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Hand-painted mural revisiting Preston’s rich textiles history set to adorn The Harris hoardings

Posted on - 3rd September, 2022 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, City Centre, Flag Market, Preston buildings & attractions, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Things to Do in and around Preston, What's On in Preston
Gavin Renshaw painting “The Links of the Chain Are of Equal Strength” Pic Preston City Council
Artist Gavin Renshaw painting “The Links of the Chain Are of Equal Strength” Pic: Preston City Council

A highly anticipated mural is set to be unveiled outside The Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library later this month. Hand painted by local artist Gavin Renshaw, ‘The links in the chain are of equal strength’ has been created to decorate the hoarding boards at the front of The Harris whilst building work begins for the Harris Your Place project.

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To commemorate the history of textile manufacturing in the Preston area, the work celebrates the journeys that Courtaulds Ltd employees made, drawing attention to the diversity of the workforce that came together and continues to contribute to Preston’s rich textiles heritage.

Year 9 students from Penwortham Priory Academy and Christ the King Catholic High School took part in a series of workshops with artist Gavin Renshaw and illustrator Toya Walker to develop key themes for ‘The links in the chain are of equal strength’, creating artwork to be incorporated into the planning stages of development.

Two students from a local school creating a collage in the planning stages of “The links in the chain are of equal strength” Pic Preston City Council
Two students from a local school creating a collage in the planning stages of “The links in the chain are of equal strength” Pic Preston City Council

Local industrial heritage is the main focus of the mural, which features a collage of images including portraits of former employees who worked at Courtaulds Ltd factory in Preston. Opening in 1939, the factory quickly became one of the biggest employers in Preston at the time.

Collage image taken at one of the initial school workshops which provided inspiration for “The Links of the Chain Are of Equal Strength” Pic Preston City Council
Collage image taken at one of the initial school workshops which provided inspiration for “The Links of the Chain Are of Equal Strength” Pic Preston City Council


Beginning with a series of oral history recordings of former Courtaulds Ltd employees, students considered their own connections to themes around migration and textiles heritage, thinking about what it might have been like to work in the textiles factories in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Students explored the history and processes of the mill through drawing, collage and mark-making with ink. Following these initial workshops in March 2022, artist Gavin Renshaw developed further on the poignant messages the students identified in their artwork.

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Read more: Courtaulds, rayon replaces cotton as Preston takes the lead

“We are delighted to support Preston artist Gavin Renshaw and the two local schools responsible for the design and creation of this beautiful piece of art which will be displayed outside the iconic Harris building,” said Councillor Peter Kelly, Cabinet member for arts and culture at Preston City Council. “An integral piece of Preston’s industrial history is being captured and revitalised by a new generation.”

This project is part of the ongoing collaboration between the Harris and The Courtauld. The Courtauld cares for one of the greatest art collections in the UK, displayed at The Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, central London.

Alice Hellard, Heritage and Learning Officer at The Courtauld, said, “The students involved in the project responded to the brief brilliantly, making some thoughtful observations about the research material and developing a clear set of themes for Gavin to work on. When they visited him again during the painting process they were pleased to see how he’d put their ideas into the piece and provided some really insightful feedback.”

Read more: Gavin Renshaw’s first Paint Preston mural spotted on Boltons Court

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Since 2018, The Harris and The Courtauld have been working together as part of the Courtauld National Partners Programme, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Courtauld National Partners Programme aims to share The Courtauld’s collection with audiences across the United Kingdom, especially in areas where Courtaulds Ltd. once had a significant industrial presence. This includes loans of artworks from collections, work with schools and colleges, and a volunteer programme with the aim of developing both learning and knowledge about art history and the industrial heritage of Courtauld Ltd textiles manufacturers.

The mural will be unveiled at 4pm on Tuesday 13 September during an event celebrating Preston’s textile heritage through local contemporary artworks.


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