‘They’ve just blown up my childhood!’ That was the emotional, spontaneous, reaction from Finlay McKay, one of the hundreds of people watching Red Road flats being demolished on Sunday 10 June in Glasgow.
Firefighter Finlay was born and brought up on the 25th floor of the Petershill Drive triple block. ‘Staying there was fantastic. I loved it. I’ve still got the pals I had then and living there made me the person I am today. But now, seeing the building come down so very, very quickly….I’m shocked.’ The 42-year-old had brought his daughter Cara (9) and her friends Connor (6) and Taylor (8) to see the GHA’s latest move in its massive re-generation plans. Since GHA was formed in 2003, Scotland’s largest social landlord has invested more than £1.1 billion in refurbishing, modernising and improving homes across the city.
Said Finlay: ‘I left in 1991. My Mum and Dad are dead, now. I’ve moved to my own house in Swinton and tell stories of growing up in the Red Road flats, but that’s the last physical link with ‘who you are’ – gone for me. I thought the building would come down in stages, so I’m shocked it happened so suddenly.’
The controlled explosion used around 275 kilos of explosive to bring down the triple block in seconds. The lower ten storeys of the steel-framed building will be demolished later using long reach machinery. The entire site will take months to clear. Steel will be re-cycled and the rubble crushed to make foundations for roads and buildings.
Around 2000 people were temporarily evacuated from their homes in the area, including residents of a care home, to allow the operation to be completed safely.
Said GHA Executive Director of Development and Regeneration, Alex McGuire: ‘The Red Road flats were popular in their day and are known around the world, but their time has come to an end. We’re pleased the demolition of the first of them went according to plan.’ The remaining seven multi-storey blocks will be demolished by 2017.
William Sinclair, Managing Director of demolition contractors Safedem, said: ‘The Red Road flats have presented a unique series of challenges ranging from the size of the buildings to the steel frame structure.We’re delighted to be involved in another successful demolition for GHA – our 17thwith them since 2005.’
MSP Patricia Ferguson also spent her childhood in a flat in a Red Road block. ‘My family left a room and kitchen in Maryhill to come to a fantastic flat on the 21st floor of a different block from the one demolished today,’ she said after watching the event. ‘The thing to remember is – that tenement with the room and kitchen – is still standing. It has been re-furbished and continues to provide good homes for people. But there is no doubt, the Red Road flats have come to the end of their time and it is right that they come down now.’
A BBC Newsnight film on living in the Red Road flats is due to be screened on Monday 11 June at 22.30.
Resistance is growing to the fact that as many as 140 asylum seekers will be made destitute in Glasgow in the next few weeks.
This follows a change of provider of accommodation from Ypeople, a British based Christian charity, to Serco an international conglomerate providing essential services in more than 30 countries. In the UK it runs electronic tagging, video surveillance, nuclear weapons maintenance, several prisons and two immigration removal centres.
At a rally of around 200 people on Thursday 12 April 2012, at the foot of the Red Road flats which are home to many asylum seekers, speaker after speaker spoke out against the inhumanity of putting vulnerable people onto the streets.
Chair of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Glasgow, John Matthews, told the crowd: ‘In Europe in living memory Jews were first of all refused the right to work, then removed from their homes. I see Glasgow going that way more and more with the asylum seekers. Asylum is a right under the United Nations Convention so don’t be put off by this struggle.’ The NUJ is the first trades union to count journalists who are seeking asylum, as full members of the union and it is encouraging other trades unions to do the same.
Jim Main of UNISON said that Ypeople’s proposal to throw out asylum seekers from their accommodation was ‘outrageous.’ He went on: ‘We will fight this through every trades unions branch. This is a civil emergency and we must demonstrate to prevent this happening. We must show we are a Glasgow that cares. Everyone must ask questions of people in power.’
Speaking as a Justice and Peace campaigner for the Catholic church, Carol Clarke stated: ‘People must be given human dignity and that means a roof over their head.’
College lecturer, Barrie Levine, praised the Scottish Government for its ‘excellent support.’ Both First Minister Alex Salmond and his Deputy Nicola Sturgeon had sent apologies and messages of support to the rally organisers. Said Barrie: ‘That is excellent, but I want to see Alex Salmond make representation to the UK Government which controls UK Borders Agency (UKBA) and I want to see him fully support our protests and make sure civilised values are brought into play. The Big Society should be called the Sick Society. It is a scandal that people are being made destitute and put onto the street. Make no mistake, Serco has this £175 million contract. But the Ypeople’s Board should hang their heads in shame. There is no need to evict anyone right now.’
In her address to the crowd, SNP MSP, Sandra White, said: ‘we have proposed practical ways forward. The Ypeople have a window of opportunity as they do not need to evict anyone till November. We have asked the Scottish Parliament Secretary for External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, to make our views known at Westminster. We are asking for the people who cannot be returned to places like Iran, Iraq and Somali because of wars, to be granted refugee status.’
