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Glasgow School of Art chief Tom Inns resigns

Professor Tom Inns examines plans of the west wing of the Mackintosh Building
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The director of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) has resigned amid persisting questions over the college’s stewardship of the Mackintosh building 

Tom Inns quit his role on Friday afternoon (2 November). During his five years in the job, the landmark building was twice gutted by fire. 

In a tribute to Inns, chair of the GSA Board Muriel Gray said he ‘has had the most challenging tenure at the helm of GSA and we are truly grateful for all his enormous commitment and hard work’.

Inns’ resignation follows a difficult period for the GSA board, which has faced questions from a Scottish parliamentary committee over its protection of the building.

Last week, MSPs were told that both the GSA and Kier Construction – the contractor overseeing rebuilding works – had set up offices within the building before the fire, with some claiming this was in breach of fire regulations.

In October, the committee was told that the Mac should be removed from the GSA’s control.

Former GSA employee Eileen Reid, one-time head of widening participation, said the school should step aside from the rebuild and concentrate on teaching students.

Until a successor has been appointed, the GSA will be led by the school’s deputy directors, Irene McAra-McWilliam and Ken Neil.

In a statement, Inns said he would miss the ‘creative energy’ of the GSA’s staff and students, adding: ‘Since the fire in June 2018, just months before the building was to be handed back to GSA, we’ve worked tirelessly to stabilise the building as quickly as possible to minimise disruption to our local community, and to reopen our own campus for the new academic year.

‘I have led GSA through the challenges of fire recovery twice and a restoration of the Mackintosh Building, whilst simultaneously extending GSA’s global reputation, delivering growth, opening up opportunities for disadvantaged students and transforming other parts of GSA’s estate.

‘It is now time for a new director to work with the board to deliver the future vision for GSA.’

The committee’s next evidence session, which will hear from GSA chair Muriel Gray, will be on 15 November.  

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • It's surely not unknown for a contractor on a restricted city centre location to transfer the site offices to within the building as work approaches completion - but it's rather more difficult to imagine what the GSA was doing in this building, 3 months prior to handover.

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  • On the face of it and HES regulations aside it would seem a sensible thing to do, given the site compound was restricted and any site operations set up on Renfrew Street would cause additional problems accessing the Reid Building and to general traffic.

    Much like the sprinklers and use of existing duct work to carry services, these might have seemed like sensible decisions at the time, which would have to be agreed and confirmed, now in retrospect and without the apparent "rigorous" fire safety regime in place they appear like major flaws site operations.

    From the start also I have said the "insurance will pay for any rebuild" story from Muriel Gray is questionable and now seems very suspect indeed: Extract from report to CTEEA:

    " 2. There are questions about the causes of the loss and about liability and culpability answers to these are outstanding and reliant upon specialised investigation and reporting. At present, the evidence is unclear.

    Much has been made of the art school’s contention that the insurers will pay. The Guardian also reported Muriel Gray estimating that the project would take 4 to 7 years and cost around £100m, to be made up by insurance cover and a major private fundraising drive. Let
    us hope that this is so. However, at this point there is absolutely no surety, and until a full investigation as to the causes of the fire has been undertaken, it is unlikely that any insurer will make such a generous settlement. As in all insurance contracts there will be matters of liability and accountability to be established.

    My own view is that there will be an inevitable call on the public purse."

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