National Lottery Heritage funded project, The Wire Works, got under way in 2020, to highlight and celebrate the legacy left by the wire industry, which dominated Warrington’s employment structure for over a hundred years in the 18th and 19th centuries, putting the town at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution.
Over the past 18 months, a range of work has taken place to capture the fascinating stories of Warrington’s wire heritage – led by Warrington Borough Council, in partnership with Culture Warrington, volunteers, artists Laurence Payot and Christine Wilcox-Baker and local media company, Ludovico.
Now, these stories will come together in The Wire Works exhibition, which runs from 16 October – 20 November at the old Co-Op Bank, near Vintage Viola, in Golden Square. Visitors can look forward to an interactive blend of heritage and art, including sculpture, film, dance, poetry and real-life accounts of what it was like to work in a wire factory in Warrington.
Professional artist, designer and project manager, Christine Wilcox-Baker, has worked with A-level Architecture students from Priestley College, alongside their tutor Alastair Thompson and technician Felicia Singleton. The students have created six sculptures based on their research into the history of wire making in Warrington, which will be on display in the exhibition.
Tutor Alastair Thompson said: “It has been wonderful seeing the students involved in a project that gives them knowledge about the region's history and culture, as well creative opportunities. Additionally, working with a professional artist and raising the status of the student work has been very rewarding for all involved.”
Cross-disciplinary artist, Laurence Payot – who was born in Metz in France and graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon – worked with Year 5 children at Bewsey Lodge Primary School on a special video piece. Together, they used the inherent uses and properties of wire as inspiration to create patterns, poems and movements which reflected the children’s feelings.
Victoria Leach, Art co-ordinator at Bewsey Lodge said: “We have felt very fortunate to be able to take part in this project showcasing our town’s history of the wire industry - and we can't wait to see the final exhibition of the children's work and creative ideas. It has been a fantastic opportunity to work with such creative professionals and has been a real eye opener for the children to see the vast array of career opportunities in the arts, as they worked with videographers, dancers, museum staff and Laurence - a multimedia installation artist.”
Local cultural, media production and creative education company, Ludovico, led by actor and producer Darren Jeffries, have been the creative force behind all of the media that has been produced as part of the project.
A major highlight of the exhibition will be the oral histories collected by volunteers from local people who have personal or family history connections with the town’s wire industries, past and present.
The exhibition will feature a range of memories, photos, documents and artefacts, providing a fascinating insight into Warrington’s wire history.
Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for culture, Cllr Maureen McLaughlin, said: “This is a wonderful project, which will highlight and celebrate one of the borough’s most significant stories from Warrington’s rich heritage – wire manufacturing.
“This part of our heritage still resonates in our town today, with Warrington Wolves being known as The Wire, and even our new Time Square car park, which reflects the wire design so unique to Warrington.
“Many Warrington residents are unaware of the significance of this industry to our town, even though Warrington wire has had and continues to have a variety of uses throughout the world, including barbed wire used in the trenches of World War 1, telegraph cables for communication, scientific sieves, suspension bridges – and even one of Lady Gaga’s unique dresses!
“It’s fantastic that these stories and many more will be told through the first-hand memories of local people and through some very special artwork, sculptures and multi-media pieces created by our young people. I can’t wait for the exhibition – capturing this hugely important part of Warrington’s past - to get under way.”
The Wire Works Exhibition
• Date: Saturday 16 October – Saturday 20 November
• Venue: Unit 31, Old Market Place, Golden Square, (the old Co-Op Bank, near Vintage Viola)
• Opening times: Wednesday – Saturday – 10am – 5pm; Sunday – 11am – 4pm
For more information about the project, visit warrington.gov.uk/wirestories, or follow on social media:
• Facebook: @thewireworkswarrington
• Twitter: @thewireworks
• Instagram: @thewireworkswarrington
About the National Lottery Heritage Fund
• Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future
• Warrington Borough Council secured a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £45,300 to deliver the Wire Works project
Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund