SEONA REID - Glasgow School of Art director, 1999 to 2013

When Seona Reid became head of the Scottish Arts Council in 1990 she was an unknown quantity in Scotland.

Now Professor Dame Seona Reid, the 74-year-old is a luminary of the Scottish arts and cultural landscape with UK-wide and international influence.

The Scot, born and educated in Glasgow's south side, worked in public relations for a slew of English ballet and contemporary dance companies, including Ballet Rambert and Northern Dance Theatre.

Particularly in contrast to the chaotic creation of Creative Scotland, Dame Seona's 10 years at the helm of the SAC was marked as being one of well-directed development of the introduction of lottery funds to embracing the traditional arts.

Before beginning her 14 year term in charge of the Glasgow School of Art she was instrumental in the success of Celtic Connections and the creation of arts facilities around Scotland.

After retiring from the position of director at the art school, Dame Seona became chair of the National Theatre of Scotland, deputy chair and Scottish chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scotland's Fulbright Commissioner, and a trustee of the Tate.

As well as being a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, she has been awarded honorary doctorates from Robert Gordon University, Glasgow Caledonian University and the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Dame Seona is chair of the British Council Scottish Advisory Committee, British Council Trustee, vice chair of Wasps Artists Studio and on the board of the Edinburgh International Cultural Summit Foundation. 

She has been chair of Cove Park, Guest Chair of the Saltire Society Scotland Housing Design Awards; a member of the DCMS Advisory Panel for the Selection of UK City of Culture 2017; a Commissioner on the Scottish Broadcasting Commission; a member of the Knowledge and Evaluation Committee of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Vice Chair of the Lighthouse Centre for Architecture, Design and the City in Glasgow, and on the boards of The Arches and of Suspect Culture Theatre

She leaves a legacy at the Glasgow School of Art in the £50 million Seona Reid Building, which opened in March 2014, but also having expanded the school's research profile, its postgraduate offering and growing its international focus. 

TOM INNS - Glasgow School of Art director, 2013 to 2018

The Herald:

Professor Tom Inns was director of the Glasgow School of Art from 2013 to 2018, taking over the role when Professor Dame Seona Reid retired from the position.

The end of his term at the art school was acrimonious. From his initial expression of optimism on the morning after the 2014 fire, Professor Inns's tenure was marked by controversy after a second fire took hold of the building in 2018.

There were allegations that he was forced out of the role by the then-chair of the school's board, Muriel Gray, and unedifying leaks to the press of emails sent by Professor Inns to art school staff.

There were calls for a public inquiry into the fires and the management of the art school. 

Professor Inns moved from the role of Dean of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee to take up the position at the Glasgow School of Art.

At the time, the GSA said he had been chosen following "an extensive international search".  

After leaving his post, Mr Inns called for the restoration of the Mackintosh building to be carried out by an independent trust and not the board of governors. 

He made this comment in a submission to Holyrood’s culture committee, saying the board should run the art school but The Mack should be rebuilt but by a separate trust.

A graduate of engineering from the University of Bristol and industrial design engineering at the Royal College of Art, he was co-founder of the Design Research Centre at Brunel University, and moved to DJCAD in 2000.

At the time of his appointment he said he had been looking forward to "unlocking [the art school's] future potential."

He is now a visiting professor at Department of Design, Manufacturing & Engineering Management at the University of Strathclyde.


The Herald:

When Professor McAra-McWilliam took over as interim director of the Glasgow School of Art she pledged to "re-energise" the school with the "rebuild of the Mackintosh building".

Appointed to the post in November 2018, she stood down from the role to move back to her position as Deputy Director. The post was initially announced to be for one year until a full search for a new director could be carried out and Professor McAra-McWilliams did not apply for a permanent position. 

She had joined the GSA in 2005 as head of the School of Design and was appointed deputy director in 2016. That same year she was appointed an OBE in the 2016 New Year's Honours list.

A design researcher and academic, her specialism is design innovation. 

Under her leadership, the School of Design expanded to include the Institute of Design Innovation and she also established the GSA’s Highland Campus at Altyre and created The Innovation School as the GSA’s fifth academic school.

For 18 years she worked in the Netherlands where she was the Design Research Director for Philips Electronics in the Netherlands working on design-led innovation including European Commission funded projects.

Professor McCara-McWilliam also created the Innovation School which was launched in 2017, and was responsible for educational innovation at GSA, including, according to a press release from the school, "the future use of the Mackintosh building for our students".