Afro-Caribbean centre organiser Graham Campbell said: ‘The Ypeople Board should not be allowed to do this. It is disgusting. We should all tell them that in writing. The Afro-Caribbean Centre charity is refusing to work with Ypeople till it withdraws the threat of making destitute asylum seekers, homeless. It is a UK government issue and we must demand it be stopped.’
In a passionate speech, Angela McCormick of the Stop the War Coalition, declared: ‘We are here today to show Serco, Ypeople, Glasgow City Council, and everyone else that we will stand with those who have fled oppression – usually war. The link between this Coalition and the asylum seekers is that many of them have fled from war zones, bombs, missiles and weapons of destruction. They have come here seeking sanctuary. But how do we treat them? They are made destitute, kept in poverty and now being forced out of their homes.’ She added: ‘I believe we are the sensible majority. We do not want this to happen. Remember the people who fuelled the wars which caused the asylum seekers to flee in the first instance are the very people who make money from selling the missles and weapons of war.’
Organised by the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, master of ceremonies, Jock Morris commented: ‘We want to send a statement to the UK Government and the Scottish Government saying lound and clear – refugees and asylum seekers are WELCOME HERE.’ On a show of hands practically everyone in the crowd agreed with the statement.
‘We are now organising another, bigger rally at the STUC in Woodlands Road, on Tuesday 17 April 2012 to decide on the best way forward, together,’ said Margaret Wood of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees. Everyone concerned about this issue is invited.’
Currently around half a dozen destitute asylum seekers are given overnight accommodation each night in a safe, warm place, with an evening meal, a full breakfast and a takeaway lunch pack. But that number is expected to increase dramatically as soon as Ypeople start evicting asylum seekers.
Around 200 people will be made destitute and left to live on the streets of Glasgow soon when the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) makes them homeless. The UKBA has moved its housing contract for asylum seekers worth £175m, from Ypeople to Serco.
Joe Connolly Chief Executive of Y People, told an emergency meeting today (Thursday 29 March) in Garnethill Community Centre: ‘We have to give back the properties. They are not ours. Many of the leases expire in May. We might be criticised, but we have pulled out all the stops and will be making a strong statement at the right time.’
Meanwhile groups such as Unity in the Community, Positive Action in Housing, Glasgow Welcomes Asylum Seekers, Glasgow Destitution Network and Glasgow Night Shelter are organising support.
Said Michael Collins of the Anti Deportation Coalition: ‘We expect to be inundated. Many of the people who will become homeless are not only destitute but also very vulnerable. In Govan area in recent weeks we’ve seen numbers double. That’s only one part of the city.’
Said Jamie O’Neill, of Positive Action in Housing: ‘We’ve had people in our office saying they’ll commit suicide as they see no answer to their situation.’
The Scottish Refugee Council in conjunction with the British Red Cross has opened an additional surgery to deal with the new wave of destitute asylum seekers. Commented Tesfay Waldemichael, Asylum Services Manager: ‘The surgery will be held on Wednesdays between 2pm and 4pm in the Ypeople premises at 33 Petershill Drive, the Red Road flats. If someone has been told to leave their accommodation and their claim for asylum has been refused, they can get information and practical support such as sleeping bags and toiletries at this weekly advice session. But they can also come to our offices in Cadogan Square during our regular office hours and we advise them to do so.’
Some destitute asylum seekers who have received letters saying the lock on their door will be changed in the next two weeks, are in dire straits. Said one: ‘If I sleep on a friend’s sofa, they will be in big trouble. I have no money and no where to go. What am I supposed to do? I can never go home to my country. I thought I would find safety in the UK but I might have to sleep in the streets.’
You don’t even need to knock! More than 100 buildings and 12 allotments will be taking part in Glasgow’s Doors Open Day on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September. But the first Doors Open event starts on Monday 12 September with a hosts of talks, competitions and walks scheduled for the rest of that week in the run-up to the grand weekend. Look out for your free copy of the booklet containing all the information. They can be found in most public places like libraries. But also look on the website for details: www.glasgowdoorsopenday.com The Doors Open Day host, Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, has organised a clever link with Google Map to pinpoint each venue you might be interested in.
For anyone who has not yet enjoyed Doors Open Day, the whole idea is that you get to see inside some of the city’s magnificent buildings that would not normally be open to the public. Among the new places this year are Red Road Community Flat in the 31 storey tower block in Springburn. They are set to be demolished soon. The former Our Lady and St Francis Secondary School which is now the HQ for the Wise Group in Charlotte Street, G1 5DW. Hampden Park for football fans in Letherby Drive, G42 9BA. The Hunterian Museum within Glasgow University G12 8QQ and a multitude of other interesting places.
Running alongside the Doors Open will be OPEN GATES in which twelve of the city’s allotments will put out the welcome mat and people can see what happens there.
