Passion play will make shining star of station

Barry Freeman
Barry Freeman
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It would be very easy today for those who have long argued that Preston Bus Station is a building of merit to make complete and utter asses of themselves.

For this gaggle – yours truly being a minor gander – the last three months have been little short of surreal.

First, in October, the brutalist masterpiece was put on the ‘at risk’ list of no less an organisation than the World Monuments Fund (if you haven’t heard of them and think they are tinpot fly-by-night hippies, this is the body who, in the early 1960s, first brought the Easter Island heads to world attention and have since worked to fund or otherwise support monuments from the leaning tower of Pisa to Captain Scott’s hut).

A blizzard of positive media coverage ensued, climaxing when multi-award winning (including a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale) architect Rem Koolhaas called the station a “treasure”.

Then, this month, the terminus came second in an online poll to find the nation’s favourite Building Design Partnership (BDP) – a revolutionary firm founded in Preston 50 years ago – project.

Oddly, having led the field for many months, the bus station was denied victory by a flurry of late votes for a campus the firm has in development at the University of York. Not even built yet. As I say, oddly...

Their loss. Because any thoughts of vote rigging shenanigans went down the memory hole last week with news the station will be beamed into millions of homes next Good Friday when it appears as one of the main backdrops in The Preston Passion, a BBC 1 re-working of the Jesus story.

So as I say, a red letter year for all who have worked to ensure this building survives to tell its story of civic vision and epic optimism for decades to come.

So would it be soooo wrong of them to enjoy a little crow?

Absolutely! Nothing has been signed. No money for refurbishment has been secured. Give it two years some chancer developer could drop a ten figure sum and the council’s head would turn quicker than the radar dish atop a TV detector van.

Count these chickens and upon hatching they might well turn out to be alligator babies itching to give one a sting in the tail. Instead, let’s see these formidable campaigners reach out, join forces with the council, and with whichever developer is pressing ahead with Tithebarn this week, and formulate concrete schemes by which to secure this epic concrete scheme.

Call a few bluffs. If the World Monument Fund and Mr Koolhaas and BDP rate this building so highly what are they prepared to do to preserve it? The WMF have helped other sites, why not this one?

Once deals are done and not before is the time to begin strutting, cock of the walk, yelling ‘See? I told you! But would you listen? Oh no, YOU said it smelt of wee! Etc.’