‘Don’t disfigure glorious Harris’

How Preston's Harris could look. Copyright Purcell Architects
How Preston's Harris could look. Copyright Purcell Architects
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Shakespearean actor Ian Fintoff believes it will be a tragedy if Preston “disfigures” the landmark Harris Library where his love of literature was born.

The thespian has added his voice to the growing opposition to a £10m scheme to knock a huge hole in the base of the Grade I Listed building and create a modern glass entrance facing the Flag Market.

“I feel quite strongly about it,” said Ian, who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. “I love the Harris. It’s a beautiful building. But if you start to change it, even for the best of reasons, you do disfigure it.”

Preston-born Ian, whose father Coun Thomas R Flintoff JP has a road named after him in the city, credits the Harris Library with helping him gain a scholarship to Oxford.

From there he went into the theatre, playing alongside such greats as Laurence Olivier, Daniel Day-Lewis and Judi Dench on the stage and into television with parts in series like Prime Suspect, A Touch of Frost and Coronation Street.

“A great deal of it was thanks to the Harris where I spent a lot of time studying,” he told the Post. “When I look back it was a great environment in which to study. I can’t speak highly enough about it.

“I’ve seen the scheme and, while it doesn’t look terribly ugly, I have a feeling the Harris was built for a purpose, particularly in that style. It sits perfectly where it is. But this (the new entrance) disfigures the original. You would never get the Greeks doing this with the Parthenon.”

Ian, who lives in Oxford and is also a playwright and director, admits he is “a great, loyal Prestonian.” And the Harris is top of the list of things he treaures from the city of his birth. “It is a glorious building,” he said.