
This blog accompanies a recently published feature, Tall Order, in Umbrella Magazine Issue 11 – Winter 2014/15 , available to buy in print and viewable online. Thanks to Tony and Matt for their support and good luck with taking your vision to the next level.
The year 2014 will be remembered in Glasgow for its successful hosting of the Commonwealth Games and its majority vote in favour of Scottish independence. It was also the year that five of the Red Road flats tower blocks were to be demolished in a ‘gallus’ and baffling “ceremonial demolition” during Glasgow 2014‘s opening ceremony.
Three miles north west of Glasgow city centre, the Red Road flats were once considered part of city’s housing solution to its slum tenements, many of which were cleared for the construction of the M8 motorway that divides the city centre from the West End. Fifty years later, Glasgow 2014, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government announced plans for their demolition in a spectacle that would be broadcast to an estimated one billion viewers.
Commenting at the time that the demolition plan was announced, the last Chairman of the Red Road Tenants’ Association attributed such thinking to “politicians and planers [sic] desperate to manufacture new media images of Glasgow… It is appropriate that they will be inked to the Commonwealth Games because they show the city’s rulers are more interested in media constructed stunts while ignoring the real needs of the citizens.”
By the end of 2014, after the demolition plans were dropped in response to public criticism, six of the original eight tower blocks remain standing. Meanwhile one of the tower blocks, continues to provide accommodation for newly arrived asylum seekers and for many of 33 Petershill Drive’s residents, this will be their first home within the UK. Eventually though, like the tower blocks that have gone in the Gorbals, Sighthill and Ibrox, the Red Road flats will disappear from Glasgow’s skyline.
The photographs shown here were taken in September 2013 during the week of Glasgow’s popular Doors Open day. While condemned social housing is not usually included among the buildings that are made accessible to the public, I went along to look more closely at a place that I had previously visited when working with Glasgow’s Homeless Mental Health Team.
Inside one of the vacated buildings, a concierge on duty spotted me with my camera. In a typically Glaswegian way, he invited me inside and allowed me to explore the building’s interior. These photographs have since provided the visuals for a longer written piece on the history and themes involved with Red Road flats that now features in the current issue of Umbrella Magazine.
Postscript: In the week that Umbrella issue 11 was published online, Glasgow Housing Association have announced plans to demolish “the iconic Whitevale and Bluevale high-rise flats in the Gallowgate”; Scotland’s tallest residential multi-storeys buildings. Whether or not lessons were learnt from the PR disaster of the proposed Games ceremonial demolition, on this occasion a ‘TopDownWay’ form of demolition technology “designed for the deconstruction of high-rise structures in close proximity to nearby properties” will be used and is expected to be completed by 2016.
Red Road Flats Cultural Project
Alison Irvine – website for author of This Road is Red
The Bird Man of Red Road – film by Chris Leslie
Red Road Underground – film by Chris Leslie
The Tears that Made the Clyde – book by Carol Craig
Red Road demolition misses mark – Response by Joyce McMillan in the Scotsman
Online petition – successful petition by Carolyn Leckie, change.org
The Road is Red – Photo story and commentary by Urban Realm
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Tags: Commonwealth games, demolition, Glasgow, Glasgow 2014, Greg Neate, high rise flats, neate photos, photography, Red Road flats, Still Standing, Tall Order, tower blocks, Umbrella magazine