Glasgow’s iconic skyscraping symbols of the past – the Red Road tower blocks - will be demolished LIVE during the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games; a bold and dramatic statement of intent from a city focused on regeneration and a positive future for its people.
The blow-down of five of the six remaining blocks, at one time the tallest residential structures in Europe, will take just 15 seconds and be the biggest demolition of its kind ever seen in Europe.
This spectacular event will be beamed live into Celtic Park via the record-breaking 100 metre-wide screen occupying the entire south stand of the stadium, creating Glasgow’s ‘Window to the Commonwealth’. It will form part of the Opening Ceremony, the curtain raiser to the largest sporting and cultural event Scotland has ever hosted.
An estimated television audience of 1.5 billion people around the world will also bear witness as the 30-storey blocks fall spectacularly to the ground, transforming the city’s skyline forever. And, while this will serve as an unforgettable statement of how Glasgow is confidently embracing the future and changing for the better, it is also intended to serve as a respectful recognition and celebration of the role the Red Road flats have played in shaping the lives of thousands of city families for whom these flats have simply been home over five decades.
Local residents living in 887 homes nearby the Red Road site will be temporarily evacuated during the event and will be invited to join in the Commonwealth Games opening celebrations, either by soaking up the atmosphere at the fantastic Commonwealth Games Live Event within Glasgow Green or by attending local welfare facilities that will be open to them throughout the evacuation period. Glasgow City Council Leader Gordon Matheson has written about the plans to each household affected.
The blocks, owned by Glasgow Housing Association (GHA), were originally due to be demolished over the next two years. However GHA was keen to explore the possibility of bringing five down at once to minimise the number of times residents had to be evacuated. One block – 33 Petershill Court – is currently used to house asylum seekers and will come down later.
A unique opportunity presented itself to bring the five blocks down during the Commonwealth Games and Glasgow City Council, Glasgow 2014, GHA and demolition contractor Safedem have been collaborating on the exciting prospect of bringing the two projects together.
A number of key supporting stakeholders are also working in partnership to make it possible including NG Homes, Police Scotland, British Transport Police, Network Rail and First ScotRail and the Health and Safety Executive.
Safety will be paramount as the blocks are demolished under strictly controlled conditions using more than 1250kg of explosives, by demolition experts Safedem, who successfully brought down two of the Red Road blocks in 2012 and 2013. The blow-down will only take place during the Opening Ceremony if and when it is safe to do so.
Eileen Gallagher, 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, is proving it is a city that is proud of its history but doesn't stand still. A city that is constantly regenerating, renewing and re-inventing itself.'
“Glasgow’s story is always one of its people; their tenacity, their genuine warmth, their ambitions. Marking the end of Red Road is very much a celebration of all of those things.”
Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council,
“The Opening Ceremony will be the moment when we welcome the world to Glasgow. It will be a ceremony like no other, showcasing our city’s unique style and personality and with our people and communities at its very heart. We are going to wow the world, with the demolition of the Red Road flats set to play a starring role.
“Red Road has an iconic place in Glasgow’s history, having been home to thousands of families and dominating the city’s skyline for decades. Their demolition will all but mark the end of high-rise living in the area and is symbolic of the changing face of Glasgow, not least in terms of our preparations for the Games.”
GHA Chairman Gordon Sloan said:
“The Red Road flats were very popular in their day and hold a special place in many people’s hearts. But they are just no longer viable as modern homes and GHA made the decision to demolish them as part of the wider regeneration of the north of Glasgow.
“We will bring them down in strictly controlled conditions, with the expertise of our contractor Safedem, during the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. We would like to thank everyone in the local community for their continued support and co-operation throughout the demolition of the blocks and we hope as many people as possible will enjoy the great Commonwealth Games celebration events on July 23.”
David Zolkwer, Head of Ceremonies & Artistic Director for Glasgow 2014 said:
“It’s such a privilege to be able to share this historic and dramatic moment with the people of Scotland and the watching world. Over the course of just a few seconds the city’s skyline will be transformed forever. It’s a bold and confident statement that says “bring on the future” but it will also be an important opportunity for us to contemplate the many lives lived in the tower blocks over the last fifty years.
“By sharing the blow down with the rest of the world, I hope it will be seen as the noble, respectful and celebratory send-off that it is intended to be.”
Shona Robison, Minister for the Commonwealth Games said:
“This spectacular start to the Games within the Opening Ceremony will send a strong signal about the power of the Commonwealth Games.
“For many people, these Games are more than sport, they are a chance for regeneration, renewal and having better places to live and work.”
Built between 1964 and 1969 on the site of a former cabbage patch, Red Road was constructed to address the Glasgow’s growing housing needs and once provided accommodation for almost 5,000 people. Early residents revelled in the clean modern design and facilities such as central heating and bathroom which offered vast improvements from the slum tenements that many were moving from.
A decline in demand and popularity, along with high investment and running costs, saw them earmarked for demolition as part of the wider regeneration of the area. However even after falling into decline, the estate remained a major part of the Glasgow skyline and has formed the inspiration for everything from books and TV soap to films such as the multi-award winning ‘Red Road’ directed by Andrea Arnold.
The regeneration of Glasgow has, so far, seen tens of thousands of former council homes refurbished by GHA in a £1.2billion modernisation programme which is the biggest of its kind in Europe.
It has also seen hundreds of new affordable homes built, old and unpopular tower blocks brought down, communities revitalised and thousands of jobs and apprenticeships created for local people. More than 900 homes have been or are being built in the north of Glasgow. Many of the former residents of Red Road were rehoused locally in one of GHA’s new or upgraded homes or in other social landlords’ new-built properties.
In addition, Glasgow 2014’s Athletes’ Village is a catalyst for regeneration of Glasgow’s East End and is being built by the City Legacy Consortium, which is made up of CCG, Cruden, Mactaggart & Mickel and W H Malcolm. After the Games, it will transform into an exciting new 700-home residential community with houses and apartments for social and private use and a 120-bed care home.