The Harris’ Critical Friend
In July, we announced our partnership with Disability Equality North West. We chose to work in partnership with Disability Equality NW as their core values very much align with our own, in particular, the drive to make The Harris more accessible for people with disabilities.
Disability Equality NW was established in 1996 as the ‘Preston Information Project’. Initially based in a small office basement with only 1 member of staff and 2 volunteers, the organisation has developed into a large user-led disabled people’s organisation (DPO) with over 20 members of staff and over 20 volunteers. At its core, the organisation prides itself on rights, equal opportunities, diversity and social inclusion for all. DENW exists to equip and improve the life skills of its users, all whilst upholding boundaries so that its users can maintain a degree of independence.
Mel Close, Chief Executive Officer for Disability Equality North West (DENW), can usually be found “working hard to ensure fairness and equality of access for all” and that’s why she is perfect for the role of The Harris’ Critical Friend. We are privileged to have Mel on board with us, sharing DENW’s mission for “building a society in which all people – regardless of impairment – are valued, live full family, social and economic lives, and can access and actively take part in their local communities”. This includes The Harris of course.
Our official Critical Friendship is for 12 months and covers the crucial period leading up to The Harris reopening. To guide us through this 12-month period ahead, we have made a mutual commitment to be honest, open and straightforward. Our aim is to reveal challenges together that are specific to The Harris’ organisational culture, shining a spotlight on access and inclusion issues. DENW will constructively criticise The Harris to find out why we are doing the things we do, with the aim of improving our processes.
Harris Your Place
Harris Your Place is a £16 million project set to restore and reimagine the Harris for 21st-century audiences as a cultural learning space. The aim of this project is to protect the building and the architecture for future generations whilst enhancing accessibility options and positioning the Harris as a community hub for Preston and Lancashire.
The capital project is more than simply preserving this much-loved building; Harris wants to ensure that it remains a vibrant heart of the community. A place where people want to spend their time.