TODAY the Hartlepool Mail launches a campaign to save a popular 78ft mural for the people of this town.
The Millennium Mural – which depicts the proud history of Hartlepool – has taken pride of place above the Marks and Spencer store in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre for the past 14 years.
But, as revealed by the Mail, the mural is to be taken down for “essential maintenance” to be carried out and shopping centre bosses have confirmed they cannot commit to re-installing it in the same place.
Creator Dave Betson, who spent six months creating the piece, has spoken of his devastation that it is to be removed from its prominent location, with the talented artist saying he did not deem other options inside the centre as suitable.
The Mail is now calling for the Millennium Mural to be publicly displayed elsewhere in the town, and residents can sign our petition to help ensure it happens.
Since the article was printed, we have been inundated with readers wanting to have their say with the Museum of Hartlepool, Borough Hall on the Headland and Hartlepool Railway Station, in Church Street, all being suggested as possible locations.
Mr Betson has backed the Mail’s campaign, while shopping centre bosses say they will do everything necessary to help re-locate the prominent mural.
Mr Betson, a member of Hartlepool Art Club for 40 years, said: “I give my full backing to the Mail’s campaign.
“Since the story broke I have had some nice comments and I know I have the support of the Art Club.
“When the piece was unveiled I thought it would be there as long as the shopping centre and that it would certainly see me out so it was devastating when they said it was to be taken down.
“I think it is a superb piece and really hope it goes on display somewhere else.
“I was there for six months virtually everyday doing work on the mural but this doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the people of this town and I want to see it proudly displayed in town and if that happens, then great.”
The detailed artwork, which shows iconic images from the town and its history, has looked down on millions of shoppers passing through the shopping centre since it was presented to the people of Hartlepool by British Steel, who selected Dave to create it, to mark the millennium back in 2000.
Mr Betson, 82, from the Fens area, has been told by shopping centre bosses that the mural must be removed for repair work to be carried out on the wall where it hangs, and have told him that it will not be re-hung there.
Mr Betson said that shopping centre chief Mark Rycraft suggested to him that it be placed into storage, or hung on a wall in the indoor market in an enclosed area on the first floor of the complex.
But proud artist Dave is not happy with either option as he believes people will not see it properly in the indoor market as it will not be hung very high and the view will be obscured by stalls.
He is also against it being put into storage.
Middleton Grange’s Mr Rycraft told the Mail last week that due to “essential maintenance work” they have to take the mural down adding that “unfortunately due to potential future maintenance and development plans that are in the pipeline for the centre we cannot commit to being able to re-install the mural in the same place.
“I discussed with Mr Betson alternative locations for the mural and suggested the Market Hall as it has a wall with its potential to take the weight and size of the piece.”
Mr Betson said he wasn’t happy with the alternative location put forward.
Mr Rycraft, who said he had “great admiration for the artwork”, told the Mail: “I have spoken with Mr Betson and we will do whatever we can to assist and to help find a new home for this artwork for the people of Hartlepool.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Jonathan Brash, who represents the Burn Valley ward, has called for Hartlepool Borough Council to step in.
In an email to Dave Stubbs, the council’s chief executive, Coun Brash said: “The mural has become an iconic part of Hartlepool and as a council we should save it for the town.
“Let’s give it a new home that will allow the public to continue to see it, whether it’s at the historic quay, the civic or another of our buildings.”
A council spokesman responded: “We are aware that the shopping centre has suggested an alternative location for the mural within its premises.
“However, we have received an approach from Councillor Brash in relation to the mural, which we are currently considering.”
In response, Coun Brash told the Mail: “Well I hope that Mr Stubbs will find time to respond to my request and agree to meet with me to discuss what we can do as a council.
“The alternative location would not seem to be acceptable and as our buildings are owned by the people of Hartlepool, where better to display such an iconic mural, which celebrates our amazing town.”
To add your support to the Mail’s campaign, sign the petition on this page.
HARTLEPOOL Mail readers were quick to give their backing and support to the Millennium Mural on our website and Facebook page.
On our Facebook page, Claire Harrison said: “You can’t its a lovely bit of art work.
“I was there when it was unveiled as a child. Went with a small group from throston primary school for good behavior. Will be a massive shame to see it go.”
Jim Robson suggested: “The museum or historic quay area maybe.”
Dawn Arnell added: “Think it should definitely be left where it is. xx.”
Meanwhile, Maureen Ayres wrote: “Why can the mural not be replaced in its original position when the work is finished.
“Another nail in the coffin of shopping centre if it is removed. What are they going to replace it with advertisement boards.”
Kathleen Verrall said: “Why not do a vote. Give the people of Hartlepool a chance to have there say. Or don’t we matter. Maybe the museum. Or what about Civic Centre were the public go and pay there bills.
“I hope this fantastic artist see’s his artwork placed somewere else in the town and not gathering dust. “Would be a great shame for it not to be displayed.”
The article also attracted widespread attention on our website as well, with readers keen to leave their comments and views.
Hpoolncl said: “It’s a shame that this mural is to be removed, I agree with Mr Betson that taking it to the indoor market would be a comedown. Maybe the Museum of Hartlepool near the Marina could take it?”
Wind Ya Neck In added: “I am actually shaking my head at this. How awful of you, this piece of art should be protected rather than taken down. It’s the only thing worth visiting the centre for. You can tell that the managers don’t have any interest in the town or the towns people!!! Such a shame x”
Prole said: “I guess it is better than letting it be destroyed like the interior of Tunstall Court. Lets somewhere fitting is found for this amazing piece of Art.
“Considering the shopping centre and the hospital are both on their last legs it is hard to think of any large worthy public buildings where it could go!!!”
Skl1983 added: “It’s a mockery of a sham of a sham of a mockery that the mural has to come down.
“If it was done by Banksy, Middleton Grange would have personally removed the mural and sold it to the highest bidder unless it was stolen beforehand... It wouldn’t have even lasted 14 years...”
Several suggestions have already been put forward with Robbie1984 saying “Shopping centre wont be there soon anyway! If they dont want the mural im sure the museam will” and Freebird added: “Should be fitted on the far wall at the railway station.”
The artwork isn’t loved by everyone though.
Kelemvera said: “Throw it away, It is a tacky piece of rubbish, my granddaughter could paint a better picture with finger paint and she is not yet 2 years old.”
Meanwhile, Enufisenuf added “Well it looks a lot better than the ‘To Let’ sign that’s about to go up beneath it.”
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