Art school fire hits former Falkirk dress designer

Glasgow School of Art student Myra Ostacchini who lost part of her Degree Show in the fire''Picture: John Devlin
Glasgow School of Art student Myra Ostacchini who lost part of her Degree Show in the fire''Picture: John Devlin
Share this article

Last month’s fire at the iconic Glasgow School of Art has been described as a national tragedy for a “priceless gem”.

While the city fathers, art experts, politicians and even film stars have all expressed their sadness at the damage to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, there are those for whom the blaze was also a personal blow.

Over 100 final year students either lost work or had it badly damaged in the fire which broke out shortly after noon on May 23. Many of them were in the building putting finishing touches to the work for the annual degree show.

One of those affected was Myra Ostacchini, a mature student originally from Falkirk, who four years ago decided to study a craft she had practised for years.

She described the terrible feeling of watching the building, completed in 1909, with flames shooting through the roof and not knowing what had happened to her work and, more importantly, people she had moments earlier been working alongside.

Thinking back to that fateful Friday, she said: “I’d just come out of the building and was really happy with the work I’d done. Everyone seemed really organised for the degree show and things were going well.

“I saw people running and looked up to see smoke coming out of a window. I knew that I couldn’t go back in and could only stand and watch.

“Thankfully all the health and safety practices paid off and the staff were so professional the way they ensured everyone was okay. In fact, I don’t know how the staff coped so well because many of them also lost work.”

In the aftermath, Myra (53) was relieved to discover that nobody had been injured in the blaze and around 60 per cent of her work could be salvaged.

Although the degree show did go ahead, featuring one image of the work from each student affected, they will not graduate until March next year.

Myra said: “Most of the damage to my work has been caused by water, while the sculptures are all covered in a gritty film and it all has a strong smell of smoke. We are getting advice from experts which is very helpful.”

A former pupil of Westquarter Primary and Graeme High, the then Myra Campbell grew up in Redding and, when she left school, trained as a hairdresser with Brian Donnelly before working in retail.

However, her strong interest in fashion was always to the fore and her designs, strongly influenced by the punk era, were much in demand. She sold them through other independent stores in the town, including Avanti, and her own small shop Chloxide in Wooer Street, featuring in The Falkirk Herald during the early 1980s.

But the lure of city life beckoned and Myra believed it offered better options for her creative abilities.

She said: “I wanted to broaden my horizons and Glasgow gave me that opportunity. I made a lot of clothes for bands and got involved in its fashion scene. However, I decided that I wanted to go to the Art School to study textiles but once here, ended up going down the sculpture and environmental route. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve met some really great people.”

Myra, who has a son Ryan (23), regularly returns to Falkirk to visit her mum, Margaret Campbell.

She added: “The area has changed a lot. However, it’s great to see places like the Park Gallery develop and, you never know, one day it might feature my work.”