Barrow Tattoo

Company: Welfare State International
Location: Barrow Town Hall, Barrow-in-Furness
Year: 1987

Barrow Town Hall Tattoo was the culmination of a six month programme of events and preparation; a grand civic animation of the Town Hall  with bands, choirs, fireworks and a parade. The company closed the town centre to traffic and succeeded in flying a 40 ft. pair of Queen Victoria’s bloomers above Barrow Town Hall after 20 pinstriped bureaucrats abseiled from a clock tower. It was witnessed by 15,000 people. It was described by The Guardian as ‘possibly the single biggest artwork in Europe this year’. Huge daylight pyro, giant exploding birthday cake and parade of council workers who had decorated their refuse collecting vans and street lighting cherry pickers. Queen Victoria, who failed to attend the 1887 opening of the Town Hall, arrived for its Centenary Celebrations riding on a huge elephant gun carriage.

Up to that point, Barrow – a town of around 70,000 inhabitants, had spent £1500 a year on arts and culture. A department of Arts and Leisure was created. Tattoo Day launched a three year programme of arts development funded jointly by Barrow Borough Council, Northern Arts and the Arts Council.

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