Made in Preston, the website about Preston, Lancashire


We've kept this on display as a statement of original intent, good luck!

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September 2015 Jon Finch appointed leader of the Harris Re-imagining Project.

October 2018 and Jon Finch departs for a job in Bristol. The Harris plan being re-submitted and a decision possible in December 2018


Re-imagining The Harris

'Jon Finch has been chosen as the man to take this vision forward. Appointed by the Project Board, Jon has a wealth of experience in the museum, library and cultural sectors, both in the UK and Australia. He has also worked with the Harris Museum and Lancashire County Council library service in the past.

The first priority for the re-imagining project is to develop a new shared vision for the Harris as a major focal point for Arts and Culture in Preston, bringing together the museum and art gallery functions with the library.' Ref Preston Council Website.May 2015 Re-inventing the Harris in Preston - advert for a project leader (closes 18th June 2015)

Plans to re-invent the Harris to be more flexible and visitor friendly are being put into action. The notice of a situation vacant on Preston Council Website. We'll leave this here to see how it develops.

Posted: Friday, May 29th 2015
Job Title:  Re-Imagining the Harris – Project Leader
Organisation: Preston City Council
Salary:   £52,207 - 54,476 p.a.Full-Time Position
Contract: three years
Location:    Preston, England
Closing Date:  Thursday, June 18th, 2015
Job Ref No:   CUMU04001
Customer Services. This is an exciting opportunity for an experienced cultural leader to help Preston City Council and Lancashire County Council create an innovative shared service which will bring together the landmark Harris Museum & Art Gallery and Harris Library. You will lead the development of an aspirational and sustainable plan for a cohesive public offer and for the Grade I listed building.

The services are currently run separately by the two Councils which have agreed to seek significant capital investment for the Harris. Our vision is that the Harris will be a beacon for the cultural aspirations of the city, serving local people and fulfilling its potential as a regional visitor attraction.

This new post is jointly funded by both Councils to lead a review of options, develop a business case for the shared services, manage organisational change. The project includes the preparation of a Round 1 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a major capital development that reflects the needs of the services and its users and secures the heritage assets. We have secured a Museum Resilience Fund grant from Arts Council England for the procurement of specialist studies to support this project.
Applicants must have a proven track record leading change in cultural heritage organisations and be skilled in managing the political interface and developing partnerships.

To discuss this post further please contact Alex Walker on 01772 905400 or Neil Fairhurst on 01772 906067
Interview date 8 July 2015 (subject to confirmation)



The Re-Imagining the Harris project will develop an innovative jointly managed service which will bring together Preston City Council’s Harris Museum and Art Gallery with Lancashire County Council’s Harris Library to create a cohesive and sustainable public offer. The project will maximise the potential of the Harris by creating inspiring visitor-focussed experiences and making the Harris a cultural flagship in the region. 

The Harris Library, Museum and Art Gallery was founded in the late 19th century, made possible by the bequest of Edmund Robert Harris who left £300,000 to Preston on his death in 1878 and the enlightened ambition of Preston Corporation which contributed an equivalent sum to acquire and develop the site right at the heart of the town. Photographs and paintings of the time show that the arrival of the Harris building had an astonishing effect on the townscape as timber framed buildings, on a street layout which dated from the middle ages, were replaced with a monumental four square Neo-Classical building constructed from massive slabs of Longridge stone. More than a century later the building remains the most striking construction in the city centre and one which inspires great affection for many Prestonians. 

The Harris was founded by a group of eminent Prestonians, among them James Hibbert, who as architect, Alderman and Chairman of the Libraries and Arts Committee had a powerful influence on the original vision for the Harris. Although expressed in Victorian language there is much of the founders’ original ambition for the Harris which remains relevant including a commitment to providing a high quality of experience and serving the whole community and which is reflected in our Mission, Vision and Values today. 

Until 1974 the library, museum and art gallery were run by Preston Corporation. Following a major re-organisation of local government at the time the services were split with libraries becoming a County function. The museum and art gallery, collections and building remained with the new Preston Borough (now City) Council. The County Council entered into a user rights agreement which enabled it to continue to operate within a defined footprint making up about 40% of the floorspace of the building. The new shared service will enable us to review the Masterplan for the building and to operate more flexibly. 

