We hunt for the faces of people depicted in the Newport Chartist mural
11:32am Tuesday 3rd September 2013 in Gwent news
AS ONE of Newport’s most treasured artworks faces threats of demolition, we look for the real people of Newport depicted in the Chartist’s Mural.
The faces of local officials as well as actual chartists were used as models for the soldiers and Chartists of the 1839 uprising, as depicted in the 35-metre mural off John Frost Square.
This merging of different histories of Newport is another unique layer to the mural, which was constructed in 1979 by mosaic artist Kenneth Budd and which campaigners are now desperate to save.
Mr BUdd's son Oliver Budd, who still works in mosaics, was featured in the mural twice along with his father. At the beginning of the mural, he can be seen pulling a splinter from his foot and again at the end, as a child dying in his father’s arms.
Other recognisable faces include previous Mayor of Newport Thomas Phillips, Cefni Barnett, who was the curator of Newport Museum in the seventies and Geoff Thomas and Bill Kersaan, of Newport council.
Mr Budd said: “The way dad used to work- he did a lot of research with local historians and they’d give him images – sometimes wood cuttings – and he would copy them."
The mural is under threat of demolition, due to Newport City Council’s plans for a new shopping development in the town centre.
Mr Budd said: “I’d love to see it saved but if it can’t be it can’t be. That’s the tragedy. I am working with the campaign to save it but Newport City Council is still my client and I’m also supporting the decisions they make."
The council have suggested creating a replica mural, which if it were to be mosaic, Mr Budd would be involved. Some have argued this would be prohibitively expensive and Mr Budd believes they should redesign the development instead.
Mr Budd said he cannot be sure if all of those depicted in the mural are based on real people, but many of the faces were characters from Newport at the time.
The Save our Mural campaign, which Mr Budd has worked with, has attracted more than 2,000 signatures online and has suggested ideas such as interactive screens. These touch screens would give context and history to the mural, acting as an educational resource for children and tourists alike.
A the beginning of August, The 20th Century Society pressure group asked the Welsh Government’s historic environment service Cadw, to list the Chartist Mural in John Frost Square and safeguard its future. There had been protests over a proposed demolition in 2007, but the mural was given a reprieve after the last city centre redevelopment project fell through. Suggestions to recreate the mural was the preferred option of residents who took part in a consultation back in 2012. The council said the original would be impossible to preserve and too expensive to reconstruct.
Kenneth Budd produced a wide number of public art commissions across Wales and the West Midlands, including one in Birmingham which was successfully re-located and recreated in 2012.
If you or anyone you know is featured in the mural, let us know on 01633 777087 or email@example.com
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