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Crowdfunder launched to save Preston’s Grade II listed Harris Institute

Posted on - 27th May, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Avenham, Campaigns, Charities, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Redevelopment
A postcard if the Harris Institute during its time of operation Pic: Preston Digital Archive
A postcard of the Harris Institute during its time of operation Pic: Preston Digital Archive

A group set up to save the Grade II listed Harris Institute – School of Art building has launched a crowdfunding campaign with the aim of bringing the building back into use for the local community.

Situated opposite Avenham Colonnade, within short walking distance of Winckley Square and the city centre, The Harris Institute – School of Art has stood empty for a number of years and has fallen into disrepair.

“Now is the time to become part of the Harris School of Art’s history,” detailed a statement issued by the Friends of the Harris School of Art (HART). “Now is the time to help save one of Preston’s beautiful Grade II listed buildings. Now is the time to give the Harris School of Art back to Preston’s community.”

The Harris Institute today Pic: Preston Digital Archive
The Harris Institute – School of Art is situated opposite Avenham Colonnade Pic: Preston Digital Archive

HART has successfully applied to become a Community Interest Company and now has the opportunity to buy the building and return it back to the local community.

“Initially, we need to raise the money to secure the building purchase, insure the building and keep it safe,” said the Friends of the Harris School of Art. “We have a very short window of opportunity to meet our target and secure the purchase. All donators who leave their names will be added to a special book about the restoration of the building.” 

The lecture theatre in the Harris Institute School of Art. Photo taken April 2022. Pic Lisa Brown
The lecture theatre in the Harris Institute School of Art. Photo taken April 2022. Pic Lisa Brown

HART envisages the building in use as a thriving community space where all are welcome, included, and feel safe to learn, share, take part, and enjoy the arts.   

“Purchasing the building is only the first step then the challenge of restoring the building will begin,” said HART. “We will work on the building being made good to provide accessible community spaces and to deliver programmes of education, arts, health, and well-being activities. 

“At the same time, we will be applying for funding and we are already working with other stakeholders to identify potential funding sources.

“We will be working with and looking for experts, initially on a pro bono basis. We will actively be looking to be representative of our community and asking for people to get involved. If you can’t donate money, you can always donate time!”

Skylight windows and light fitting in the Harris Institute School of Art. Photo taken April 2022. Pic Lisa Brown
Skylight windows and light fitting in the Harris Institute School of Art. Photo taken April 2022. Pic Lisa Brown

The crowdfunding campaign’s target is £310,000.

“If we reach the £310,000 target we can buy the building and insurance outright,” said HART. “Any additional funds raised will go towards work on the building itself; making the roof and building watertight; involving specialists and a feasibility study. In the long term, we want to put the building into a charitable trust making sure its future is safe and will always belong to the community.”

The Friends of the Harris School of Art have held Heritage Open Days to raise the buildings profile and encourage people to get involved in saving the building. Pic Lisa Brown
The Friends of the Harris School of Art have held Heritage Open Days to raise the profile of the building and encourage people to get involved in saving it. Pic Lisa Brown

“We hope to eventually open a cafe and shop as a space for groups to meet and to bring in some revenue whilst continuing works. We would like to offer the events theatre to host live music, community cinema, and lectures of interest to the community. Followed by the gallery and performing arts spaces to be used for community groups to use for rehearsals and lessons, and for local artists to hold exhibitions and performances.

“The space will also be available to rent out for community groups to use. We envisage the building becoming an inclusive social hub for all groups who need a space to hold events in arts and education. We would like the building to be accessible and have something for everyone in the community and will endeavour to hold a range of events to be inclusive of all.

“We already have a range of charities working with different social groups interested in using the building and hope to actively encourage any under-represented groups of our community by involving the community in hosting sessions that they would like to attend. We would be delighted to hear from others who would like to be involved.”

In recent years, the Institute was operated as the Darul Uloom Islamic Institute but closed after a year of operation and the building has stood empty since 2014 after planning consents were turned down.

Find out more about the crowdfunding campaign and donate here.

Find out more about the Friends of the Harris School of Art on their Facebook page.

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