Quite a few people are following the story of the restoration and probably wondering who the people are behind it. These next few blog posts will look at who has been involved in this project.
The ringmaster of the circus of restoration is one Vinnie O’Connell.
Part of his interest with the project lies in the fact that he was involved in painting the original Brixton Windmill Mural. His passion for the piece has helped drive the scheme forward from an idea, into a Heritage Lottery Funded project. It brings together different organisations (Vinnie introduced us to Positive Arts), helps the local community and expands the understanding of heritage, with particular emphasis on the Brixton murals.
Last year, whilst we were hatching the restoration plan, I caught up with Vinnie at the New Leaf project in West Dulwich. This is a project which uses the wasteland on either side of the platforms at West Dulwich station to create a garden as a resource for the local community to enjoy. New Leaf also works with Southwark Youth Offending Services to help young offenders learn new skills and develop new interests through participating in the project. It signposts environmental careers and apprentiships to these people.
One of the most noticeable thing about New Leaf are the murals painted on the shop at the front of the station. This building had been bin sheds but with the assistance of the young offenders, it was transformed by replacing the roof, ceiling, walls and making it a workable space. The exterior was still subject to graffiti so Vinnie commissioned local artist Marlon Brown to paint a couple of murals. One is called the Wild Wall and features Charles Darwin, Karl Linnaeus and representatives of all the families in nature for example, bacteria, fungi, amphibians and rodents.
The other wall is called the Heroes’ Wall and features the unsung heroes and popularisers of natural history so you can see portraits of David Attenborough, Peter Scott, Rosalind Franklin and Patrick Moore amongst others.
Over the last year Marlon had done approximately 70 hours on the Heroes’ Wall and 100 hours on the Wild Wall.
Vinnie is also involved in the Edible Estate movement and has helped establish food growing areas on South London housing estates for local food production. This is one of the things that has lead to him being awarded a fellowship from the Linnean Society for his work in the urban environment.
Whilst Vinnie is working on his projects, he has put in much time, pulling things together for the Brixton Windmill Mural Restoration. Using local contacts, he has bought in plasterers and scaffolders; and generally managed the site as the work has proceeded. He has encouraged lots of local involvement through his relationships with the surrounding community.
So, a huge thank you Vinnie for your part in this wonderful project!