'Crude stunt': Glasgow blasted for plans to blow up local landmarks in Commonwealth Games opening ceremony


Senior Reporter

For half a century the Red Road tower blocks have loomed over the skyline of north east Glasgow. In the space of 15 seconds on 23 July, with more than one billion people watching live on television, they will be demolished forever.

In a surprise announcement, Commonwealth Games organisers revealed that five of the six remaining structures will be destroyed using 1,250kgs of explosives during the tournament’s opening ceremony.

While local officials trumpeted the act as “symbolic of the changing face of Glasgow”, others described it as a “crude stunt” which was “highly insensitive” to those who have lived in the towers over the years, many of whom were asylum seekers making their first home in Britain.

Built in the 1960s, the series of eight 89m tower blocks were once the highest residential structures in Europe and provided homes for 4,000 people. Initially heralded as the answer to Glasgow’s overcrowded tenements, latterly they have fallen into disrepair and serve as a constant physical reminder of the city’s problems with poverty, deprivation and drugs.

From 2001 onwards, thousands of asylum seekers fleeing war in countries such as Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan were housed in the flats. In 2010 a family of three Russian asylum seekers jumped to their deaths from the 15th floor of one of the towers after being told they had to leave.

Two of the 31-storey buildings were demolished in 2012 and 2013. After the Commonwealth Games, only one, Petershill Court, will remain standing. It is still used to house asylum seekers and will be destroyed at a later date. Almost 900 homes near the site will be temporarily evacuated in the run up to the opening ceremony and their residents invited to join celebrations at local venues.

Eileen Gallagher, the independent director on the Glasgow 2014 board and chair of the ceremonies, culture and Queen’s baton relay committee, said: “By sharing the final moments of the Red Road flats with the world as part of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow is proving it is a city that is proud of its history but doesn’t stand still.”

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said the demolition would “wow the world”, adding that the removal of the towers “will all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area and is symbolic of the changing face of Glasgow”.

But Alison Irvine, whose 2011 novel This Road Is Red was based on interviews with people living in the towers, told The Independent: “I think it’s insensitive and crude. It rides roughshod over all the memories of the people that lived there… it’s a crude stunt. The Red Road housed some of the first refugees that came from Kosovo, and I think that’s a very proud history to have.”

Robina Qureshi, director of the charity Positive Action in Housing, said the demolition was “ironic”, pointing out that asylum seekers have also been barred from volunteering at the Games. “For the Olympic Games they light a torch, and here in Glasgow they are celebrating the start of the Commonwealth Games by blowing up the Red Road flats. It’s highly insensitive and jars with the senses,” she added.

Chris Leslie, a photographer and filmmaker who has been documenting the blocks and their residents for three years, said he was “shocked” when he heard about the live demolition, but added that it had “opened up the idea of Glasgow’s resurgence”.

Some residents will be sad to see the end of their former homes. Red Road resident Ali Mudassir, 21, said the buildings had been “a family” to him since he moved to Glasgow three years ago. “It’s been a great experience and they will be missed,” he said. “The area will be entirely different after they’ve gone.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine