Port Talbot may have lost a Banksy work but has gained a massive mural of local actor Michael Sheen as part of the town's rebirth as the “street art capital of Wales”. More than 20 works are included in ARTwalk Port Talbot, a new street art trail and app that guides visitors around the industrial coastal area synonymous with steelmaking and heavy industry.
Artists featured on the trail include Ame72, who has painted a Lego-style figure on the rubgy club, and local names such as Rarebit and Steve Jenks. Rarebit, aka the tattooist Charlotte Jenkins, has emblazoned a fantastical piece dotted with butterflies and flowers on the walls of PTArts Café.
Paul Jenkins, ARTwalk founder and the artistic director of theatr3, says: “We set up ARTwalk Port Talbot to join the dots between the Banksy, the vibrant local street art scene and other artists that wanted to come and paint in the town. With the help of a Heritage Lottery grant we were able to commission new murals and create a free app to guide people around the new street art trail in the town.”
The Michael Sheen mural, created by the Bristol-based artist Hazard One, has been funded by Tata Steel, CJ Construction and local donors. “I believe the piece is going to be there for as long as the building is, unless the owners decide to do something different,” the artist says.
The vast portrait took two days to paint with aerosol cans and a scaffold tower, adds Hazard One, who also created two other murals of the late Port-Talbot born Hollywood stars Richard Burton and Peg Entwistle. Sheen tweeted "Well this is a huge honour. I am so grateful to Hazard One for this amazing piece of work and all those who have supported it. Diolch! [thanks].”
The Banksy mural, known as Season’s Greetings, first appeared in December 2018 but was removed from view earlier this year. Dealer John Brandler paid a six-figure sum for the installation which appears to show a child enjoying a snow shower (the snow is in fact ash being produced from a burning dumpster, a possible comment on the poor air quality in the area).
Brandler had plans to develop an urban art centre in the town, with Seasons Greetings and another Banksy mural, Hula Hoop Girl (2020), at its centre, but talks with local officials stalled. He tells The Art Newspaper that “Season‘s Greetings together, with one or two other [Banksy wall pieces] will be lent to a museum exhibition in Trieste and then will be coming back to a major exhibition of street art in Bury St Edmunds in Moyse’s Hall Museum, as a follow-up to the show we did last year.”
“Losing the Banksy was certainly a disappointment, but we knew it was coming and we wanted ARTwalk to make the most of its time here and ensure that there was a lasting legacy. Since the Banksy has gone there has been a real explosion in the quality and quantity of art in the town— it’s actually supercharged the street art revolution happening here,” Jenkins adds. A BBC documentary focused on the town’s burgeoning urban art scene is reportedly planned.