Doncaster residents’ hopes and dreams are captured in art

L to r:- Artist Les Monaghan, MP Dame Rosie Winterton and Patrick Mellon, assistant manager of Doncaster's Frenchgate Centre.
L to r:- Artist Les Monaghan, MP Dame Rosie Winterton and Patrick Mellon, assistant manager of Doncaster's Frenchgate Centre.
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A powerful and thought-provoking art exhibition featuring the hopes and dreams of Doncaster residents is causing thousands of town centre shoppers to stand and stare.

The Frenchgate Shopping Centre has welcomed Les Monaghan as its artist in residence and his first installation The Desire Project features 1.8m high photographic portraits of people from the town answering the question ‘What do you want?’

Part of the exhibition at the Frenchgate Shopping Centre in Doncaster.

Part of the exhibition at the Frenchgate Shopping Centre in Doncaster.

Well-known Doncaster residents to feature includes Bessacarr war hero Ben Parkinson MBE, who lost both legs in a bomb blast while serving in Afghanistan in 2006. The former paratrooper’s heartfelt message reads ‘I want to walk’.

Others to feature in the exhibition include a Kurdish woman who calls for gender equality, a woman who asks for world peace and a young man who shares his musical dreams of becoming a rapper.

Artist Les said: “I am interested in what it means to live today and want the exhibition to question what we value as a society.

“’What do you want?’ is a simple question - but beyond immediate needs, like a break or a coffee, what do we actually desire most?

“This project allows members of the public some reflective time to ponder a big question and it’s interesting that of the more than 120 people I have taken photographs of so far, the majority of their desires were not materialistic - they were to do with health, happiness, love, peace, and family.

“My ‘desire’ is for art to be for everyone and so I need to reach as many people as possible – and exhibiting at Frenchgate Shopping Centre, with its large footfall, is a brilliant start.”

Karen Staniforth, marketing manager at Frenchgate Shopping Centre, added: “We know Les is aiming to reach the widest audience, especially those who may not actively access art, and so we’re really pleased to be able to host this amazing project. We’re glad to see many of our customers volunteered to be a part of it, too. The collection of almost life-size photographic portraits is powerful and thought-provoking.”

The exhibition was launched by Doncaster Central MP Dame Rosie Winterton at a recent drinks reception. The project is funded by Arts Council England.