Meeting Point2: Preston Park

Ghost Ship © Jonathan Turner

A large multi-media sculpture exploring the ship building legacy of Robert Ropner. 

  • Facts

    Title Refuge: Ropner's Ghost Ship
    Historical Sites Preston Park Museum and Grounds
    Lead Artists Stephen Dixon and Alison Welsh
    Artwork Multi Media Sculpture
    Partners / Stakeholders Preston Park Museum and Grounds, Arts&Heritage and Arts Council England
    Budget £10,000.00
    Development 8 Months
    Dates 3 October - 12 November 2017
  • Description


    Refuge: Ropner’s Ghost Ship by Alison Welsh and Stephen Dixon © 

    The project is part of the Meeting Point2 project led by Arts&Heritage. It supports ten new contemporary art installations at museums across the North East, North West and Yorkshire during 2017. Meeting Point2 is funded by Arts Council England Museum Resilience Fund.

    The large multi-media sculpture is a response to the Preston Park Museum collections, highlighting Teesside’s maritime history, traditions and narratives.

    The sculpture took the ethereal, ghostlike form of a ship, dramatically lit from within, making connections with the shipbuilding legacy of Robert Ropner, Teesside’s maritime trade and its associated industries,.

    Elements of the sculpture will draw upon the materials and processes of the museum’s Victorian Street, particularly Thos. Wilks’ drapers shop, with its delicate and translucent lace and silk fabrics, embroideries and garments, and the letterpress and block printing equipment in L. Thorman’s print shop.

    The ship will commemorate and celebrate Robert Ropner’s prominent role in the history of Teesside. Ropner arrived as a penniless teenager in West Hartlepool in 1857, a stowaway on board the steamship Gitana, and went on to become one of the region’s most prominent and successful industrialists. This ‘rags to riches’ tale contains a strong social message, about opportunity, migration and tolerance. Ropner’s story might be viewed differently through the lens of current political events; today he might be considered an economic migrant at best, at worst an illegal immigrant.

    Watch a short film about the inspiration behind Refuge


    • To raise the cultural profile of the museum within the region 
    • Engage volunteers in the commission process
    • Find new ways to engage the community in the museums social narrative 


    Arts&Heritage is supporting the ten participating museums throughout the process, sharing knowledge of presenting contemporary art projects and commissions in non-traditional art spaces.

    A networking event between the participating museums and 70 artists from across the UK took place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and visits to artists’ studios were arranged. Museum teams also met with peers at other properties to learn how they successfully delivered contemporary art projects at their museums and heritage sites.

    All museums developed their own Artist’s Brief. Following the networking event artists were invited to send in an expression of interest to museums that interested therm.

    Four artists were shortlisted by each museum to draw up a more detailed proposal and were paid £500 each


    Information to follow


    • £10,000 to include all materials, travel and installation costs
    • £1000 towards learning and outreach
    • £500 paid to each of four artists shortlisted
  • Audience Engagement


    A marketing campaign for the Meeting Point2 project is being led and delivered by Emma Pybus and David Brookbanks.

    The Meeting Point2 project was documented by Jonathan Turner and Peter Spence


    Information to follow

  • Artist Information

    Stephen Dixon and Alison Welsh © Jonathan Turner

    Alison Welsh is the Head of Fashion Research at Manchester Metropolitan University. She studied Fashion at Newcastle Polytechnic, now Northumbria University. She worked as a trend forecaster in London during the 1980’s before taking a senior lecturer post at Manchester Polytechnic in 1991. Alison became the Course Leader within her first year in education, heading up the BA (Hons) Fashion Programme at Manchester School of Art for 20 years. Alison has been a trustee of Graduate Fashion Week since 2004.

    Recently she has been developing a series of womens garments in response to her Indian research. She is a practicing designer, her work bridging design, craft and art. Experimental cross-disciplinary collaborations with ceramic artists Professor Stephen Dixon and Clare Curneen has taken her out of her fashion comfort zone. Her work has recently been exhibited in Japan (Bunka University, Tokyo) China (Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology) India (Queens Gallery, British Council, New Delhi) and regularly within the UK.