Art intervention protest against new Preston sign’s ties to slavery and exploitation

Posted on - 16th April, 2022 - 10:22am | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Flag Market, Opinion, Preston City Centre, Preston Council, Preston News
The Preston sign with chains added for Tim's art intervention Pic: Tim Saunders
The Preston sign with chains added for Tim’s art intervention Pic: Tim Saunders

A local artist has carried out an art intervention to protest against the new Preston sign’s ties to slavery and exploitation.


The steel sign with rope woven through was unveiled on the Flag Market last month.

Preston City Council, David Cox Architects and Steeleson Fabrication worked on the sign, which is said to ‘symbolise the rich history of the cotton and textile industry’.

However artist Tim Saunders – aka timsperspectiveart – says he ‘cannot understand’ why the cotton industry was chosen to be celebrated.

Read more: ‘Poor squalid deformed beings’ – cotton magnates employ child labour in Preston

Tim wrote to the Mayor, Councillor Javed Iqbal, to raise his concerns but after receiving no response said he ‘decided to finish the work for them’.

In protest, Tim created an art intervention by adding chains to the sign to represent the cotton industry’s link to slavery.

A Council worker removed the chains a short time later, allegedly saying art isn’t allowed in Preston without permission.

In a note added to the sign, Tim said: “Any piece purporting to represent the heritage of cotton should explicitly acknowledge and address that it was created and built upon slavery, exploitation and child labour in the mills.

“The public ‘art’ (even though no artist was involved) was either being wilfully blind or in denial of this fact.

“Following the Black Lives Matter protests, a public debate started. Memorials were removed and courts upheld the rights of protesters to do so.

“This makes Preston City Council’s decision to commission this work particularly disappointing.”

Message about Preston sign art intervention Pic: Tim Saunders
Tim also added a note to the sign, explaining his thoughts Pic: Tim Saunders

Tim also expressed disappointment that no Preston artists had been involved in creating the sign.

“I think it says a lot given the vibrant artist community that the Council would commission a piece of large public art from an architect,” he said.

“When I wrote to the Mayor, I asked if the Council will now be considering commissioning the city’s artists to design buildings.”

Read more: A Preston ship runs the anti-slave blockade

Tim believes the absence of an artist on the project has contributed to what he says is a ‘shameful’ design.

He said: “The sign which it is claimed represents our history with threads is actually made out of rope, which I would have thought even the Council might have appreciated usually represents sea and boats, and is therefore more likely to be seen as a celebration of the slave trade on which the cotton trade was built.

“This is both outrageous and shameful; an artist would have seen this obvious connection and would have had the creative ability to avoid such a bad taste piece.”

Preston City Council has been approached for comment.

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