Harris Museum & Art Gallery

Today the Harris Museum & Art Gallery is recognised as one of the leading museums in the region. The museum and art gallery combines working closely with and for our local community with developing a national and international reputation for quality and innovative programming and contributing to the local visitor economy as a major tourist attraction. We attract around 200,000 visits a year. 

The Harris Museum and Art Gallery has undergone considerable development over the past decade. We have developed our public services and to made improvements to the galleries including a £0.5M development of the ceramics and glass gallery and a £1.6M refurbishment of the history gallery, ‘Discover Preston’ which opened in 2012. 

The art gallery won the prestigious Contemporary Art Society Annual Award in 2014 which has enabled us to commission a new film by Nathaniel Mellors which will be made in the city this summer and launched in a major exhibition in early 2016. We have also recently been successful in our application to join Plus Tate. We are in discussions with the Courtauld Gallery to develop a partnership which will enable us to bring major loans to Preston alongside a range of other partnership initiatives, including public facing activities which will include participation by communities who formed the workforce of the Courtauld textile manufacturing industry in Preston. 

Other important relationships include a long association with the University of Central Lancashire including with the In Certain Places, a programme of artistic interventions and events in the city including a number in the environs of the Harris. Most notable of these was Harris Flights in summer 2013 which saw a temporary staircase installed from the Market Square to the first floor of the building which over four weeks was the focus of over 60 cultural activities including new commissions responding to the Harris and its collections. Harris Flights was shortlisted for a Marketing Lancashire annual award. 

The Harris is a member of Preston Museums Group, a collaborative supportive network of five local museums and Preston History Network. The work of the museum and art gallery is not confined to within the walls of the building but also to other events and activities with multiple partners such as those associated with the Preston Remembers WW1 commemorative programme and events this year to mark the 300th anniversary of the battle of Preston.

The Harris Museum & Art Gallery was an early adopter of a community focussed approach - developing exhibitions and participatory projects with local residents since the 1990s. With this new phase in our history we will embed customer focus and user participation in shaping the service at every stage of the project.

Harris Library

The Harris library is one of the larger libraries in Lancashire with 500,000 visitors per year. In 2014-15 it issued 292,000 items (books, DVDs, CDs, etc) and there were 104,000 computer sessions. The key focus is reading, learning and information and the promotion of the library as a key community and cultural space. The library hosts a wealth of local history information and takes an active role in promoting subjects such as family history to the public with regular free workshops. Additionally the Harris has a historic collection of materials, including a number of special collections with items dating back to the 18th century. Our ambition is to promote these resources more widely in the coming years and work jointly with the museum service on projects which will allow this to happen. 

The Harris library takes pride in the range of regular community activities as well as special events. The library offer includes core children's activities such as story times, Baby Bounce and Rhyme and supporting local nurseries and schools in the promotion of reading. The library also engages with its adult users with the offer of various activities ranging from traditional reading groups to a craft group and extending to conversation groups for ESOL users and a Welsh language group. As a community service we also work in partnership with various organisations, in particular to support health and wellbeing activities.

The Harris has a youth forum and for the past two years has held a well-attended and received, comic con style open evening "talk nerdy to me". The library hosts Lancashire's HQ for Blaze (ACE funded arts organisation) and works together with them to promote arts to young people.

We have over 50 public networked terminals for the public to use, backing up our digital and learning offer with extensive support in teaching people IT skills. The digital offer also forms the basis of our support for employability, inclusive of our own job club and access to partner organisations. 

Re-Imagining the Harris Project Board

The shared service development project is being overseen by a Project Board made up of officers of both Councils, reporting to a Collaboration Board which is leading the city centre regeneration. 

The following text is the outline of the project agreed by the Project Board at their first meeting. . 


• The scope of the project is, based on –
- the wishes of the Collaboration Board, 
- the Cabinet reports that was approved by PCC and LCC
- Museum Resilience Fund application to Arts Council England for Re-Imagining the Harris

• There is a shared ambition to see the Harris fulfilling its full potential as a cultural hub for Preston and Lancashire, and as a cultural tourism destination

• We need an aspirational but sustainable plan for the services and for the building itself

• Both the Councils have agreed to ring fence the revenue budgets of the services for three years while a shared service can be explored and developed

• As stated in PCC Cabinet report ‘These arrangements can only be determined following a full review of the options and consideration of a business case that identifies the benefits to be achieved for each partner.’

