Red shoes on Preston street highlight crimes against women

Hundreds of pairs of shoes, painted red, are lined up in Birley St, in the centre of Preston, dedicated to women who have suffered violence.
Hundreds of pairs of shoes, painted red, are lined up in Birley St, in the centre of Preston, dedicated to women who have suffered violence.
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A mysterious march scene has played out on a Preston city centre street.

Hundreds of pairs of red shoes were placed along Birley Street on Saturday as part of a temporary public art installation by Mexican artist Elina Chauvet.

Pictured left, artist, Georgianna C. Ainsworth and curator, Steph Fletcher

Pictured left, artist, Georgianna C. Ainsworth and curator, Steph Fletcher

Intrigued shoppers stood to take in the protest piece called Zapatos Rojos (Red Shoes), which was intended to remind the public of the empty spaces left by women who have been abducted or murdered in Mexico, as well as problems of domestic violence locally.

Steph Fletcher, co-director of The Birley Artist Studios and Project Space, which helped organise the installation, said: “We were overwhelmed by the response to the Red Shoes event. Despite the weather, we had hundreds of visitors and passers-by engaging with the installation.

“Lots of people stopped to take photos and ask questions, and everyone was really positive and supportive when they found out what it was all about.

“This work is all about remembering those who have been lost in tragic circumstances - friends, family, partners - and we are really grateful that we were able to host this event, raise awareness and show solidarity.”

Red Shoes has been exhibited over 50 times around the globe, but its showing in Preston was only the second time in the UK.

Some of the shoes were donated locally, the rest were donated during the previous installation in East Lancashire. Many of them were painted red at a drop-in workshop at the Birley the week before.

Steph added: “There were hundreds of pairs so it took a while to set them up - all in the rain!

“But we had pre-planned it with Preston City Council events team, who were very supportive and closed off the road especially.

“It was a privilege to host it in Preston as it’s been making a real impact worldwide. We have had messages of thanks and support from some families of those who went missing in Mexico, which is really powerful.

“The artists also investigate how these issues affect us locally. Georgianna has been working with a womens’ refuge in East Lancs, and we are talking to Preston based womens groups about hosting some workshops soon here too.”