On stepping down, she said: "I am honoured to have led the Glasgow School of Art through one of the most challenging periods in the school’s history and look forward to continuing to contribute to the GSA’s long history of creativity and innovation as one of the world’s finest art schools."


The Herald:

Professor Penny Macbeth was Dean of Manchester School of Art before she took the position of director in 2020.

She trained at Birmingham City University, graduating with an MA in Textiles. Her work explores cloth's potential in storytelling. 

After working in the design sector she joined Huddersfield University becoming Head of the Department of Art and Design, subsequently moving to Manchester Metropolitan University where she became Dean of Manchester School of Art and

Deputy Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Arts and Humanities focusing on external engagement and partnerships.

Her appointment at the Glasgow School of Art was seen as signalling a shift in priorities for the school, moving further away from the traditional arts to modern practices.

At Manchester Metropolitan University she was academic lead for the university’s School of Digital Arts, which opened 2021.

She was also academic board nominee on Manchester Metropolitan’s Board of Governors and sat on the Culture Corridor Group and the St Johns network. 

As director of the GSA she has established a new academic School of Innovation and Technology.

Professor Macbeth has spearheaded the commitment to rebuilding a faithful reinstatement of the Mackintosh Building and has published a Strategic Outline Business Case for the rebuilding of the Category A structure. 

She is a board trustee of Universities Scotland and Castlefield Gallery Manchester.  
She was previously a board trustee of CHEAD, represented the sector on the

Westminster Parliament All-Party Parliamentary Group for Crafts and is a strong creative and cultural advocate and innovative leader.


The Herald:

When first appointed to the post in 2013, Muriel Gray was the first female chair of the board of governors at the Glasgow School of Art and was the first woman to have been Rector of the University of Edinburgh 

A graduate of the GSA, Ms Gray is a prolific broadcaster and journalist, first finding fame as an interviewer on Channel 4's alternative pop-show The Tube.

She has written for a slew of UK-wide publications and published horror novels.

Ms Gray has been a trustee on the boards of the Glasgow Science Centre, the Scottish Maritime Museum, The Lighthouse and the Children's Parliament.

She has honorary doctorates from the University of Abertay Dundee, the GSA and the University of Glasgow. 

Her time as chair of the GSA, from 2013 to 2021, was marred by the two fires and the subsequent fall out from these. There were rumours of acrimony at the top levels of the GSA and allegations of bullying.

However, an insider at the GSA who worked at the institution at the time told The Herald: "The board were magnificent.  

"Under the most appalling pressure and duress not one single person turned and ran, which would have been understandable and we would have been entirely sympathetic. 

"Contrary to the very loud and aggressive minority trying to claim bad governance, the board were so united in doing everything they could to support the school, the local community and make sure the GSA remained independent and working hard to deliver the best possible education to a body of students and staff who’d endured the most traumatic set of circumstances.  

"One of them in particular was so committed to our problems that their day job business really suffered financially because of their absences.

"I was and remain really proud and grateful to have worked with such dedicated and empathetic people."


The Herald:

Ann Priest was appointed to the role of Chair of the Board of Governors at The Glasgow School of Art following election by staff and students.

She had prior experience of the role as a lay member of Glasgow Caledonian University’s Court and a Trustee and Board member for of Glasgow Caledonian New York College as well as being on the Boards of Nottingham Contemporary and Nottingham Creative Quarter Company.

With more than 30-years’ experience in Higher Education, previously as Pro-Vice Chancellor at Nottingham Trent University and Dean at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London (UAL), Ms Priest also worked with small businesses in both the fashion sector and the wider creative industries.

Ann has worked internationally supporting the establishment of art, design, and fashion related institutions in India, Turkey, then China. 

During her time in HE, Ann led on several EU fashion and enterprise projects and was the Senior Expert and Lead for a project establishing a Fashion Technology Institute in Istanbul. 

More recently, Ann spent three months each year in Beijing as International Dean for Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. 

Ann is also a member of the International Arts and Experts Committee of the Academy for Tsinghua University, Beijing.

Ann is currently a Board member and Trustee of Broadway Media and Nottingham Young Creative Awards and was previously a Court Governor for Glasgow Caledonian University, and a Trustee of Glasgow Caledonian New York College for six years. 

Ann was also previously a Board member and Trustee of Nottingham Contemporary and a Board member for Nottingham Creative Quarter Company.

Read every article in the Glasgow School of Art Fires series here.