• To this end both Councils have agreed to jointly fund a new post, initially for three years, to lead this review.

• The project has four main strands 
- To develop a new shared vision for the Harris as a major focal point for Arts and Culture in Preston
- to develop a management and service delivery structure for the successful delivery of the new vision that offers opportunities for efficiency savings and improved visitor experience
- to develop a capital development scheme using the pooled Capital Budget provision of both Councils and to attract additional external investment (HLF and other sources)
- to explore commercial income generation opportunities

• PCC has been successful in attracting £100,000 of external funding (£95K from ACE, £5K from Friends of the museum) to support specialist studies over the next 2 years. In addition both Councils have allocated £10,000. This will enable us to procure -
- Project Mentor (procured May 2015), 
- Transformational change facilitation, 
- Commercial generation opportunities appraisal, 
- Research and piloting interpretive masterplan, 
- Revised building masterplan. 
(draft briefs have been prepared)
- and carry out a pilot project to build relationship between staff teams (under way). 

These pieces of work were planned because, based on advice and our previous experience of major HLF funded projects, they are required to develop the evidence to include in an HLF Round 1 application. This work should enable us to arrive at a position where :
- we have an agreed business plan for taking the Harris services forward that enable the aspirations that each Council has for its services both individually and collectively
- we care able to develop a plan for the capital refurbishment of the building that both reflects the needs of the services and its users and secures the heritage assets.Required Skills: EMPLOYEE
SPECIFICATION Closing Date: 12noon, 18th June 2015
Dept: Customer Services Section: Harris

Post No
CUMU04001 Designation: 
Re-Imagining the Harris – Project Leader Grade CO
£52,207 - £54,476


E A degree or equivalent qualification in a relevant subject
HD A post-graduate qualification in related subject (museum studies, library studies, cultural leadership, arts administration etc)
D A professional museum or library qualification


E Ability to develop and communicate a vision for the building and its services.
E Ability to lead and motivate teams and individuals toward a common vision or goal
E Decision making skills at strategic and operational levels

Strategic and operational planning
E Knowledge of and experience of using planning frameworks to achieve corporate and 
service objectives 
E Ability to manage resources effectively and efficiently
E Familiarity with project management approaches, tools and phases of the project lifecycle 

Change management 
E Ability to plan, implement and evaluate change effectively
E Ability to work with others to move towards a common vision or goal

Communication and relationships
E Excellent written and interpersonal communication skills
E Excellent negotiation skills
E Ability to advocate for and represent the service
E Excellent active listening skills
E Skilled in stakeholder engagement 

Cultural sector knowledge 
E Ability to demonstrate a clear knowledge and understanding of national and regional 
issues facing cultural development and services.
E Ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the social and economic impact of 
cultural activity and in particular of museums, art galleries and libraries.
E Understanding of the needs of users and commitment to consultative and participative 
approach to shaping service. 


E Demonstrable leadership experience in a cultural organisation
E Demonstrable and relevant experience in a senior managerial capacity including business 
E Strategic management responsibility at a senior level
E Working with external organisations, stakeholders and partnerships 
E Track record of enabling wide range of people to engage with and benefit from culture
HD Working with elected members and senior and middle managers in local authority
E Managing substantial revenue and capital resources
E Raising substantial external revenue funding from funding bodies, trusts and foundations
E Successful major fundraising for capital projects
E Delivering major capital projects
HD Income generation from commercial activities

Special Requirement:
E A passion for arts, heritage and learning 
E Resilient and tenacious with a propensity to persevere
E Flexible and adaptable and able to work in ambiguous situations. 

NB E Essential
HD Highly Desirable
D Desirable
Apply online at alternatively, telephone the 24 hour recruitment line on 01772 906914, quoting the vacancy reference number for an application pack.
Contact Name:  Ms Alex Walker
Contact Tel:   01772 905400
Contact Fax:  
  Contact Email:
Address:    Town Hall, Lancaster Road, Preston,


Link to Art in the Preston area

Link to Theatres in Preston

29-Nov-2018 Contact the site author