'Outrage' after students stage fire-dancing show on Glasgow School of Art blaze anniversary

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Bosses at Glasgow School of Art have expressed their "outrage" at a fire-dancing show staged by students on the anniversary of the second blaze that ravaged the building.

Footage has emerged of a woman stripping in front of a carpet of naked flames during a graduation party on June 15 at the school's student union - exactly one year after a blaze destroyed the school's famous Mackintosh Building.

Following the stunt, hundreds of attendees were forced to evacuate as smoke filled the room and set off the fire alarm.

School of Art chiefs have blasted the fire-dancing show staged by students on the anniversary of the second blaze to have ravaged the building. Picture: John Devlin

School of Art chiefs have blasted the fire-dancing show staged by students on the anniversary of the second blaze to have ravaged the building. Picture: John Devlin

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Firefighters rushed to the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) Students' Association in the Reid building - just yards from the "Mack" building gutted by fire last year.

The show has been branded "distasteful" and "dangerous" by local politicians GSA claims responsibility lies with the Glasgow School of Art Students Association, a separate legal entity that runs the venue through GSASA Ltd.

But GSA has been accused of poor management and questioned why it would not impose "robust policy" over events in its buildings in light of the two previous blazes.

A GSA spokesman said: "We fully understand and share the outrage expressed about this entirely unacceptable incident but reiterate that, as we have been explicit in recent weeks, the Glasgow School of Art Students Association and GSASA Ltd, also known as The Art School, are both separate legal and charitable entities from the Glasgow School of Art.

"Therefore, the ability of the Glasgow School of Art to intervene in GSASA Ltd is limited.

"We take any and all breaches of health and safety or fire safety extremely seriously, including in buildings the GSA leases to third parties, as in this case to GSASA.

"When notified of this wholly unacceptable incident we took immediate action requiring the GSASA to review their activities in the building they lease from the GSA."

Footage from this summer's event shows the flames swelled and caused smoke to billow throughout the room, setting off the fire alarm and forcing the evacuation.

Paul Sweeney, Labour MP for Glasgow North, said: "As a trustee and graduate management board member of the Glasgow University Union, I am familiar with the governance arrangements between student unions and university management.

"Although they might be distinctive legal entities in reality they are closely inter-related operationally.

"Fire safety inspections are regularly carried out by the University of Glasgow estates team ahead of major events at Glasgow University Union.

"If a similarly robust policy is not in place at the GSA, this further illustrates the weakness of its governance on campus."

One attendee at the event told the Herald on Sunday: "The performance went wrong, I think smokeless fuel was supposed to be used but it wasn't, and smoke started coming off the material which was on fire.

"The whole room just filled with smoke, the fire alarms started going off.

"The performer just continued with what she was doing until she was told to stop.

"I think basically nobody wanted it known about because it would make the GSA look bad."

Annie Wells, the Glasgow Conservative MSP, said the performance was "distasteful and dangerous".

She said: "Whoever sanctioned this event needs to consider their position and take a long hard look in the mirror.

"It's bad enough that this was somehow considered to be acceptable on the anniversary of a tragic fire that broke so many people's hearts across Glasgow, Scotland and even internationally.

"But this isn't only distasteful, it's dangerous.

"This could so easily have gone wrong and we've seen from the School of Art fires how quickly the situation can turn from something small to engulfing entire buildings.

"Celebrating creativity doesn't mean that we need to agree to stunts that are so obviously dangerous.

"This was both the wrong time and the wrong place for that kind of performance and someone in charge should have known better.

"We need to see the people who signed this off step up and take responsibility.

"This is yet another reckless decision from people involved in the art school."

A GSASA spokesman said: "The rigorous safety procedures and oversight in place around the event ensured all safety measures were fully in place, and at no point was there any danger to the attendees of the event.

"In terms of the GSASA Ltd adherence to ongoing fire safety assessment and improvements, a full fire safety audit was instituted after the incident with attendance and inspection by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service representatives."

A Scottish Fire and rescue service spokesman said: "We were called to the Reid Building on Renfrew Street, Glasgow, at 3.14am on June 15, 2019 following a fire alarm actuation.
"SFRS attended, and left the scene at 3.28am."