Banner inspired by Preston Guild is now unfurled online

Today we are showcasing a special banner which was to have been paraded through the streets of Preston.

By Fiona Finch
Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th April 2020, 10:42 am

As part of the Preston Guild celebrations in 1882 a special triumphal arch was built in the town.

More than a century later that archway has inspired a special banner which is currently locked away in the city’s Harris Museum and Art Gallery.

It is locked away not because of its message, which challenges us to care more about those with dementia, but because of coronavirus.

Caroline Alexander pictured in front of The Unfurlings banner

With the city’s popular gallery, museum and library building closed to all visitors, the grand banner, which could have been the pride of Preston, can no longer be seen in the The Unfurlings exhibition. The banner was also to have been carried through the streets of Preston on May 13 to show it to a wider public.

Instead it is being showcased here - offering the public the opportunity to learn more about the huge banner and the project behind its creation.

The exhibition featured nine banners. Each aimed to improve understanding of the lives and needs of people with dementia and provoke changes which would lead to a better life for everyone affected by dementia.

Decorative Art Curator Caroline Alexander said: “Artists worked with groups of people living with dementia from across the UK.”

The booklet which accompanied the exhibition

City group Preston Focus on Dementia drew a special message from the photograph of the 19th century Guild Archway.Significantly Preston Guild is a city wide celebration held every 20 years which involves all age groups and all industries. The arch which the local group was inspired by straddled a main street and carried the message “A hearty welcome”.

Caroline said: “Preston Guild has influenced the design - it’s about the need for better signage.”

The group became involved in the banner project after an earlier invitation from the Harris, as Caroline explained: “We had asked the group to come and look around the Harris and be a critical friend about how to improve the welcome at the Harris.”

The exhibition is subtitled ‘Banners for hope and change’. The group selected their favourite banners from round the country for display and Caroline said: “They also told us how they wanted the exhibition to look. They wanted it to be bright and cheerful. They wanted to have good comfy seating and they wanted it to be a social space where activities could take place.”

One of the hand crafted blue forget-me-nots

The message on the Preston banner reads “Understanding Leads to Action”. A booklet produced to go with the exhibition advises: “Understanding problems through consultation and collaboration can lead to change.”

As well as local dementia groups the project has included a top flight team of artists comprising Ian Beesley, Martyn Hall, Tony Husband and poet Ian McMillan with Lydia Keen adding embellishments.

Throughout the guiding thought was to “campaign for better support, understanding and representation of those living with dementia”.

The Preston group, linked to Alzheimer’s Society Focus on Dementia Central and West Lancashire, is keen to share members’ experience of dementia, their knowledge and skills. The exhibition also included a display of hand crafted blue forget-me-nots - the society’s symbol.

The confusion caused by complicated signage - as depicted on the Preston banner.

The 2020 arch is adorned with the red roses of Lancashire and Preston’s coat of arms.

It has inset illustrations contrasting complicated signage with simple clear signage. The colour blue was chosen to represent loyalty and yellow signals joy and laughter

Ian McMillan wrote a three verse poem to go with the city banner entitled ‘Where is this leading?’

It asks what signs are meant to do, explains a sign is useless if it is “a jungle you can’t find your way through”. Caroline’s hope is that the Preston banner leads to changes which means society does heed the needs of those with dementia.

* The Unfurlings banners were created as part of a nation wide programme funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

*The works are part of the ‘A life more ordinary’ project led by Professor Linda Clare of the University of Exeter.

A clearer way ahead

*The banners are based on traditional trade union and campaign banners, with the intention of providing a new and distinctive campaign voice for those living with dementia.

Life is better with easier to understand signage (banner extract)