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Saturday 30 August 2014

Art school honours fire service

Published 20/06/2014 | 15:37

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The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service won widespread praise for its handling of the fire which devastated the Mackintosh building

Firefighters have been awarded Glasgow School of Art's highest accolade after they battled to save its famous Mackintosh building when it was engulfed in flames last month.

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During the art school's graduation ceremony today, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was awarded a Newbery Medal - an honour given out every year to the highest performing student.

It is the first time an honorary Newbery Medal has been presented.

Students were putting the final touches to their end-of-year projects when a blaze broke out on May 23 in the basement of the building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh more than a century ago.

Around 200 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze at its height, and the fire service has been widely praised after crews salvaged 90% of the structure and saved up to 70% of its contents.

Professor Tom Inns, director of Glasgow School of Art (GSA), said: "This year for the very first time we will award an honorary Newbery Medal. This is to honour the bravest act for which the Glasgow School of Art will always be thankful."

The inscription on the medal reads Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, 23rd May 2014 - Guardians of The Mackintosh.

Chief officer Alasdair Hay said: " Much has been said about the tremendous efforts, courage and professionalism of the firefighters who prevented the loss of the Mackintosh. On behalf of the service I would also like to pay tribute to GSA staff and students for the manner in which they have responded to what has clearly been a tremendously difficult time.

"When the fire started they safely evacuated the building and then worked with our crews to establish an effective salvage plan that saved everything that could possibly be saved. In the weeks since they have shown incredible warmth and support to our firefighters and it has been greatly appreciated."

The ceremony, held at the University of Glasgow's Bute Hall, also saw 102 fine art students presented with their degrees, with this year's Newbery Medal awarded to Alex Kuusik - a fine art graduate who lost his entire installation in the fire.

Art school bosses now want to restore the structure to its former glory and have received the support of actors Brad Pitt and Peter Capaldi towards a £20 million fundraising campaign.

The Hollywood A-lister and the Doctor Who star have been named trustees of the institution's newly-launched appeal.

Artist John Lowrie Morrison, a former GSA student known as "Jolomo", also pledged to give a percentage of profits from forthcoming exhibitions to the appeal.

In addition, the GSA has set up a Phoenix Fund - to which the Scottish Government has pledged up to £750,000 - to help students affected by the fire recreate their work.

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