Cracking bench Gromit! Preston set for new sculpture celebrating Nick Park
Preston will soon have its own Wallace & Gromit bench in celebration of the animated duo’s Preston-born, Academy Award®-winning creator Nick Park.
The bronze bench, based on the pair as they appeared in The Wrong Trousers, will be installed outside Preston Markets later this year allowing visitors to have their picture taken with life-size sculptures of two of film’s most famous characters.
It is the second in series of six ‘Pop-Up’ projects to be announced for the city’s Harris Quarter and follows the unveiling of plans for The MET – a new mobile event space – last week.
The project has the backing of Aardman, the Bristol-based studio behind the hugely successful Wallace & Gromit film franchise and in which Nick Park has been a leading light since 1985.
The bench is being funded from a pot of £1million in initial funding Preston received from the government’s national Towns Fund initiative for the Pop-Up projects which aim to encourage visitors back into the city after the pandemic, driving footfall and supporting businesses. The city received a total of £20.9m from the Towns Fund in March to support its wider Harris Quarter Investment Programme.
Commenting on the sculpture, Nick Park, said: “It is such a great honour for me, as a proud Prestonian, to see my characters Wallace and Gromit cast in bronze and given pride of place in my hometown.”
John Chesworth, chair of the Preston Partnership and the Preston Towns Fund Board, said: “Nick is one of our most famous living Prestonians and it’s great that we can celebrate his achievements with this new sculpture.
“Wallace & Gromit are familiar to millions and the films are hugely popular with all age groups. We very much look forward to welcoming the duo to Preston and to inviting people to come into the city centre to visit them.
“Together with our other Pop-Up attractions, the sculpture has the potential to attract visitors to the city from Preston and beyond. It will be a focal point for many generations to come.”
Designed by Nick Park and the team at Aardman in consultation with local sculptor Peter Hodgkinson, the bench is currently being produced at the Castle Fine Arts Foundry in Wales.
A planning application for the bench has been submitted to Preston City Council and it is hoped the bench could be installed in August this year.
The wider Towns Fund projects revealed in March will breathe new life into some of the Harris Quarter’s heritage assets, key buildings and open spaces to create a diverse culture, leisure and employment offering. The Harris Quarter Investment Programme is part of the Preston’s 15-year City Investment Plan.
The Harris Quarter includes the buildings, public spaces and streets surrounding The Harris Museum, Preston Markets, The Guild Hall and the bus station. Projects that will benefit from the funding include:
- ‘Harris Your Place’: The refurbishment of the Grade I listed Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library, enhancing and protecting the building for generations to come.
- Animate – Cinema and Leisure Scheme: The delivery of a new cinema and bowling attraction with food and drink venues, a car park and public square next to Preston Markets.
- Renewal of Harris Quarter Assets: Investment to support the redevelopment of publicly-owned buildings in the Harris Quarter to support new cultural and community uses.
- Illuminate and Integrate: A project to deliver improved pedestrian and cycleway infrastructure, street lighting and other public realm improvements within the Harris Quarter
- Animation of Public Spaces: A project to fund the co-ordination of events in new and existing public spaces in the Harris Quarter.
- Preston Youth Zone: The development of Preston Youth Zone as a state-of-the-art facility for young people in Preston aged eight to 19.
The Harris Quarter includes the buildings, public spaces and streets surrounding The Harris Museum, Preston Markets, The Guild Hall and the bus station.
Nick Park was born in Preston, he grew up in Penwortham before later moving to Walmer Bridge. He began his studies at Preston College, where the library is named after him, before going on to study Communication Art at Sheffield Polytechnic and then focus on animation at the National Film and Television School.
Nick is best known for creating the British animated characters Wallace & Gromit. He is a four-time Academy Award® winner, three in the category of Best Animated Short Film – Creature Comforts, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave and one in the category for Best Animated Feature Film for Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. All four films were created and produced at Aardman, in Bristol, where Park is a director.
Nick joined Aardman in 1985 to complete his college film A Grand Day Out and served as a director and animator on numerous projects including pop promos, title sequences and inserts for children’s television. He was one of the co-directors on the studio’s first feature film with Peter Lord. This was the highly acclaimed box office hit Chicken Run in 2000. His most recent feature film was Early Man in 2018.
His well-loved characters have been seen globally across many types of apparel, advertising campaigns, computer games or giant sculpts in charity trails. The common thread is that they always raise a smile.
Altogether Nick has won four Academy Awards® and six BAFTAs® among many other film and television awards.