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Jack Ashley sculpture unveiled

Liverpool artist's salute to champion of the disabled

Written by . Published on June 11th 2014.

Jack Ashley sculpture unveiled

THE bust of of a man who bettered the lives of millions of disabled people and changed the face of modern buildings design has been unveiled in his birthplace of Widnes. 

The sculpture, depicting politician and disability champion Jack Ashley, was created by Phillip Garrett, an artist who once found himself relying on donations of food to keep going as he plied his work on the streets of Liverpool. 

Now the one-time soldier, from Lydiate, can be found in a studio sandwiched between a collection of north docks warehouses on Regent Road, Bootle. 

A decade ago, Garret jacked in his job as a teacher, determined to follow his heart into art. 

When times were really tough he went into “busking” - creating chalk and pastel illustrations on Liverpool city centre pavements for cash. 

“I somehow managed to survive, often with people giving me food, and there has occasionally been a patron or benefactor who have liked my work and wanted to support me,” he says. 

 One of those works was donated to the charity PPS in Seel Street, another was bought and is in a private collection.  Others now hang on the brick walls of his studio, a warren of sculptures, paintings, drawings and bits and bobs - including a human skeleton - acquired over the years. Among his collection is a bust of the Liverpool social reformer Eleanor Rathbone and another of the Meccano inventor Frank Hornby. 

It's a decade since his debut exhibition in Bath and his work has been shown over the years in places as diverse as Sweden, Korea, the US and, er, Bootle. 

His Jack Ashley sculpture came after he had a conversation with Widnes historian Jean Morris. They spoke about the MP who later became a peer. 

“Jack became profoundly deaf, but that was no barrier to his tireless campaigning, especially with the Disability Discrimination Act,” says Garrett. 

“It's thanks to Jack's work that life for millions of people with disabilities has been transformed. The accessibility, the design of buildings and many other things are all down to Jack. 

“I have liaised closely with his family to ensure my work captures his character. I hope when people visit Widnes Library they will see my work and think about this hero, born in a small terraced house in their town.' 

*Philip Garrett's sculpture of Jack Ashley was unveiled at a civic ceremony at Widnes Library last Friday and is on permanent display there.


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