Red balloons to transform historic Preston space

Steve Messam's Carpet installation in Lindisfarne

Steve Messam's Carpet installation in Lindisfarne

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Thousands of red balloons are to fill a historic Preston alleyway as part of a new art commission.

The Red Rose, by environmental artist Steve Messam, is a series of temporary installations in “unexpected” locations.

Steve Messam's Waterfall installation in County Durham

Steve Messam's Waterfall installation in County Durham

The first of the four installations will appear as part of September’s Lancashire Encounter in Preston’s Surgeon’s Court, transforming the narrow alleyway with more than 4,000 bright red balloons.

They will fill the space between the buildings for the length of the block between Fox Street and Lune Street, and will be lit up at night.

Following a call for artist submissions, Marketing Lancashire appointed the renowned artist to create four new works, linking four cultural events taking place across the county this autumn.

Justina Ma, business manager from Marketing Lancashire, said: “Marketing Lancashire is working with cultural organisations from all over Lancashire to develop and showcase the cultural tourism offer for visitors.

Steve Messam's bridge made out of 22,000 sheets of paper which was temporarily erected near Patterdale in the Lake District

Steve Messam's bridge made out of 22,000 sheets of paper which was temporarily erected near Patterdale in the Lake District

“Steve’s commission, linking a collection of distinctive cultural events, through a new twist on the Lancashire red rose, will help highlight the county’s new cultural narrative which forms part of a wider strategy to grow visitor numbers and attract investment.”

The original call for submissions invited artists to respond to the character, values and distinctiveness of Lancashire.

Steve Messam’s site-specific installations are often located in “unexpected locations”, that “challenge preconceptions of contemporary arts practice”.

His winning idea, entitled The Red Rose, is a series of temporary, site-specific installations, described a “rising tide of the colour red”, taking the historic symbol of Lancashire and transforming it into a moment in time. The first of the installation will appear as part of Lancashire Encounter from September 23 to 25.

Coun Peter Kelly, Preston Council’s cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: “The Lancashire Encounter programme is a fantastic mix of performances and experiences from artists and groups across Lancashire and Steve’s Red Rose installation is an exciting addition.

“The red rose symbol of Lancashire is widely recognised and this unique installation will bring Surgeon’s Court – an often forgotten part of the city – to life.”

The three other installations will be linked to the 200th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Blackpool Council’s LightPool, and Light Up Lancaster.