The Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, which has been shut since the Glasgow School of Art fire on 15 June, has been told by Glasgow City Council that it must remain closed indefinitely – despite an expectation at the venue that it would reopen to the public on 14 September.
Talking to a-n News, CCA director Francis McKee said the news puts the venue on a “financial knife edge” and that the Creative Scotland regularly funded organisation has “reached the end of its cash flow” after three months of “zero” commercial income.
Staff at the CCA had been expecting to get access to the venue on 7 September prior to reopening to the public a week later. But on Tuesday they were informed by the city council that the risk to the venue from the potential collapse of GSA’s burnt-out Mackintosh building “has not changed significantly” and that there was no current date for reentry.
A report carried out to ascertain the consequences for CCA of a possible collapse of the Mackintosh building, following access to the building by structural engineers on 23 August, is still to be delivered.
Expressing his frustration and concern at the continued closure, McKee said: “We’re on a financial knife edge because how do we continue to pay staff – we’ve reached the end of our cash flow pretty much.”
CCA has continued to receive its funding from Creative Scotland throughout the closure and McKee has stated that the arts funding body has been supportive throughout the closure. It is, however, still yet to receive its £20,000 from the council from the £5million Glasgow fire recovery fund announced by the Scottish government in July.
McKee added: “We can’t operate properly because without a definite reentry date we can’t book anything. Everyone is withdrawing their programme [from the venue] and we will have to make a decision by tomorrow [Friday] to cancel another month of programme because we can’t guarantee we’ll be open.”
As well as a sold out gig on 14 September, on 16 September CCA is due to host a memorial event for John Calcutt, the former head of GSA’s MFA programme who died earlier this month.
McKee explained that he is still yet to have a meeting with the city council’s Building Control department regarding the closure of CCA due to the GSA fire, and that most information he is getting is coming via the School of Art which is having frequent meetings with the department. The lack of communication is causing growing frustration and anger at the venue.
“At the moment we have an indefinite closure and no-one to talk to, that’s the real problem,” said McKee. “How do you proceed from that point? We have always accepted there’s a safety issue, what we would like to do is propose what we can do in the meantime.
“So for instance, if we could get chaperoned access to the building to fix the water, to clean the building, to check the power, to check the lights – all of that is within the part of the building that is outside the safety cordon. We could also sit down and talk about the plan that has been put forward to build a [protective] canopy over the fire exit [on Scott Street, opposite the west gable of the Mackintosh building]. If we had that, the entire building could be functional.
“None of the safety concerns are being questioned. What is being questioned is the lack of any communication about anything else that could be done, or a definite date for reentry.”
- From the a-n News archive:
More articles about the Glasgow School of Art fire and its impact
McKee believes that the city council has yet to grasp the significance of the closure for CCA and the wider area. The venue is also a key driver of footfall on Sauchiehall Street, which is currently undergoing a £7.2million redevelopment, funded by the £115m Glasgow City Region City Deal fund.
CCA, which operates a year-round programme of contemporary art exhibitions alongside an ‘open source’ programme of other arts events, from film festivals to gigs, attracts more than 300,000 admissions a year. It has a wide range of ‘cultural tenants’ including Lux Scotland, the art producers Cryptic, and Document film festival, all of which are currently displaced.
In June, two CCA-based retail businesses – Aye Aye Books and Welcome Home – launched Go Fund Me pages in order to keep them afloat throughout the closure.
In a statement, the city council has denied that a specific reentry date was ever given to CCA. It said: “The council has been unable to and has not confirmed a date for reoccupation at the west end of the site, around Scott Street. However, some businesses have advised the council that The Glasgow School of Art has, privately, told them that they would be able to return by September 14.”
“The Glasgow School of Art’s engineers told the council that work at the west end of the site, at Scott Street, is not complete and they could not commit to a date when it will be completed. They agreed with experts from building standards that the building remains unsafe.”
McKee said that the lack of any timescale for gaining access to the building needs to be urgently addressed: “The impact gets larger by the day. To declare that there is an indefinite closure, to give no date, is incredibly naive in terms of helping us – it seems designed to sink the business. There’s a sheer lack of thought or consideration for CCA and the 17 other businesses based in the building.”
CCA has now stated that it hopes to have limited access to the building in early October and is working to a date of 15 October 2018 to reopen to the public. This date may change, however.
CCA has announced that it has had to cancel all planned events for September. A full statement from the venue regarding its continued closure is below:
‘Working to a timeline indicated by Glasgow City Council, this week we were expecting limited access would be granted to CCA to facilitate the treating and testing of essential services. Following this, cleaning, re-stocking and maintenance would take place ahead of the venue reopening to the public by Friday 14 September. We had hoped that our reopening weekend would include Escape-ism (Ian Svenonious), Mount Florida Screenings, Take One Action Film Festival, Glasgow Tango Studio, Acting Up Drama Workshops and Doors Open Day, with a date to follow for the reopening of our exhibition, The Scottish-European Parliament, once minor flooding in the gallery had been fixed.
This week, we received the disappointing news from the Council that the risk to the CCA building from Glasgow School of Art has not changed significantly since the fire and we will not be granted access at this time. We have not been given any indication of a new date, and, without that, are unable to make plans for reopening.
Unfortunately, this leaves us in the regrettable position of having to cancel all events throughout September. We hope that, by having some notice, many of these events will be able to find new homes, and we will be able to help them move or reschedule at CCA later in the year. We will update our website with event details as we know more.
Our Cultural Tenants – BHP Comics; Camcorder Guerrillas; Cryptic; Document Film Festival; Electron Club; LUXScotland; MAP Magazine; Paragon; Playwrights’ Studio Scotland; Scottish Ensemble; Scottish Writers’ Centre; The List; Tom McGrath Writers’ Room and University of the West of Scotland – also remain without their office space, while Saramago Cafe Bar, Aye-Aye Books and Welcome Home have all been closed since mid-June.
Thank you so much to absolutely everyone who has given support, patience and kind words over the past three months – we really appreciate all of you, and we hope to have some more positive news to share with you soon.’
1. CCA, Glasgow, Sauchiehall Street entrance. Photo: Alan Dimmick
2. The main gallery space at CCA during Pio Abad, ‘Notes on Decomposition’, 2016. Photo: Alan Dimmick
3. Mackintosh building, Glasgow School of Art, after 15 June 2018 fire. The Scott Street entrance to CCA can be seen top, middle of the picture. Photo: Police Scotland via @polscotair
More on a-n.co.uk: