Unique artist led tours of the former Pilkington Headquarters gave participants a behind the scenes insight in the history, architecture and memories of the iconic site.
Five tours, led by artists Michelle Browne, took place as part of The Invisible City event at Alexandra Park on Saturday, November 12th.
They were quickly booked and Michelle set about creating tours of the site that focused on the themes of transparency, invisibility and labour.
Feedback from the participants labelled the tours, led by artist Michelle Browne as thought provoking, intriguing and unexpected.
Michelle explained who the 45 minute tours of Alexandra Park came together, she said: “In order to understand the site, I visited St Helens five times over three months.
“I visited the building and got to know its layout and history. I interviewed staff, past and present of the site and started to get a picture of how it was when it was part of Pilkington Glass and after.”
“I also visited the World of Glass Museum to understand the development of the factory and met the retired staff of Pilkington Glass at the Pilkingtons Trust through their events with pensioners.”
“Through these interviews and those with the current staff at Alexandra Park, I was drawn to the contrast between the working lives of those who had worked for Pilkingtons in the past and the conditions for workers in the present day. Pilkingtons as a company epitomises how capitalism has changed over the centuries and its subsequent impact on the worker.
“I developed a tour of the building that weaved real stories of those interviewed within a fictional narrative that mapped out the changing nature of work over the last 200 years.”
“The audience were led through a variety of spaces in the building, from the long corridor that led to the old canteen, through the administrative office spaces, to the Boardroom and on to the internal postal service that still exists in the building.
“In the end the audience were invited to consider their relationship to current characteristics of the contemporary desired worker. Surveillance was considered in relation to how the worker was monitored and how this has developed into self-surveillance through performance reviews and other mechanism in today’s workplace.”
Following the tours participants were invited to give their feedback on the tour, below is a short sample of what they had to say:
“The setting interested me at first, but the topic of surveillance really grabbed me. It was interesting, intriguing and worthwhile.”
“I found it exciting and informative. It was a little bit eye-opening. I wanted to visit headquarters as I worked most of my life there. But I wasn’t expecting the tour to be so stimulating and thought provoking.”
“I though it was enlightening, it really bought the whole thing to life – the site, the history and the redundancies.”
“The building has been in my hometown all my life and it was fascinating to think about how it was 30-40 years ago.”
“For me it was an unexpected tour, it was interesting and political. It made me think differently
Michelle Browne is an artist and curator based in Dublin, Ireland. She studied Sculpture at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and is currently completing a Masters in Fine Art at the Dutch Art Institute based in Arnhem, Holland. Much of her work is performance based and collaborative.