Town centre mural and workshop
'If every plant and flower were found in all places, the charm of locality would not exist. Everything varies and that gives interest'
- Richard Jefferies
'My Town, My World'
Swindon Town Centre is in much need of regeneration. There is no longer a market. The tented market has sat empty for years. Empty buildings and building sites are litterd across the town with extortinate rents that are out of reach of most small businesses. This is the sad state of affairs when large business interests are put before the needs of local communities. Like attracts like, so maybe it's no surprise that the town centre attracts disrespect in the form of litter. Like many town centres, concrete has taken over and the area is largely devoid of nature and beauty. Community art is one way to uplift an area and get the community involved in positive activity.
With this in mind, Sally Taylor, of local artist collective and charity Artsite, was keen to initiate a project in the town centre. She started meeting with InSwindon BID's 'Clean and Well Maintained' group at the beginning of 2019. Around the same time, we got talking with Sally and Sue Bardwell of Artsite about the work of Swindon Climate Action Network and the Plastic Free Swindon campaign. Our work and visions had commonality and we decided to collaborate on two events, a town centre workshop and a mural. Entitled 'My Town, My World', the project was to be about hope, community, creativity, and sustainability.
Sue from Artsite invited children in to contribute to making a turtle from reused plastic. Paul from Ipsum made some great sculptures from reused plastic. Refill and Extinction Rebellion were among the heart motifs that were stitched. Jody and Chloe of RSPCA North Wilts' talked with the public about the organisation's work helping wild animals, pets and owners, handing out beautifully-wrapped seed packs. For Plastic Free Swindon, we talked with the public about issues of plastic pollution and the campaign. It's a good way to learn about barriers to change as well as a way to help and encourage people to make good choices.
All in all a positive day! Thanks to all involved.
Town centre mural
Two muralists were chosen to create the mural by the Wyvern theatre:
Martin Travers is an experienced muralist who grew up in Swindon. He ‘travels the world painting murals and working on community arts projects’. Martin said, "I was born in Swindon and although I moved away and worked in many different places around the World, I have always been drawn back to visit family over the years. This is the first time I've been invited back to my home town with my art and I look forward to re-connecting with the town and exploring what Swindon is today. I believe strongly in representing the city I was born in and will be drawing inspiration from the diversity that makes the city unique."
Martin would mentor local artist, Peter Cowdy, who had previously created a number of professional murals. Peter said, "Having been raised in the Swindon area and being a part of its graffiti art scene for over 20 years I was excited to take part in this project and happy that groups like Artsite and inSwindon BID are passionate about utilising and sharing space in the town. The opportunity to work with the community is always a pleasure and I am enjoying the inspiration from connecting with people and hearing what Swindon means to them. I am particularly happy to learn from and collaborate with Martin on this project as well as the chance to create something in an area of town where so many people pass through."
After a change of location and some false starts due to rain, the mural painting got under way on the 2nd June 2019. It took full 3 full days of painting to complete, with help from local artists.
"On the far left side of the design are buildings, recognisable sort of landmark buildings including the town hall, The Mechanics Institute, lighthouse etc. Not visible in the design are going to be different patterns from different cultures that make up the diversity that is Swindon Town. These will be quite subtle in the finished painting. As you follow the design to the right the imagery become that of rural swindon, and I picked out a few elects that are very much local flora and fauna. Also a few birds, particularly the Great Bustard which is special to Swindon as it became extinct in the UK, until a Swindon conservation group brought it back onto the downs. The bird itself features on the flag of Swindon. Other birds include Swans that are prominent at coat water as well as the robin and the kingfisher. Depicted in the far-right-hand side is a landscape that includes the downs, a white horse and a wooded area.... (The mural contains) a quote from Richard Jefferies, the famous Swindonian writer, that reads:
"If every plant and flower were found in all places, the charm of locality would not exist. Everything varies and that gives interest"
Sally commented on the project, “I am an advocate for the arts bringing people together to work for change and helping wellbeing within their communities. Through the process of working with SCAN, InSwindon and the artists, a dialogue was started which I hoped would open up an ongoing collaboration between the businesses in the town, artists and the proactive groups within Swindon’s community.”
Thanks to all involved in both projects especially Artsite and the muralists. Big thanks to Sally for her dedication in making both actions happen through a series of trying events!