The first six weeks of life for a new mural on the front of the old British Home Stores shop has underlined the warm welcome it has received from Ipswich people.
Commissioned by Ipswich Central, the artwork was produced as part of the ‘Thomas Wolsey 550’ programme by a group of young artists from Suffolk One sixth form college, in collaboration with Suffolk-based illustrator and mural artist, Joel Millerchip.
Following extensive consultation with young people in Ipswich by project partners Volunteering Matters and Ipswich Social Mobility Alliance (ISMA), the theme for the mural is ‘safety’, and what that means for young people in their hometown.
The artist leading the project, Joel Millerchip, has extensive experience of working with groups of young people to produce collaborative artwork and murals. Joel’s response to the brief neatly ties the theme of the mural to the Wolsey 550 project: He said: “In Thomas Wolsey’s time, the Tudor Rose was a new, important symbol, signifying two Royal households coming together, expressing unity and strength. Following that example, these young artists have designed new flowers, each one linking to aspects of protection and safety, in order to ensure happiness – which are all positive values for Ipswich.”
Hannah Houghton, Education Coordinator for the Wolsey 550 project described the mural, which runs the entire length of the old BHS shopfront: “To the right hand side, the students’ painted panels feature flower designs expressing their own lived experience and concerns – for example, the need for well-lit spaces in the town centre, and ‘third places’ for young people to hang out with friends. To the left, information panels detail work being done in Ipswich by Wolsey 550, Ipswich Central, and Volunteering Matters in schools and with youth groups to enable young people to shape and lead change in Ipswich.”
Volunteering Matters delivers youth social action in Ipswich as part of the national #iwill movement. Local organisations, including Ipswich Central and Wolsey 550, have signed up to the ‘Power of Youth Charter’ promoted by the #iwill movement to ensure young people have a voice in the development of their town.
Stephen Skeet of Volunteering Matters said, “We are committed to working with young people to make sure their voices are heard, turning their passions into action in their home town. Ipswich has become the UK’s first ‘Town of Social Action’, and there are hundreds of young people involved in youth social action here – from litter picking, to challenging racism and inequality, to taking part in this mural project.”
The young artists behind the mural are Nikki, Roxie, Sahel, Sam, Keisha, Mirabel, Aine, Jack and Eve, who are Year 12 and 13 and Foundation Art students at Suffolk One sixth form college.
Lloyd Evans, Head of the Visual Art Department at Suffolk One said, “It is great to be part of such a positive community project, injecting life and colour into the town centre. Throughout the production of the mural we heard nothing but positive feedback from the public, with the work clearly well received. We are very proud of the students who took part. All stepped up to the challenge and the artwork speaks for itself. The experience of working in this context was invaluable, and you could really see a sense of accomplishment on everyone’s face by the end of the second day.
“We are very grateful to Joel and the Wolsey 550 team for making it all happen.”
Kath Cockshaw, Project Director for Wolsey 550, who has worked with several well-known street artists on mural projects in Bristol and London, is thrilled with how the project has developed. Kath said: “The strongest creative partnership projects develop from a shared need. This project combines the voice and talents of young people in Ipswich, enabled by local purpose-led organisations and businesses – who all have a basic need for safety and security in our town.
“This project really delivers on the Wolsey 550 project objectives to give local young people new opportunities and develop the collective sense of pride in our town. “The reaction of passers-by has been overwhelmingly positive – as several people remarked: “Thank you for doing this. It really cheers the place up.”
Since it was completed in September, the mural continues to attract positive comments from passers-by.
The Wolsey 550 mural project was generously supported by Wolsey 550, Ipswich Central, Robert Gatward Jewellers, Volunteering Matters, Hudson Group, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.