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Harris plans underway thanks to Lottery cash boost

Posted on - 2nd January, 2019 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News
The Harris will see R&B and hip hop performances Pic: Tony Worrall
The Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library Pic: Tony Worrall

Ambitious plans to redevelop the Harris are now underway thanks to a successful Lottery funding bid.

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The Harris has been awarded a cash boost of £180,900 to begin the first stages of the ambitious Re-Imagining the Harris project.

The £10.7million project aims to develop the Harris as the UK’s first blended museum, art gallery and library, creating daytime and evening opportunities and new ways for visitors to engage with the collections.

Development funding of £180,900 has been awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council to progress their plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant in 2020.

If successful, that bid will enable the full realisation of the Harris project. Existing entrances will be opened up to allow daytime and evening access and visitors will be able to engage with the collections in a new way not only in traditional galleries but also woven into other public areas such as cafes and activity areas.

The bid, announced today, is a huge coup for the scheme which has seen a number of setbacks along the way.

In June 2017 a failed funding bid sent planners back to the drawing boards, scrapping much criticised plans for two new entrances on The Flag Market and Lancaster Road.

Three months ago, the man behind the bid Jon Finch announced he was stepping down from his £75,000 a year role to take on a new position in Bristol.

Councillor Peter Kelly, cabinet member for culture and leisure at Preston City Council, welcomed the news.

He said: “The Harris is, in many ways, the heart of Preston and deserves to be used to its full potential. I cannot wait to watch its transformation in the coming years and see it further embedded into the community it serves.

“We are thrilled to have received this generous support from HLF for such an important project for Preston, thanks to National Lottery players. “

He added, speaking to Blog Preston: “There’s been an amazing amount of work done by the councils and the Harris staff and it’s been a huge, huge, team thing to come together. And without the whole of the team working on it we wouldn’t be where we are.

“From HLF it’s clear there’s a good commitment from both councils, good engagement in the community, and that’s been because we have amazing staff at the Harris.”

Funding has been pulled in from a variety of sources to support the ambitious scheme.

The total Lottery bid of £4.7million will support a £10.7million project, which is backed by £3.6million of funding in place from both Councils, the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, Arts Council England and local supporters.

This will be further enhanced by the recently launched #HarrisYourPlace fundraising campaign.

Read more: Have your say on the future of the Harris

A spokesman for Preston City Council said: “For many local people, the Harris represents Preston, a proud landmark distinguishing the cityscape.

“However it has the potential to be far more than just an iconic building.  More than a century old, the Grade I listed Harris is at a significant point in its history, part-way through a journey of innovation and change in the role it plays in Preston, Lancashire and beyond.

“The Harris’ ambition is to be a focal point for creativity and making, digital technology, learning and reading.

County councillor Peter Buckley, cabinet member for community and cultural services at Lancashire County Council said: “This is great news for our plans to create a new chapter in the life of the much-loved Harris. It will transform the building and create an exciting new cultural space for people to be creative and learn new things.

“This successful bid is thanks to a lot of hard work by officers from both councils, with the aim of gaining the funding to deliver this ambitious project.”

What do you think of the bid? What do you think about the future of the Harris? Let us know in the comments below

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