YOU will be able to see Fiddler’s Ferry in a new way to mark 50 years of the plant before its demolition.
Artist Shaun Smyth and photographer Lee Harrison were granted exclusive access to the power plant, which closed in 2020, during its dismantling process.
Their goal was to document Fiddler’s Ferry and create a visual historical record for future generations before it disappeared.
They did and it will be on display at the Warrington Musuem and Art Gallery between Friday 15th July and Sunday 2nd October.
The duo were stunned by the enormity of the site with its eight 374ft cooling towers and 660ft chimney which provided plenty of inspiration for their work, which was captured from various vantage points.
Shaun said: “This colossal site can be seen for miles around. Inside the towers, it’s almost like a cathedral. When we entered the towers it was like in the 1979 movie Alien and we were absolutely in awe of the space. To represent the scale of the place, I started creating huge works of art. I want to give viewers the feeling of being overwhelmed by its magnitude.
Some works of Shaun
He attempted to capture the power station to mark 50 years
Lee added, “It was like a giant sculptural organic form curving your eyes to the sky that acted as its ever-changing roof. It was a surreal experience.
The powerhouse scale came with its challenges in terms of capturing in all its glory. In fact, Shaun had to put some of his paintings in the cafeteria at Fiddler’s Ferry because they were getting too big for his studio.
“It was great, because the workers came to see the sketches and the paintings progress during their lunch break,” Shaun said.
“They were pointing out things I had missed or thought I should include. These conversations and stories on the site fed into the finished paintings.”
Lee continued, “Their commitment to the important work of providing electricity to the community and pride in the site was evident throughout our time there. For them it was more than just a place of work – many had spent most of their working lives there and there was a mixture of community humor and sadness at the impending closure.
Both artists are passionate about documenting Fiddler’s Ferry because they grew up with it on their doorstep and appreciate its importance to the region as an employer, energy provider and symbol of the northwest.
Shaun, from Runcorn, met Lee, who lives where the River Mersey begins in Stockport, via social media through their shared interest in industrial landscapes.
Lee added: “I work a lot in North Cheshire and Merseyside so I see Fiddler’s Ferry every week and it’s impossible not to look left as I walk past.
“I once saw the full steam towers constantly pushing upwards, with rapeseed flowers in the foreground. It was an amazing sight that made it seem almost like a living, breathing structure. and I will never forget the visual impact.
Lee Harrison’s snap of Fiddler’s Ferry from a distance
It’s the culmination of a huge project – in conjunction with SSE, which runs the site, and Painters Tubes Magazine – that dates back to 2017 when Shaun first pitched the idea to Marc Rudd, director of the engineering and innovation at the plant.
Marc said: ‘We talked about the limited operational life of Fiddler’s Ferry as SSE moves towards a zero-carbon future, as well as the government’s policy that no coal-fired power stations would be in operation after 2025 We thought it was absolutely a good time to capture not just Fiddler’s Ferry but the people who work at Fiddler’s.
“Fiddler’s has been a powerhouse in operation since 1971, it has had a tremendous socio-economic impact on the region and surrounding areas. The number of people who have worked at Fiddler’s, or have friends or family who have worked at Fiddler’s , is almost immeasurable.
“The body of work produced by Shaun and Lee over the last few years of Fiddler’s Ferry’s operational life captures, commemorates and celebrates the working lives of the thousands of us who walked through the doors, to manufacture not only electricity, but also industrial history and heritage.. I know this work will be cherished.
The exhibition – Fiddler’s Ferry: The Cloud Factory – will launch on Friday July 15 and run through Sunday October 2. Free entry.