Community ‘pen pal’ Project Inspires Unveiling of New Middleport Mural

A stunning new mural shaped and chosen by residents now has pride of place in Middleport thanks to a ‘pen pal’ inspired partnership project between the New Vic Theatre-led Creative People and Places programme Appetite, community group Middleport Matters and screen printing studio We are Culla.

Completed this week, the Just for you…Middleport project saw a series of postcards sent direct to residents’ homes, asking what Middleport meant to them and what they would like to see in a mural celebrating it. Artists were asked to respond to the ideas that were sent in and come up with a series of designs which, through another postcard, residents were able to vote on.

The winning mural – painted by Florence Blanchard through We are Culla – now takes pride of place on the gable end of Morton Street thanks to permission from owners Fortior Homes, and was unveiled at a drop-in event on Saturday 12 June.

In addition to the mural three songwriters were asked to create songs inspired by the community’s responses to the project. These were performed for the first time in front of the mural on Saturday, for Middleport residents to enjoy. Appetite are now hosting the songs by Nixon Tate, Kez Lidle and Ledouu on their website for everyone to listen to.

For We are Culla, this has been the first step in their project called The Gables, which they are hoping will see a series of community murals painted onto ‘gable ends’ of Middleport houses. Just for you…Middleport follows on from the Appetite at Home project that took place in Middleport earlier in the year where residents were given packs bursting with creative things to do, enjoy and complete in their own homes.

Just for you…Middleport has been funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Loneliness Programme.

 Appetite Director Gemma Thomas said: “We wanted this project to be all about re-connecting communities who might have felt isolated in the past year and to get them to engage in the process of making art, on their doorstep. We wanted to help foster pride in their surroundings, make the residents feel more connected by creating something together, and create a lasting piece of art that sums up what Middleport is to those residents. The pen friend element was developed as a way to engage people in their own homes, following the lockdowns and COVID restrictions that have become part of everyone’s daily life. It was a real joy to receive the postcards back from the residents and read their thoughts and ideas and we’re so pleased with the results, the mural and the songs.”

Middleport Matters Operations Manager Vicki Gwynne said: ““This partnership project has been a fantastic way to bring quality art into Middleport, led by the community, and we are so pleased with the final artwork on the gable end. We’ve very much enjoyed engaging with local residents in Middleport who have been able to share memories and thoughts about the area and the community, through the postcards, social media, and by talking to our team. The songs for Middleport have provided added value, and contain residents’ memories as well as local history… feedback has been extremely positive.”

Stoke-on-Trent North MP Jonathan Gullis said “This is a superb initiative that helps to connect our communities and learn more about one another. Middleport Matters are the beating heart of the local community and do so much for people, young and old. I look forward to meeting all partners who took part and seeing the mural in person.”

We are Culla Managing Director Tom Edwards said: “It’s been fantastic to get input from the community for this commission. Hopefully it helps Middleport really take ownership of its new artwork. It has been really well received and we hope to help create more murals around Middleport in the near future.”

 A spokesperson for Fortior Homes said: “As a local, landlord, Fortior Homes was delighted when one of our properties was chosen to be the canvas for this exciting community project.

We were only too happy to lend our support and think that the winning design does an excellent job of celebrating the heritage and history of Middleport!”

Appetite and Middleport Matters are looking forward to growing their partnership to help engage and inspire the community with art.

For more details, visit appetite.org.uk or contact us at askus@appetitestoke.co.uk / 01782 381373.

Tony Walley
Tony Walley
News & Sport Editor

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