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Arts world united on plan for Red Road

The opening of the Reid Building at Glasgow School of Art on Wednesday was the ideal place to canvas opinion on the proposal to kick off the 20th Commonwealth Games by demolishing the Red Road tower blocks.

With the promise of free food and drink, the students had naturally turned out in force and the capacity of public areas in the new facilities were fully tested. "It's just like T in the Park," I heard one vexed young artist say. "Don't lose me!"

In what was an egalitarian occasion, I found myself in the queue for admittance behind Steven Holl, whose New York architecture practice designed the building, and around whom Glasgow architects gathered. The consensus was unanimous. How did such a crass and tasteless idea as using the destruction of the homes as an entertainment get off the drawing board?

Although the media, certainly this newspaper and BBC Scotland, have been scrupulously fair in trying to put both sides of the argument, the wonder is that there is any debate at all. I single them out only because they are chaps of my generation whose views I think I know and understand, but when Neil Baxter (secretary of the Royal Incorporation of Architects) and Alexander Stoddart (classicist sculptor) are on the same side to oppose you, it should be obvious that you are up the wee burn of excrement with no means of propulsion.

It wasn't just architects though. Musicians, writers and the students were all unequivocal that, post-9/11 especially, treating the destruction of blocks, from which an asylum-seeking family had jumped to their deaths, as a pyrotechnic display was witless beyond belief, and the justification that it would symbolise regeneration shallow and worthless.

When I found myself in conversation on the same topic with a senior academic from Glasgow University a little later, she heaved a sigh of relief when I reported my findings, saying: " I worried it was just me." No professor, you are far from on your own, as the thousands of signatures on the online petition of protest illustrates.

The bullish attitude of Glasgow Life and the Games organisation in the face of this opposition is foolish, because they do not hold the whip hand they seem to think they have. Alongside the sporting events the Games has a large associated cultural programme, for which substantial grants have been allocated.

It would be a surprise if some of the artists involved were not considering their position with regard to the Games programme. I know that some already are. Many have made work that involves people in Red Road or nearby areas, or involving asylum seekers and other immigrants who have been housed there.

We know that Scotland's artists can form a powerful lobby. If Glasgow Life and the Games committee doubt that, they need only speak with their funding partners in the 2014 cultural programme at Creative Scotland. The arts funding organisation has yet to make its views clear on the Red Road plan, but it could probably have done without it in the week it announced its own strategy for the next decade.

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