Factory Girls artist ‘moved’ by decision

Artist Louise Walsh with some of her designs for the sculpture.

Artist Louise Walsh with some of her designs for the sculpture.

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The artist at the helm of the ‘Factory Girls’ project has said she was moved that councillors unanimously agreed to challenge planning permission for the work being refused.

Louise Walsh was speaking to the ‘Journal’ in the wake of the decision by the Planning Committee last week to go against a recommendation to refuse planning permission to have the project sited at Harbour Square behind the Guildhall.

The stance taken by the cross-party committee now means that planners will have to reconsider the application and their recommendation ahead of the next Planning Committee meeting in April.

Ms. Walsh said: “It is amazing that the public representatives have decided to back it and it was so brilliant that it happened on International Women’s Day.

“It was so positive that the parties got together to stand behind the shirt factory workers. I was really moved by that.”

Planners, however, said Historic Buildings, while acknowledging the groundswell of support for the commemorative project, had raised objections, claiming the alignment, orientation and scale of the artwork will have an adverse impact on the setting of nearby listed buildings.

However, Sinn Fein Councillor, Patricia Logue, proposed the committee reject this, in a move seconded by SDLP Colr Gus Hastings and supported by all their party colleagues as well as all DUP and UUP representatives on the committee.

Ms Walsh first submitted the initial ideal for the project 12 years ago and over the years it has been developed by the artist in conjunction with former factory workers from Derry.

The project, however, has been beset with external problems, with issues ranging from the proposed location being changed, technical issues with the current proposed site and uncertainty over available funding for the project.

Ms.Walsh said a lot of work had gone in to ensure the art work links in with the Peace Bridge and the Guildhall as a gateway to the city.

The art project is inspired by the ornate Egyptian Singer sewing machines many local people will be familiar with.

The proposed sculpture consists of a large steel wheel, 6.2 m. high and 7.5 m. wide at the widest point. There will also be a decorative steel archway to resemble a needle panel, that will be five metres in height and 4.2 metres wide.

A granite stonework laid on the ground between the archway and the wheel, depicting the surface of a sewing machine, would complete the artwork, while new surface finishes for the area and street furniture is also planned.