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New book brings history of Red Road to life

10/03/2011
A new novel telling the story of residents of the Red Road flats is being launched on Friday as part of Aye Write! Glasgow’s Book Festival. 

Alison Irvine’s This Road is Red, was commissioned by the Red Road Cultural Project, a partnership between Glasgow Life and Glasgow Housing Association. Based on the true life stories of residents, past and present, the novel spans the five decades from when the flats were built in the 1960s. 

In the year when the phased demolition of the Red Road flats is set to begin, This Road is Red is a timely reminder of the social history that lies behind some of Glasgow’s most iconic buildings. 

Author Alison Irvine spent over a year interviewing residents for the book. The result is a memorable and moving portrayal of life in the Red Road flats – once the tallest buildings in Western Europe. This Road is Red leads the reader through the stairwells and corridors of the high rises and offers an unflinchingly honest glimpse of life in the area. 

Alison said: “I thought it important to tell stories that spanned the five decades to show the changes and the community spirit in the area. Essentially the book tells the true stories of some of the flats’ residents. Each story is linked to another by a character, an incident or a place. 

“There are stories about the ballot for houses in the first pristine block, the children who play on the construction site as the other blocks are built around them and the boy who keeps a kestrel on his veranda and grows up to fight with the gangs over the railway tracks.

“The flats’ concierge staff – and the help they provide to tenants – feature heavily in the book. The concierge run errands, move furniture, take a woman in labour to hospital and help the first asylum seekers settle in. They even solve the mystery of one resident’s stolen corn flakes. 

“The stories are honest, quirky, sometimes bleak and sometimes surprising. With each page the stories are a record too of how the events of the last five decades have impacted on the Red Road community.”

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor George Redmond, said: “The Red Road flats are among Glasgow’s most iconic landmarks, dominating the city skyline since they were built around 50 years ago. 

“With high-rise living in the area coming to an end, The Red Road Cultural Project is playing an important role in ensuring the area’s rich history is preserved for future generations. This Road is Red is a crucial part of this and will bring the Red Road story to life in a way like never before.”

GHA’s Assistant Director of Regeneration David Fletcher said: "The Red Road flats have been home to thousands of people over the years.

“Now, as we prepare to demolish the blocks and continue work with our partners on the regeneration of the area, it’s important that the story of the flats is recorded. This Road is Red tells that story through the voices of the people who know it best – the tenants, former tenants and, of course, the concierge. We are pleased to support the Red Road Cultural Project which will help document this part of Glasgow’s history.”

The Red Road flats were built in the 1960s and were intended to be a fast and cost effective solution to overcrowding in Glasgow's slums. However, with the regeneration of the area now underway the area's eight imposing tower blocks are to be demolished by Glasgow Housing Association over the next six years. 

For more information on the Red Road Cultural Project, please visit www.redroadflats.org.uk or contact the Glasgow Life Communities Team on communitiesnorth@glasgowlife.org.uk or 0141 276 0920. Further information on the author Alison Irvine is available from www.alisonirvine.com 

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