AN EXACT replica of what was “stolen from us”, a march from the Valleys into Newport, and digital projections on to the Riverfront are some of the ways people want to see the Chartist mural replaced.
At a public meeting of Newport Civic Society on Thursday, the floor was open to anyone with an idea for a replacement for the mural in John Frost Square depicting the Chartist march of 1839, which was demolished by the council amid public furore last October, days before a planned demonstration to save it. Many favoured a replica as close as possible to the original artwork.
The meeting came after Newport council announced that Dr Rowan Williams, Newport West AM Dame Rosemary Butler and Pat Drewett would serve on a new commission to look for a replacement to the mural.
David Hando, from the Civic Society, described the destruction as “municipal vandalism” and said such a replica could be placed “on Commercial Street, almost opposite the Westgate Hotel up on the facia of British Home Stores.”
The Westgate Hotel, where 22 Chartists were shot dead after demanding democracy, is the centre of the city’s Chartist history.
Many supported Mr Hando, with one man saying he wanted to see the mosaic mural rebuilt piece by piece as it had been “stolen from us”.
But mosaic artist Stephanie Roberts said this might not be possible as Oliver Budd, the son of the mural’s creator, might be hesitant to hand over the full images as he was unhappy with the way the mural’s destruction was handled. She also estimated it could cost upwards of £200,000 to rebuild the mural in weatherproof materials.
Mohamed (corr) Miah, a lecturer at the University of South Wales and digital producer, suggested the Chartist story could be animated and videos projected on to walls in the city which could be “six times the size” of the original mural.
Peter Rawcliffe, who headed the Save Our Mural campaign, said he believed the remains of the Chartist mural were being stored in a container at a refuse site in Maesglas, with a final decision yet to be taken on what will happen to them.
He added that there was no reason for only one memorial or representation to be commissioned as a replacement. He said: “We need something which is bright, which can be outside, which everybody can look at.” He talked about tapestries depicting the Chartist story which could be produced by local artists. Others suggested a large scale reconstruction of the march into Newport from the Valleys, which could possibly be televised.
Tom Evans, from Malpas, said there was a danger of artwork being designed “by committee” and suggested a competition to find the best idea could promote creativity.
Chrissie Turner Wilson, from the Save Our Mural campaign, said any action had to be taken quickly as the 175th anniversary of the Chartist march is in November. She added: “We have the NATO conference happening in September. What better time to show the world Newport’s dedication to democracy?”
Nick Webb, co-chairman of the Civic Society, summing up the meeting, said: “Chartism was about people power. It’s important the views of ordinary residents of Newport feed through.”