A huge – and hugely popular – new mural in Preston city centre will remain in place after town hall officials concluded that it did not harm the listed building on which it had been painted without proper permission.Advertisement
The ‘Mother’ artwork appeared on the side of Hogarths gin bar on Church Street in July. However, as the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) revealed last month, an oversight by the owners of the Grade II-listed property meant that the depiction – of a woman cradling a lamb – did not have the green light from Preston City Council’s planning department to alter a listed building.
A retrospective application for approval was later submitted, which, if it had been refused, would have resulted in the image having to be removed and the blank canvas that it covered reinstated. But the future of the maternal figure has now been secured following a decision by council planners, based just around the corner from the gable end where she gazes out across the neighbouring Preston Minster.
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A report explaining why the 14-metre-by-eight-metre mural had been granted listed-building consent states that it “does not appear out of place” – and actually adds visual interest to the previously bare side wall of the 1890s building, which was originally a Conservative working men’s club.
In reaching their decision, planning officers had to consider whether the art accorded with legislation that requires local authorities to have “special regard” to preserving listed buildings. Their conclusion was that the “aesthetic value” of the three-storey hostelry was largely drawn from the main façade fronting Church Street, the appreciation of which was unaffected by the image painted to the side of it.
Affection for the mural had built up in not much more time than the five days it took local artist Shawne Sharp to create the piece, which he has described as “someone to watch over our city and her lambs”. It is based on – and incorporates elements of – Preston’s crest, in which the lamb represents both Jesus Christ and the city’s patron saint, St. Wilfrid.
After being posted on the Preston Past and Present page on Facebook, the striking image striking her protective pose attracted more than 3,100 likes – with the group’s administrators declaring it “the most popular post we’ve ever had”. The online compliments showered on the work were matched only by the seemingly universal horror that Preston’s ‘Mother’ might meet an untimely end.
Responding to the news that the mural can stay, Gary Roberts, operations director of Blackpool-based Amber Taverns, which owns and operates Hogarths, told the LDRS that there was “wide-ranging appreciation” for the creation – and suggested that it should be the first of many in Preston.
He added: “Shawn Sharpe had the foresight to engage with Amber Taverns at the outset and, seeing his portfolios of work, we decided he should be commissioned for the wall at Hogarths.
“There are many walls in the town centre that could brighten the landscape for residents and visitors to Preston.
“The controversy around the lack of planning has focused the discussion on art in the city and those with the power to make it happen have seen the positive vibe that one mural had. What could happen with 10 or 20 such murals in the town?
“Let’s be part of something much bigger that can encourage youngsters off the consoles and street corners and help them create art for the next generation.
“We are looking forward to a city bright with murals from talented local artists and [those] from further afield,” said Mr. Roberts.
He also thanked planning agents John Bridge Associates for preparing the retrospective application and the city council for coming to a decision so quickly.
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Shawn Sharpe last week began work on another mural on the side of the Northern Way pub on Friargate, which he has just completed.
Speaking to the LDRS about the city council’s decision on ‘Mother’, Shawn said that ever since it was completed, “the people of Preston have backed the painting 100 percent”.
“It has been really refreshing to read all of the comments and I thank everyone that took the time to email planning permission in support of ‘Mother’.
“The council have recently reached out to me and we have had some very exciting conversations, they are happy to back the mural culture in Preston. That is a huge step forward and I am happy to push our culture with their support.
“I think we have some very exciting years ahead, this is just the start. Why can’t we be the city of culture in years to come?
“It’s the people that make the city what it is,” Shawn said.
The city council’s decision on Mother noted that “no historic fabric has been removed or altered as a result of the works” and that, “although likely intended to be a semi-permanent addition to the building…it is a reversible act and could be removed without harm to the listed building”.
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