Free shuttle buses will operate from the front of Glasgow City Chambers in George Square to go to historic Provan Hall in Easterhouse – at least as old as Proven’s Lordship in the city’s High Street. Another free service will go the award winning Stables building in Castlemilk thanks to Cassiltoun Housing Association.
A photographic competition will have a category for over 18s and for under 18s with fabulous prizes. For those aged under 16 a fascinating Passport competition will be running. In marked venues, a question will be displayed related to the building itself. Each competitor is challenged to find the answer to that question within that venue and do the same for at least four different places with the deadline for sending in the forms being Friday 30 September.
The whole concept is a great way to get people talking and walking and gaining knowledge of and a pride in this wonderful city of Glasgow.
Clear your diary – get through as many doors as you can. It’s fun!
Doors Open Day will soon be here. The festival which enables a multitude of organisations to open their premises to the public on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September now has its 2011 brochure being distributed. Find your free copy in libraries and other public spots. Highlights include storytelling at Partick Curling Clubhouse and Castlemilk Stables; a Children’s Passport Competition; Red Road Flats before they are demolished, 22 Heritage Trail walks by Land and Environmental Services; and dozens of other exciting talks, events and places to enjoy. See their website: www.glasgowdoorsopenday.com for up-to-date information.
It happened in five seconds. The demolition of 15 Coll Place in Germiston, in the North of Glasgow with 55kg of explosives. Once upon a time the 17 storey high rise was home to 102 households. But the last resident left in November last year. And in the early hours of Sunday 15 May, the building went the way of the two adjacent properties which were built at the same time in 1967 – Number 9 Coll Place which was demolished in 1992 and Number 15 Forge Place which was demolished in 2008.
The one and two bedroom apartments became unpopular as Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), gave tenants choices to have a house of their own with a back and front door in the surrounding area. The modest tower block at Coll Place was also expensive to run and required high investment to maintain.
To minimising the disruption and inconvenience to local residents, businesses and the railway line traffic, the ‘blow down’ took place around 1.30am. For safety reasons 250 residents in nearby homes were moved out overnight. Anyone from the 27 storey Red Road flats watching was forewarned – their blocks are in line for the same treatment.
A Scottish Government grant will cover the demolition costs of around £500,000 and around 90% of the 12,000 tonnes of rubble will be recycled. To see the ‘blow down’ for yourself, look at website: www.collplacedemolition.co.uk.
By Grace Franklin
The Red Road flats area of Glasgow is being transformed by North Glasgow Housing Association.
Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Gordon Matheson, recently formally opened the 1000th new home to be built in Springburn.
On a windy day on the Broomfield Road site he said: ‘This is good news for the families affected by Glasgow Housing Association’s demolition programme. It is good news for Springburn and it is good news for North Glasgow Housing Association who have now delivered 1000 new build homes.’
Robert Tamburrini, Chief Executive of the North Glasgow HA added: ‘I’m very proud that we have built 1000 homes here. It is great to see new communities emerging and local families enjoying warm, safe, affordable homes in a new North Glasgow. This is a great place to live, learn, work, visit and invest in.’
The 1000th home is used as a show home to illustrate to prospective tenants and buyers, the quality work done by Alexander Morton Homes and City Building. The £27 million Broomfield Road development is transforming a 16 acre site adjacent to the high flats and has created 198 homes in a unique partnership between Alexander Morton and North Glasgow Housing Association.
Maryhill MSP Patricia Ferguson attended the 1000th celebration. ‘I was brought up in the Red Road Flats and have happy memories of our family life there. But it is good to see this progress.’
The tower blocks are scheduled for demolition in the near future and will dramatically alter the skyline of Glasgow.
by Lynsay Keough, photo Stuart Maxwell
Rarely-seen images of Glasgow will go live on the web next week and an open day in the City Chambers will be part of the 5th Historic Glasgow event.
The new website is www.historicglasgow.com and will be housed within the See Glasgow website, www.seeglasgow.com.
Visitors at the open day on Tuesday 14 September will have a chance to see films of Glasgow, discover Govan’s history, see how the River Clyde’s role evolved through the ages, and get an understanding of Glasgow as a place of pilgrimage for people of different faiths.
There will also be a presentation on the Red Road flats by Mark O’Neill of Glasgow Museums and, for sports fans, “How Glaswegians played through Sport and Architecture” by Ged O’Brien.
The new website will include 200 images rarely seen by the public, a children’s page and, of particular importance, a teacher’s resource page to help them bring local history alive in the classroom.
Bailie Catherine McMaster, member of the Historic Glasgow working group,said: ‘The 2010 Historic Glasgow event will once again give everyone interested in exploring Glasgow’s history the opportunity to find out more on the subject. The new Historic Glasgow website will reveal even more of the hidden history of the city. I am sure everyone will be interested to see these rarely seen images of a changing Glasgow over the centuries. They give a fascinating insight into how this great city of ours has evolved.’
Tuesday 14 September, 12.30 – 3.00pm
Glasgow City Chambers