One of the key recipients of murals has been those kids lucky enough to have one in their their own school playground. Murals, with their vivid colours, fantastic imagery, large scale and positive presence have played a constant role in lightening up the lives of children by having a place in playgrounds across the UK for many years.
The other week I had the privilege of helping to restore one such mural that has brightened up the lives of children for three decades; this wonderfully creative piece adorns the playground wall of Streatham Wells Primary School.
I volunteer with a community arts organisation called Art4Space based at Stockwell Studios in Jeffreys Road, Stockwell. Art4Space, specialising in mosaics, create community arts projects in schools and the surrounding areas to increase accessibility and empowerment through art and I’m loving working with them.
On this particular day I helped them in restoring Streatham Wells Primary School’s mural which was in a bad state of repairs with peeling paint and coming away from the walls it was in much need of love and restoration.
So, commissioned by the school, Art4space got to work.
The first day the mural team started by fixing the loose ceramic brick tiles back in place with cement and water, sealing the top edge. Then they photographed the whole piece for reference to help them recreate it later.
Next the team wire brushed the mural and sanded back all the paint which took two artists all day and left the masonry sealant to dry overnight. The next day one artist primed the whole mural, white. Once all this was done, the canvas was ready to re-create the original piece. Using the same colours where possible the team painstakingly copied from the photos the original designs with a few changes where things were too worn away to recognise. They used a professional spectrum muralist paint specially designed to not fade, this part took the muralists three days, I was lucky enough to get involved on the last day and see the final piece.
I spent the day with paintbrush in hand and bin liner on to protect my clothes and worked on finishing up the final pieces of the mural. I felt very proud of the little bits I’d worked on.
Such a fun and creative mural, the final piece is so bright and cheerful I think the kids will love it!
I asked around and no-one knew who’d originally created it but the caretaker said he knew locals in their thirties who remembered it being their when they were children. I vowed to get London Mural Preservation Society to help find out.
Thanks to London Mural Preservation Society we have some answers. I rang up the organiser Ruth Miller and was telling her about the piece and right there in front of her she had the answers. The mural was Untitled and originally created with acrylic paint and moulded clay tiles. Measuring 10 feet by 6 feet it was created in 1980 by Paul Prestidge and the children of Streatham Wells Primary School.
With a little bit more research LMPS discovered a facebook group talking about the creation of the piece by the, then, kids who had created it. I got in touch with one of those kids now a mother herself, Sarah Fox. Sarah, who was only seven at the time, told me the piece was inspired by a storyteller who visited the school. As part of his narrative performance, he brought in a real live snake, as the story was about a Rainbow snake. A lot of drawings were created by the kids as part of the ‘research and development’ process and the storyteller continued helping the kids develop their ideas, visiting regularly during the creation of the mural to help inspire them.
Apparently there was an original story that went with this mural; I’d love to find out what it was. I’m also still looking for the artist Paul Prestidge. If you or anyone you know have anymore you can add to this story do get in touch:
NEW UPDATE: 4/10/10
Was greatly pleased to hear from two more creators of this piece, David Jones and Sophie Hazelwood, also children at the time. David remembers making part of Neptunes head and Sophie, creating one of the mermaids. David tolds us more about the creation of the piece, ” The story teller was a man called Roberto, his stories were superb. He had a son that he brought along with him sometimes, called Jango.” David also told us about a few teachers who were there at the time; Janet Minton, Richard Stainton, Sue Bulgar and Viv Greenwood, hopefully these leads will take us further into the story.
Thank you all for getting in touch 🙂