Derry's new Factory Girls sculpture works to begin as sod cut at Harbour Square

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Communities Minister Gordon Lyons joined Mayor of Derry and Strabane Patricia Logue on Thursday to formally cut the sod ahead of the installation of the long-awaited Factory Girls sculpture at Harbour Square.

Works have been ongoing for several weeks on the public realm project, which the department said will “transform the Harbour Square, Custom House Street, Guildhall Street, Whittaker Street, Foyle Embankment, and riverfront area of the City”.

The new artwork, created by artist Chris Wilson, consists of three spool shaped forms with night-time illumination. The design is based on the shapes of spools of thread as used in the shirt factory.

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It was commissioned, the department said, as part of an extensive engagement process with local factory girls and the public.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons is pictured looking at the plans for the Factory Girls Sculpture in Derry with (L-R) Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Patricia Logue, Factory Girls representative Mary White and artist Chris Wilson.Communities Minister Gordon Lyons is pictured looking at the plans for the Factory Girls Sculpture in Derry with (L-R) Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Patricia Logue, Factory Girls representative Mary White and artist Chris Wilson.
Communities Minister Gordon Lyons is pictured looking at the plans for the Factory Girls Sculpture in Derry with (L-R) Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Patricia Logue, Factory Girls representative Mary White and artist Chris Wilson.

The works are expected to continue into early autumn and the sculpture will form part of the wider public realm redevelopment of Harbour Square.

The Factory Girls Sculpture is designed to celebrate the local shirt factory workers and the significant role the women who powered it played in the city and district’s cultural, heritage and economic history.

Factory Girls representative Mary White said: “We are delighted to see this project progressing to this state and are excited to see the artwork showcasing the important role played by factory girls to the history and culture of the city.”

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"We are truly thankful to the Department for Communities and to the Council for their support in making this artwork happen and we look forward to continuing to work alongside all of the partners on this very special project to all our hearts.”

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons is pictured with (L-R) Mayor Patricia Logue, Factory Girls representative Mary White and artist Chris Wilson cutting the sod ahead of the installation of the Factory Girls Sculpture at Harbour Square.Communities Minister Gordon Lyons is pictured with (L-R) Mayor Patricia Logue, Factory Girls representative Mary White and artist Chris Wilson cutting the sod ahead of the installation of the Factory Girls Sculpture at Harbour Square.
Communities Minister Gordon Lyons is pictured with (L-R) Mayor Patricia Logue, Factory Girls representative Mary White and artist Chris Wilson cutting the sod ahead of the installation of the Factory Girls Sculpture at Harbour Square.

Minister Lyons said: “It is fantastic to see construction commence on this important project. The Factory Girls made a vital contribution to the city’s past, and I am pleased that my department’s funding will allow this to be recognised through this art piece. In addition to this, the important public realm improvements will provide a backdrop for this sculpture, attracting more visitors to the area and providing a welcome boost for the local economy.”

Mayor Logue said: “I am delighted to see the public realm works progressing well and really look forward to seeing the installation of a new public artwork to officially acknowledge the huge contribution our factory girls have made to this City and District. I am looking forward to the design coming to life and to seeing this important piece of art in place for future generations to enjoy.”

A mock-up of the design is currently available for viewing at the Tower Museum reception.

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There has previously been criticism levelled over the length of time the sculpture project has taken to be realised.

The idea of honouring the thousands of the local shirt factory workers who formed the backbone to Derry’s economy for over a century agos back more than 30 years.

Back in 2006, a different sculpture by a different artist was previously commissioned by the Department for Social Development but ultimately did not proceed to installation despite part of it already being manufactured.

The site for the sculpture was also changed from King Street Roundabout to Harbour Square behind the Guildhall after the original site was deemed unsuitable.

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