Exhibition: McCann x Norman Walsh

An exhibition at the advertising agency McCann London compiles material from the archive of Bolton trainer-maker Norman Walsh, featuring sports shoes that date back to 1948

To coincide with the release of their collaborative trainer, the Herbrand Seven-Eleven, Norman Walsh Footwear and the advertising agency McCann London have created an exhibition to celebrate and explore the history of the Norman Walsh brand.

Held in the London-based agency’s art deco building on 7-11 Herbrand Street, for which the trainer is named, the exhibition features materials that date back to 1948. Expect to see a mixture of original track and field, marathon and fell running, rugby, football and cricket shoes, as well as those created by Norman Walsh himself for the 1948 London Olympics.

The exhibition has a showpiece area named ‘The Peaks of Walsh’, where the shoes will be displayed. It features a formation of stone cairns, referencing those found on the hills and mountains in the north of England where Norman Walsh is based.

The brand was founded by Norman Walsh in Bolton in 1961. Following in his father Norman’s footsteps, Walsh had been making athletics footwear since he left school in 1945 at the age of 14. He served as an apprentice at the Bolton-based Foster Bros Footwear, where he became a master craftsman. The founder of Foster Bros Footwear was Joseph Foster, the grandfather of Joe and Jeff Foster, who together went on to establish Reebok in 1958.

During the 1948 London Olympic Games, Walsh was chosen to make shoes for the British team. After setting up his namesake brand, Walsh began creating shoes for a range of different sports.

In the 1970s, Walsh created his first fell-running shoe for the runner Pete Bland. With their soft, flexible upper and a tough sole, the shoes were quickly taken up by rock climbers and mountaineers – including Chris Bonnington, who wore the shoes for his first ascent of the notoriously tough Mount Kongur in China.

Speaking before the launch of the exhibition and Herbrand Seven-Eleven, Walsh’s London agent Tim Walker said: “our collaboration with McCann London has not only resulted in a beautiful new trainer but an exhibition that brilliantly conveys the history of our brand and the craftsmanship that goes into everything we make.”

Part of the global advertising network McCann, the McCann London office was opened in 1927 – alongside those in Paris and Berlin. Recent campaigns by McCann London have been created for Mr Kipling, Xbox, Subway and L’Oreal.