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Preston's £45m+ Animate leisure complex on tenterhooks

1 May 2024

A local artist's homage to the history and culture of Preston has been completed at the city's £45m-plus Animate leisure complex, one of six major projects planned under the Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme.

Maple Grove Developments, the local developer delivering the project for Preston City Council, commissioned local artist Bonnie Craig to create a pattern for Animate's metal façade cladding, which wraps the top third of the leisure complex. These distinctive bronze coloured cladding panels form a key feature in its design.

Bonnie, a Lancastrian who also completed glass artwork for the University of Central Lancashire's student centre, was appointed to the project and took her inspiration from Animate's location on Tenterfield Street.

Its name comes from the tenter fields, where outdoor frames held the woven fabric as part of the production process. The stretched fabric was held in place by tenterhooks, and the shape of these hooks was employed throughout the cladding design.

Preston was awarded £20.9m from the Government's national Towns Fund initiative in March 2021, and the Harris Quarter is a unique part of the city centre undergoing a £200m investment programme to transform its historic buildings, sites and public realm into a diverse culture, leisure and employment offering.

Animate is being brought forward by Maple Grove Developments, part of Preston-based contractor Eric Wright Group, in partnership with Preston City Council.

The leisure complex is being built on the site of the former indoor market and car park and due to open to the public in early 2025.

Animate's metal facade cladding

Bonnie said:

"When asked to create designs that explored the area around the Animate site, I was intrigued by the interesting shape and name of Tenterfield Street, as well as the art-deco style design of Lancastria House on one corner of the street.

"I developed a simple shape based on the tenterhook and the street itself. The motif repeats over the metal panels in a grid pattern inspired by the windows, interior wall panels and stonework used in Lancastria House and aims to explore the idea of tension - created in both the tenter frames and the meaning of 'on tenterhooks' - and resolution/visual balance."

John Chesworth, chair of Preston's Towns Fund Strategic Board, explained: 

"Completion of the Tenterhook design represents a sympathetic and welcome acknowledgement of Preston's industrial heritage and the part Lancashire played in building an economy that was incredibly important to the nation's prosperity.

"While it's important to recognise our heritage, we must also look to the future and create a Preston that's recognised as an attractive place where people can invest, visit, live and work."

Sarah Threlfall, deputy chief executive of Preston City Council, said:

"Key to the development of Animate was ensuring acknowledgement of the site's former use and by commissioning Bonnie, a well-respected Lancastrian artist, we knew she'd produce a striking modern design to echo the city's heritage. Animate proves the commitment of the city council to employing local talent and skills as we strive to make Preston a unique and creative place for everyone to enjoy."

Nick Hague, project director at Eric Wright Group, added:

"Bonnie's creation of an innovative and eye-catching pattern for Animate's metal facade, reflects the past and present of Preston in the city's latest development and represents a major feature of what we're delivering at Animate for the people of Preston."

Almost fully pre-let, Animate will feature an eight-screen cinema, 16-lane bowling alley with gaming zone, five family restaurant units, a food hall, public realm, a competitive socialising unit and 164-space basement car park, with national leisure brands including Hollywood Bowl, ARC Cinemas, Zizzi, Cosmo, Las Iguanas and Loungers already signed up as tenants.

Left to right: Matt Friedmann Adrian Phillips Julie Palmer Bonnie Craig Sarah Threlfall John Chesworth and Nick Hague

To view previous news releases following the commencement of the works see Animate cinema and leisure news.

Further information

Towns Fund - Town Deals

On 27 July 2019, the Prime Minister announced that the Towns Fund would support an initial 101 places across England to develop Town Deal proposals, to drive economic regeneration and deliver long-term economic and productivity growth. See further details of the announcement.

Preston's City Investment Plan is a 15-year vision for Preston, setting out Preston's long-term objectives and strategy to transform the City, targeting resources and aligning public and private sector investments to respond to needs and capitalise on opportunities for positive change.

Preston City Council actively applies and prioritises the principles of Community Wealth Building wherever applicable and appropriate. Community Wealth Building is an approach which aims to ensure the economic system builds wealth and prosperity for everyone.

Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme

Preston's £200 million Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme projects include:

  • Animate - £45m multi-use entertainment and leisure complex anchored by a state-of-the-art cinema and bowling venue next to Preston Markets
  • Educate Preston -The creation of a new Careers and Employment, Information, Advice and Guidance Hub in the Harris Quarter.
  • 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, including Amounderness House.
  • Illuminate and Integrate -  A project to deliver improved pedestrian and cycleway infrastructure, street lighting and other public realm improvements within 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.
  • #HarrisYourPlace - The refurbishment of the Grade I listed Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library, enhancing and protecting the building for future generations.
  • Preston Pop Ups - £1m pop-up programme of events bringing together new temporary event space, artworks and improvements to public realm infrastructure, aimed at boosting visitor activity in the Harris Quarter.