Elizabethan theatre comes to Leyland Street in Prescot

Published on: Monday, 21-July-2014

A public art project in Leyland Street created a real buzz in the town centre when it was unveiled on Saturday,19 July.

The artwork was unveiled by Richard Sutton from Prescot Town Team, who led the project, and Knowsley Chamber’s Lesley Martin-Wright and depicts an Elizabethan theatre audience – of the type that would have been a common sight in the town in the 16th century, when Prescot was home to one of only a handful of free-standing theatres outside of London. The artwork, which will be a permanent feature, will be a fantastic backdrop for future performances – standing 25 feet wide and 18 feet high.

The project, supported by Knowsley Council, began 12 months ago as part of a long-term plan to revitalise the town centre and attract more visitors. Ideas for public art were discussed with the local community, heritage and arts groups and the idea of the Elizabethan theatre was chosen. The art not only recognises and celebrates the town’s heritage, but it also expected to become a real talking point for visitors.

It is thought that in the 16th century, Prescot’s Playhouse would probably have served the gentry visiting the Earl of Derby at Knowsley Hall. It is known that several of Shakespeare’s plays were performed there, and it is possible that the Bard himself may even have visited on a trip to the Earl.

And the Shakespearian link isn’t Prescot’s only claim to fame – poet Edward Lear was also a regular visitor to the town in the 1800s, penning both The Owl and the Pussycat and The Nonsense Alphabet whilst working at Knowsley Hall.

The completion of the project was celebrated with a range of activities taking place throughout the day including a live band, jugglers, a jester and a visit from Disney characters Mini Mouse and Goofy.

Richard Sutton said “It’s great to see this fantastic Artwork come to life today and further celebrate Prescot’s rich history. Throughout the project, we were keen to ensure the views of the community were sought and the feeling was that local Historical and cultural links such as that with Shakespeare, Edward Lear and John Kemble were recognised. The project was developed as part of ongoing plans to enhance our Town centre. I am sure you will agree that the artwork now provides a fantastic backdrop for the range of performances we will be hosting over the coming months.

Cllr Dave Lonergan, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Economy and Skills “Revitalising Prescot town centre is a priority for the council and we were delighted to support this project, which complements our Townscape Heritage Initiative in Prescot and helps to celebrate the fantastic heritage Prescot has to offer.”