During the first coronavirus national lockdown in the spring of 2020, I was comissioned by 'Something's Brewing' and Curious Minds North West as part of the 'Prestoning' project to support local artists during the pandemic. The brief involved responding to the idea of what 'Prestoning' could mean. My contribution to the project was the 'Preston People's Portable Plague Stone'.
As part of my ongoing research, I had been looking at the role of 'plague stones' during plagues throughout history. Essentially, a plague stone was a boulder that would often be located on the village boundary. The infected villagers would come to place money in a hollow carved into the top of the stone (which was often filled with vinegar to act as a disinfectant) to pay for food and medicine left by their anxious neighbours. In this way the spread of plague was contained.
The 'Preston People's Portable Plague Stone' was a reflection on this tradition and on the significance of people and community action in Preston. It existed as a temporary intervention on Penwortham Old Bridge on 4th July 2020. Participants were invited to stamp words of hope or support onto small aluminium discs, which they then dropped into the plague stone - exchanging it for one left by a previous participant and completing the 'transaction'.