City creative group aiming to make Preston the central cultural hub in Lancashire

Preston creative group 'They Eat Culture' are looking to make Preston the central and best place in Lancs and NW for art and cultural experiences. Photos: Neil Cross.
Preston creative group 'They Eat Culture' are looking to make Preston the central and best place in Lancs and NW for art and cultural experiences. Photos: Neil Cross.
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Preston is set to turn into a cultural hub as part of a major programme set over 100 days in the city.

Art shows, album discussion groups, a vegan market and poetry sessions are just some of things being planned to cheer up Preston over the summer months.

Director of TEC Ruth Heritage.

Director of TEC Ruth Heritage.

The new cultural hub is the brainchild of local creative group They Eat Culture and its director Ruth Heritage - who said she is fed up of the city being referred to a ‘DePreston’.

The group is planning a series of events, aiming to bring an alternative and arty offering to Preston to put the city on a par neighbouring Manchester and Liverpool.

The overall aim is to bring inspiration from across the North West to the heart of the city, offering a fresh take on culture and art through the group’s People’s Production Lab (PPL).

The PPL is described as “four floors of creativity” by organisers, based in Guildhall Street and offering space for all forms of art including studios, workshops, live music, public talks, and cinema space.

Lee Ivett and Ambrose Gillick of Baxendale.

Lee Ivett and Ambrose Gillick of Baxendale.

Director of They Eat Culture, Ruth Heritage, said: “We are developing a voice for Preston as a major part of the Lancashire narrative.

“We want Preston on the national agenda at all times, for the right reasons, for investment into the city.”

The group has organised its ‘Weekender’ sessions over 100 days, which next Saturday will see the well-respected Manchester Print Fair come to town.

The event is showcasing handcrafted printed gifts and homewares produced by local independent makers with four fairs being planned for the next few months.

A previous They Eat Culture event.

A previous They Eat Culture event.

PPL Weekender Programme Producer Helen Ficorilli said: “We have been open for a few weeks now but next weekend is our first big event.

“It’s a privilege to have the Manchester Print Fair coming to Preston who will be re-visiting for events up until November.

“It feels like a relaunch of everything.”

Preston is also set for a new vegan market on July 1, with help from Liverpool-based vegan fair providers Live a Better Life.

A previous They Eat Culture event.

A previous They Eat Culture event.

“We’ve had huge interest and not just concerning food but products too such as toiletries,” explained Helen.

“Inquiries have been taken from Preston companies wanting to get involved including a vegan cocktail maker.”

The hub is also presenting great opportunities for the city’s artists looking to make a name for themselves in their back garden rather than having to trek to Liverpool or Manchester.

Helen said: “We are taking some really great applications from the Preston area. It gives an opportunity for designers and creators to present their work where they might have got lost elsewhere.”

And the group has a positive relationship with the University of Central Lancashire, giving students a discounted rate to showcase their work.

Helen added: “We have a very good relationship with UCLan which is very strong in its support for graduates, so it’s about working alongside them as the next progressive step for them.

The People's Production Lab logo.

The People's Production Lab logo.

“It’s another step out to get students ready to go out in the big wide world.”

Other events are being planned across a variety of artistic forms with people always at the centre of what is trying to be delivered.

Helen said: “We’re trying to work with local people to put things on how they want them to be. We will have ‘Friday night residencies’ that are low-key events for people to drop in and out of.

“There will be album-of-the-month sessions to break down, discuss, and learn from contemporary recordings.”

Poetry sessions with the Damson Poets, who regularly perform at coffee shop Ham & Jam, are also in the mix.

“We are building the programme gradually,” said Inskip-born Ruth, “but we want people to check in and make sure the events are running how they want them to be.

“We want people to be part of the long-term set up.”

Helen added: “Lots of events will start as six week sessions to then review and see how to do them again and see what people want to do different going forward.”

Who is behind They Eat Culture?

Director of They Eat Culture, the creative behind The People’s Production Lab, is Ruth Heritage.

Ruth said: “I’m a cultural activist, practice-based researcher, and filmmaker.

"I established They Eat Culture in 2009 on returning home to the UK’s then newest city, Preston, just post-economic downturn, to explore and articulate life in challenging times and understand how to benefit place, build aspirations, address social needs, and engage communities through cultural activity.

“I realised that to work here, I had to be committed – to the place and people, and to advocating for the right for everyone to access benefits and experiences afforded to those in more culturally and socio-economically advantaged places.

“We’re now about to reach 10, and see that real change takes time.”

What is the People’s Production Lab?

The People’s Production Lab is based in Guildhall Street thanks to Conlon Construction, which has provided the building for 2018.

A spokesman for the PPL said: “We will be a hive of creative activity, bringing the creative community to the doorstep of the city.

“We’ll be hosting weekenders & inviting city revellers into our home, converting our courtyard into a mini market, serving up food, drink and creative talent, showing them how we do things.

“We’ll be roasting coffee, hosting workshops, live shows & setting up our own cinema space.

We will be testing new ideas, forming new collectives, inventing new products, pushing the boundaries of new technologies.

“We’ll have the creative & social business development support in place to help all our residents and contributors bring their vision into reality.”