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article imageClutha helicopter tragedy — Glasgow pulls together benefit gigs Special

By Lesley Lanir     Dec 9, 2013 in World
Glasgow - On Friday, November 29, a Police Scotland helicopter crashed on top of the Clutha Vaults bar. Nine people died and 32 were injured, 14 seriously. The Glaswegian community quickly gathered to arrange benefit events for victims, families and rescue teams.
When you go out for a Friday evening with your mates to watch a ska band perform and enjoy a drink in your favourite bar by the River Clyde, you don't expect a helicopter weighing 2,910 kg (6,415 lbs) to fall on the pub's roof above your head. On, November 29, 2013, at around 10.30pm, 120 people in Glasgow's Clutha Vaults experienced that shocking event. Without any warning, a Police Scotland helicopter, a Eurocopter EC135 T2+, manned by a civilian pilot and two police officers, literally dropped from the sky onto the crowded one-storey Clutha bar, in Stockwell Street, Glasgow.
The devastation caused by the crash killed nine people, including the three helicopter crew and six pub customers, injured 32 and left 14 in a serious condition.
How could a tragic incident such as this happen? As one eye-witness, Michael Byrne, said: "Helicopters don’t just crash into pubs."
Initial reports stated that while responding to an alert, the helicopter pilot most likely intended to land on the roof of the Clutha since it was the only building with a flat roof in the vicinity. Investigations by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) who have issued a special bulletin and the Crown Office Prosecution Fiscal Service (COPFS) are still taking place to find the cause of this tragic crash
Despite the shock, during the hours and days after the disaster, while over 125 firefighters, and urban search and rescue teams carried out a complex and dangerous rescue operation, Glasgow's citizens did not stand passively by. Within 24 hours of the tragedy, sections of the Glaswegian community had gathered and to raise awareness and give help opened supportive Facebook and web pages for condolences and memorials and donations, wrote blogs and began arranging a series of events to help raise money for the people and families affected by the tragedy and the rescue teams involved.
One event, a benefit show, Glasgow Stands Up for the Clutha, to be held at the O2 Academy on 22 December that Glasgow's comedians are putting together was sold out in six hours.
To try to understand the effects this tragic accident has had on Glasgow's community, Digital Journal contacted a Glaswegian writer and musician who was once a regular visitor to the Clutha Vaults.
What seems to have come out of this shocking event is a mass pulling together of human resources. As a Glaswegian who has spent a lot of time in the Clutha can you shed some light on the effects this disaster is having on Glasgow's community and why in particular are the performing artists playing such a large role?
The Clutha had close connections with all of the creative communities of Glasgow, especially the music scene, so the ties run deep with a lot of people I know. I’d venture to guess that pretty much every musician, writer, poet and artist of the last several decades in Glasgow has downed a pint there at least once or twice, and for many it, along with its sister pub The Scotia, became an unofficial HQ.
The Clutha developed a particular affinity with the folk music scene back in the 1960s, as well as with those poets and writers who took it upon themselves to chronicle the struggles of the working classes in the West of Scotland. As industry, and particular shipbuilding, went into decline, The Clutha played a major role in bringing together the creative minds choosing to give a voice to those affected by what were seen as increasingly right-wing, and socially devastating, government policies.
Politics aside, though, it has always simply been a place that welcomed musicians and music fans, writers and fans of writing, artists and those interested in the arts, and poets and lovers of poetry.
How have you been affected by this disaster and as a writer, musician and Glaswegian is there anything you feel you can do personally to help in anyway?
I personally knew one of those who died in the disaster, though not well, and many more people I know had much closer connections with others. There are very few in my own social circle who couldn't have easily been in there that night.
There are a number of fundraising events being planned in support of the victims and their families, and I’ll be taking part in any way I can. As a musician, our band will almost certainly be playing at least one or two shows in January and, simply as a punter, I’ll be attending as many as possible. The first such is on Sunday 22nd December, when a host of Glasgow’s top stand-up comedians are performing at a benefit gig in the O2 Academy. The tickets for this 1500 seater event, which was organized over the course of only a couple of days, sold out within hours of going on sale. I think that’s a good indication of how seriously Glaswegians want to get involved in any capacity to try to offer some support.
Another frequent visitor to the Clutha was Glaswegian comedian and actor Billy Connolly; he visited the scene to lay a bouquet of flowers and spoke of his devastation at what happened.
Regarding the fate of the Clutha Vaults, in an article in The Scotsman, 'Insight: The Clutha - best bar none,' former owner of the bar, Brendan McLauglin, is quoted as saying:
“The Clutha has long been threatened with demolition. It stands at the gateway to the city and from time to time developers want to get rid of it and build a smart hotel, but after this it will not be knocked down. These poor people have died, but can you imagine how they are going to be honoured forever in that place? They will never be forgotten.”
In addition to the support, donations, memorial efforts, charity initiatives and the benefit show by Glasgow's comedians on Sunday 22 December at the O2 Academy, a whole series of events at various venues will be taking place during The Clutha Benefit Weekend, 3rd to 5th January, 2014, in aid of the families of the victims, emergency Services and also the Clutha Vaults.
More about The Clutha, Clutha Vaults pub, Glasgow, Helicopter crash, Benefit concert
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