A local artist has produced an art intervention to protest the new Preston sign’s links to slavery and exploitation.
The steel panel with a woven rope was unveiled in the flag market last month.
Preston City Council, David Cox Architects and Steeleson Fabrication worked on the panel, which is meant to ‘symbolize the rich history of the cotton and textile industry’.
However, artist Tim Saunders – aka timsperspectiveart – says he “can’t understand” why the cotton industry has been singled out for celebration.
Read more: ‘Poor deformed and squalid beings’ – cotton tycoons employ children in Preston
Tim wrote to the mayor, Councilor Javed Iqbal, raising his concerns, but after receiving no response he said he “decided to finish the job for them”.
In protest, Tim created an artistic intervention by adding chains to the sign to represent the link between the cotton industry and slavery.
A Council worker removed the shackles soon after, saying art is not allowed in Preston without permission.
In a note added to the panel, Tim said: “Any piece claiming to represent cotton heritage must explicitly acknowledge and state that it was created and built on slavery, exploitation and child labor in the mills.
“Public art (even if no artists were involved) was either willfully blind or in denial to this fact.
“Following the Black Lives Matter protests, a public debate has begun. Memorials have been removed and courts have upheld protesters’ right to do so.
“This makes Preston City Council’s decision to commission this work particularly disappointing.”
Tim also expressed disappointment that no artists from Preston were involved in the creation of the sign.
“I think it says a lot given the vibrant artist community that the Council would commission a major piece of public art from an architect,” he said.
“When I wrote to the Mayor, I asked if the Council was now considering contracting city artists to design buildings.”
Read more: A Preston ship leads the anti-slavery blockade
Tim believes the absence of an artist on the project contributed to what he calls the “shameful” design.
He said: ‘The sign which he says represents our history with threads is actually made of rope, which I would have thought even the Council might have appreciated usually represents the 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.
“It’s both outrageous and shameful; an artist would have seen this obvious connection and had the creative ability to avoid such a tasteless piece.
Preston City Council has been approached for comment.
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