VIDEO: ‘Underwear artwork’ is given its official grand opening

A new ‘underwear artwork’ was officially launched last night (Tuesday) at Harborough District Council’s revamped £5.75m Symington Building HQ.

The art installation consists of seven beautifully-decorated corsets, reflecting the building’s history as a corset factory and – until the 1960s – one of the town’s main employers.

Chairman of Leicestershire County Council Cllr Bill Boulter, vice-chairman of Harborough District Council Cllr Mike Rook with artist Anne Schwegmann-Fielding during the official unveiling of the Swedish Maidens art installation at The Symington Building. (PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER)

Chairman of Leicestershire County Council Cllr Bill Boulter, vice-chairman of Harborough District Council Cllr Mike Rook with artist Anne Schwegmann-Fielding during the official unveiling of the Swedish Maidens art installation at The Symington Building. (PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER)

But is the striking, but perhaps slightly eccentric, artwork considered a success?

Corset is!

“A beautiful piece of work,” said Harborough District Council’s vice-chairman, Cllr Mike Rook, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony last night.

“Simply stunning,” said Cllr Paul Bremner, who sat on the project’s selection panel.

“Just wonderful,” enthused Robert Symington, the son of the last chairman of the R & WH Symington factory, and a specially-invited guest.

And artist Anne Schwegmann-Fielding, of Colchester, said: “This has been one of the most inspiring projects I’ve worked on in over 20 years.

“I wanted to remind people about the rich cultural history of this building; to link it back to Market Harborough’s rich past.”

The artwork is called Swedish Maidens, which was the name given by Symington factory workers to the steam-filled copper forms over which the corsets were stretched and moulded.

A poem entitled Swedish Maidens on Parade, by Martin Newell, is inscribed on the wall alongside the artwork.

Anne’s design was selected from a number of submissions, by a panel of district and county councillors, council employees, an art expert and an art student from Harborough’s Robert Smyth Academy.

A grant of £15,000 from the Arts Council helped bring the project to fruition.

The corsets – all based on actual Symington designs – are decorated with crockery, jewellery and found objects, many of which were donated by members of the public.

Cllr Barbara Johnson, who also sat on the selection panel, said: “Anne’s proposal offered great opportunities for the community to get involved in the project.”

The “smalls on the walls” are now on permanent display in the main entrance of The Symington Building, in Adam and Eve Street.

Story by Alex Blackwell.

Follow Alex on Twitter